Anthony Lukens, Sam Sprague, and Tim DeNardo have been friends since high school. They shared a rehearsal space together as part of different bands, including Parking Lot Kids with Jessie Gulati. But when those bands stopped practicing, they came together and started creating songs and playing shows. Though two of the band members surfed, nobody would accuse their country cooked, burrito baked songs of being surf music.
They were mentioned in the May 2008 issue of Spin, and featured on National Public Radio, as well as recording several live sets for Daytrotter.com, a studio-concert website. After being signed to the Dead Oceans record label, whose roster also includes Dirty Projectors, These Are the Powers, Bishop Allen, and Phosphorescent.
The Donkeys album Living on the Other Side was released in September 2008. Sam Sprague's brother Andrew usually joins the band for tours, as an auxiliary musician.
The band also provided music for the TV series Lost. In 2009, their song “Excelsior Lady” was retooled into “Dharma Lady” for the series, portrayed in the show as being by a 1960s psychedelic band called Geronimo Jackson.
Their album Born with Stripes, mixed by the Pernice Brothers’ Thom Monahan, was released in April 2011. On the album, multi-instrumentalist Jessie Gulati plays sitar on the closing song, “East Coast Raga.” Gulati learned the complex stringed instrument while visiting India in 2005 and 2009.
On May 5, 2011, they embarked on a 39-city 3-month tour in their new 12-seat Econoline van, which is outfitted with the infamous “La Cucaracha” horn from their old van. Summer 2011 included a gig at Canada’s Sled Island music fest in Calgary (playing alongside Crocodiles, the Soft Pack, and the Dum Dum Girls), as well as a short tour with the Hold Steady.
Not all the performances went as planned. "It's hard to pick one particular show. I will say one of the most downer moments in our band was when the night before leaving on our first nationwide tour, Anthony and I were skating on a break from rehearsal and he broke his wrist! He had to get a cast hours before we left. It was a struggle, but Anthony is a trooper and ended up getting the hang of being the one handed keyboardist. Def Leppard eat your heart out ! And, anyways, you know what they say. Girls dig casts!"
"A few years later, he broke a vertebrae a couple of weeks before a tour, while surfing."
After playing the Casbah June 17, 2011, they drove their van to Canada’s Sled Island music fest in Calgary, to play alongside Crocodiles, the Soft Pack, and the Dum Dum Girls.
In August 2011, Born with Stripes won Best Rock Album at the San Diego Music Awards. The following year, the band took home the SDMA trophy for Best Rock.
Their 2014 album Ride the Black Wave, recorded at local Singing Serpent and mixed by L.A.'s Thom Monahan, debuted at the Irenic in North Park on June 6, preceded by the single “Scissor Me Cigs.” "The album could've been named many other things and almost was," the group told the Reader via email. "But we all agreed this one fit quite nicely. Since there's four songwriters in our band, themes and stories can be all over the place. Somehow, a lot of songs we wrote for this album came to gather the same moss."
"Rafter Roberts and Thom Monahan were amazing to work with. Those are some seriously talented hombres and there contributions to the album can't be overstated." A single for "Blues in the Afternoon" was released in April 2014, followed by a national support tour running from June through a three-day stint (August 1 – 3) at the Happy Valley, Oregon Pickathon.
After releasing a new video for “Scissor Me Cigs,” off Ride the Black Wave, they embarked on a support tour that wrapped at the Casbah on September 5. The following month, Ride the Black Wave won Best Rock Album at the San Diego Music Awards.
With a live video for the title track of their new album Ride the Black Wave streaming online, a U.S. tour started at SXSW in Austin on March 16, 2015, lasting through May 12 and including a San Diego date at Soda Bar on April 3. Another national tour ran through June and included a local date on June 25 at the Irenic.
Their Midnight Palms EP, released in February 2016, was preceded by the single "Down The Line," for which a video was shot. Tracked largely live-in-the-studio with producer Thom Monahan (Vetiver, Fruit Bats, Devendra Banhart), the EP was recorded at the end of one of the band's blitzkrieg road runs, with band playing as many as 28 shows in a month. Its lineup featured Anthony Lukens, Sam Sprague, and Tim DeNardo, now augmented by Steve Selvidge (the Hold Steady) in place of Jessie Gulati.
August 2016 saw the release of the band's video for "The Endless Summer," as well as a live video for their track "No Need For Oxygen." Around this time, co-founder Jessie Gulati left the band
A new single and video debuted in early 2018, "Kool Kids," followed with a short U.S. tour and the summer release of a new album, Sun Damaged Youth, produced by Jason Quever, who worked on their debut album and covered many of the parts that previously would have been played on the album by the departed Jessie Gulati. “His style of guitar is so much different than what we usually record,” Denardo told the Reader. “There’s not going to be as many big, jammy guitar solos which, to me, makes this record stand apart.”