In 1996, following the final Screaming Trees album, Dust, bassist Van Conner formed a loud, spaced-out, psychedelic metal band called Valis, with himself on lead vocals and guitar. When it became clear that the Trees' hiatus was likely to become permanent, Conner focused his attention on his onetime side project, which took its name from a Philip K. Dick novel. The remainder of the group also had a strong Seattle pedigree: brother and guitarist Patrick Conner had been playing in Kitty Kitty; bassist Kurt Danielson had been a member of Tad; and Dan Peters had drummed for several Seattle notables, including the Fastbacks, Love Battery, and his full-time gig, Mudhoney. They started gigging around the Northwest in 1997, and the following year, they released a split EP with Kitty Kitty on the Man's Ruin label. Peters subsequently returned to Mudhoney, and was replaced by Kitty Kitty drummer Sean Hollister. As the members took time to focus on other projects, Valis fell by the wayside for a time, but kicked back into gear in 2001, when they added keyboard and guitar-synth player Wes Weresch and signed with the Swedish label Luna Sound. In 2002, they issued their first widely available album, Vast Active Living Intelligence System, by which time Adrian Makins had replaced Danielson on bass.