Singer/songwriter Christopher Carrabba became the poster boy for a generation of emo fans in the early 2000s, having left behind his former band (the post-hardcore Christian outfit Further Seems Forever) to concentrate on vulnerable, introspective solo musings. Armed with an acoustic guitar and soul-baring song lyrics, he christened his new project Dashboard Confessional — named after a lyric in "The Sharp Hint of New Tears" — and began releasing material in 2000. By 2001's The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, Dashboard Confessional had evolved into a full-fledged band, but Carrabba nevertheless remained the focal point of both the group and the rejuvenated emo genre.
Dashboard Confessional took root in Boca Raton, Florida, Carrabba's home since the age of 16. The singer had previously fronted the Vacant Andys and the Agency before joining the ranks of Further Seems Forever, but the desire to pursue something simpler led him to create Dashboard Confessional as a side project. Carrabba molded simple acoustics with passionate, personal wordplay on his 2000 debut, Swiss Army Romance, and a devout audience began to gather around the naked honesty of his lyrics. Further Seems Forever entered the studio that September to record their inaugural full-length, but Carrabba's plans to mount a solo career had already taken precedence over his current band. Nevertheless, he and his bandmates finished the album before amicably parting ways, with Further Seems Forever later recruiting former Affinity frontman Jason Gleason to replace their departed vocalist.
Dashboard Confessional issued Summers Kiss, a companion piece to the So Impossible EP, in April 2002. Later that year, Carrabba recorded an installment for the MTV Unplugged series, accompanied by a devoted studio audience that sang along to every word. The show was released as MTV Unplugged 2.0 and served as his breakthrough performance, eventually going platinum. Now a staple on both radio and MTV, Carrabba returned in 2003 with a permanent lineup — including bassist Scott Schoenbeck, guitarist/pianist Johnny Lefler, and drummer Mike Marsh — and a new album, A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar. The record topped the Billboard charts and spawned another hit single, "Hands Down," which peaked at number eight. However, it was the band's contribution of the song "Vindicated" to 2004's Spider-Man 2 soundtrack that truly resonated with a wide audience, with the song rising to number two.