Formation and move to Germany
The band was formed in September 1997 in Pittsburgh by close friends Samantha E. Aizer, Derek De Vriendt and Polaris Browne, who were attendees of Oliver High School. The band was formed in part from Derek finding a copy of the Backstreet Boys' then-recently-released U.S. debut album in Samantha's backpack and being "confused and somewhat angered." Eventually, they took turns listening to their favorite albums, and released that they were "musically diverse", and decided to form a band that reflected that realization. Vinny Espinola, Tommy Lionheart and Gabriel Haim joined the band after they posted a "auditions" paper on a school bulletin board. The band took the name "Screaming Yellow Players" from Screaming Yellow Zonkers, a snack food that Polaris enjoyed.
When Derek, Samantha and Polaris went into the University of Pittsburgh in 1998, they chose to go on a study abroad program in Germany, hoping to build a career there. Since keyboardist Gabriel Haim was only 17 at the time, his parents had to give permission for him to travel in Germany with the Players. The band used the downtime in their study abroad program to tour the German club circuit, performing in venues such as the Gruenspan in Hamburg and Knaack in Berlin.
In mid-1998, the Players found themselves being courted by record labels including Reprise Records, 4AD, Island Records, and EMI Records. After a gig in Stuttgart, the Players met Erasure's Vince Clarke, who was able to help sign them to Madonna and Freddy DeMann's Maverick Records, and got ex-Cocteau Twins member Simon Raymonde to produce their self-titled debut album, half the album was recorded in McKeesport, Pennsylvania near Gabriel Haim's home with the rest recorded in the Netherlands and Germany.
- Derek De Vriendt - lead and backing vocals, lead guitar
- Polaris Browne - lead and backing vocals, drums
- Samantha E. Aizer - lead guitar, backing vocals
- Vinny Espinola - bass guitar, backing vocals
- Tommy Lionheart - rhythm guitar, backing vocals
- Gabriel Haim - keyboards, rhythm and lead guitar, lead and backing vocals