Eleventh Dream Day's origins dated to 1981, when singer/guitarist Rick Rizzo met vocalist/drummer Janet Beveridge Bean at the University of Kentucky. Inspired by punk, Rizzo taught himself to play guitar with the aid of Neil Young's Zuma songbook; Young remained the group's major inspiration throughout its career, his incendiary aesthetic informing much of Rizzo's own raw, rootsy style. The couple soon relocated to Chicago, where they teamed with bassist Douglas McCombs and guitarist Baird Figi; after several years of honing their explosive live set, Eleventh Dream Day finally recorded their eponymous debut EP for the Amoeba label in 1987.
The full-length Prairie School Freakout, recorded in one six-hour span with a buzzing, dilapidated amplifier, followed in 1988, and brought Eleventh Dream Day to the attention of Atlantic Records, which signed the group for 1989's assured Beet. Despite critical acclaim, the record failed to find an audience; Lived to Tell followed in 1991 and suffered the same fate as its predecessor. In the middle of a tour to promote the album, Figi abruptly quit, and was replaced by Bodeco's Matthew "Wink" O'Bannon prior to 1993's superb El Moodio. After three commercial strikes, Atlantic unceremoniously dropped the group.
Following a hiatus that allowed Rizzo and Bean to concentrate on raising their newborn child, Eleventh Dream Day enlisted co-producers Brad Wood and John McEntire (McCombs' partner in the post-rock supergroup Tortoise) for 1994's Ursa Major, released on City Slang. After another break -- during which time Rizzo returned to college, Bean focused on her country side project Freakwater, and O'Bannon exited to return to Bodeco -- Eleventh Dream Day signed to the Chicago-based indie Thrill Jockey to record 1997's Eighth.
Stalled Parade followed in 2000, but at this point Eleventh Dream Day was a part-time venture at best. Rizzo was teaching and Bean and McCombs both had other musical ventures. They continued to play live in Chicago occasionally, ably assisted by former Coctail Mark Greenberg on keyboards. In 2003, Thrill Jockey reissued the long out of print Prairie School Freakout paired with the Wayne EP, and Baird Figi joined the band for a one-off reunion show in November of that year. Zeroes and Ones, the band's first new material in six years and the first album recorded with Greenberg, was released in 2006. Five more years would pass before they returned with the 2011 release Riot Now!, an album inspired by the apathy of American youth. ~ Jason Ankeny & Sean Westergaard, Rovi