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The dark, organ-driven punk rock of I Walk the Line came about in 2003, a few years before anyone knew the band's name would probably forever be associated with the similarly titled Joaquin Phoenix movie about the Man in Black. Based in Helsinki, I Walk the Line began as a side project for various members of Finnish bands Wasted and Manifesto Jukebox. The quintet issued its first album, Badlands, through Combat Rock Industry (Finland) and Boss Tuneage (U.K. and Japan) in 2004. They toured around Germany and the U.K. a couple times in support of it, after which drummer Antti quit (later becoming the band's sound guy) and Jussi signed on in his place. Much of 2005 was spent writing and recording I Walk the Line's sophomore album, Desolation Street, which was released to positive response in Europe the following year.
The band — rounded out by vocalist/bassist Ville Rönkkö, guitarists Antti and Jani, and keyboardist Anna — got back to gigging around, which included playing some of the biggest festivals in Finland. The exposure helped their profile at home, and when they released the Diamond Eyes EP at the summer's end, it entered the national charts at number two. I Walk the Line signed to California's Gearhead Records in the fall of 2006, and Desolation Street appeared on North American shelves the following January. The band's first-ever U.S. tour followed in the spring of 2007, including a stop over at Austin's South by Southwest festival.