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Formed in 1992, pop combo Papas Fritas began as a power trio when two high-school friends from Delaware, guitarist Tony Goddess and drummer Shivika Asthana, met up with bassist Keith Gendel while attending Tufts University in Massachusetts. The three recorded and released four-track albums for fun and performed at parties on and around campus, but never took the group seriously until a tape fell onto the desk of small record label Sunday Driver Records and the label approached Papas Fritas with plans to release a 7" of the group's work. The band consented and released Friday Night with the label in February of 1994. For the first time in their history, the members of Papas Fritas promoted their music and found more interest in their work from another small indie, though notably larger than Sunday Driver, Minty Fresh. Through Minty Fresh, Papas Fritas found a home to allow some growth. They tossed aside the four-track, built a more functional studio in their basement, and recorded their first effort for Minty Fresh, another 7" titled Passion Play/Lame to Be, in 1995. Both songs on the single served as the cornerstones to their first full-length, Papas Fritas, released later that same year.
The group set out on tour for a great deal of 1995 and part of 1996, including a European jaunt with the Flaming Lips, but still found time to record their second full-length, Helioself, which saw release in 1997. Papas Fritas continued to gather steam, touring even more throughout 1997 with the likes of the Cardigans (while that group was enjoying major chart success), the Eels, Blur, and others. They fell somewhat quiet during 1998 and 1999, touring little, but commenced work on their third album, Buildings and Grounds, and released it in 2000 to favorable reviews. Another massive tour followed, but just before they hit the road, the trio decided to add two members, keyboardist Donna Coppola and guitarist Chris Colthart (both members of the Faraway Places), to their lineup. Again Papas Fritas went quiet until Pop Has Freed Us, a compilation bearing nine unreleased tracks alongside four videos and eight tracks collected from their catalog, was released in 2003.