Zebrahead was formed in La Habra, California in 1996 by guitarist Greg Bergdorf and drummer Ed Udhus (both formerly of the band 409), bassist Ben Osmundson (formerly of 3-Ply) and singer/rhythm guitarist Justin Mauriello (formerly of Once There). All four musicians, whose bands at the time shared the same practice space, found themselves experimenting with different sounds together and soon became friends. After deciding that they wanted to explore their musical options further, the foursome left their bands all together and formed Zebrahead.
The group, who were inspired by acts including Fugazi and Descendents, found themselves uninspired by the local musical trends of ska-punk and instead began incorporating elements of hip-hop into their sound, eventually recruiting rapper Ali Tabatabaee to join them as a co-vocalist.
Waste of Mind and Playmate of the Year
After issuing the self-titled demo album Zebrahead (more widely known as Yellow due to the color of the cover) from the indie label Doctor Dream Records in May 1998, Zebrahead were signed to major record label Columbia Records and released their full-length debut Waste of Mind later that same year. The album contained newly re-recorded songs from their previous release along with new tracks, including the minor radio hit "Get Back", which gained some popularity in the U.S and charted at No. 32 on the U.S Hot Modern Rock Tracks charts.
MFZB, Waste of MFZB and Justin Mauriello's departure
The band's follow-up album Playmate of the Year was released in the summer of 2000, and was followed up by the EP Stupid Fat Americans, released just over a year later in October 2001 exclusively in Japan.