The basis of Antigone Rising can be traced to the Henderson sisters, Cathy and Kristen. Raised in Glen Cove, N.Y., on Long Island, they grew up with tennis racquet "guitars" and hairbrush "microphones" in their hands. They played their first official gig in junior high, at an aunt's wedding. They kept performing throughout high school, took a respite to earn college degrees and then rushed back to what they both knew they had to do. Moving to Greenwich Village in New York City, they found day jobs to pay for a little food, a roof and time to start playing music again.
From the start, they wanted to rock, with Kristen on drums and Cathy on guitar and backing vocals. But they had trouble finding the right bassist. Impatient to play, they shifted to a more folk-oriented sound. Kristen switched to guitar, and with two friends onboard, they launched the first version of Antigone Rising in the coffeehouses and clubs of lower Manhattan.
With strong songs and soaring four-part harmonies, Antigone Rising were invited to join the Lilith Fair tour in 1998 on a bill that included Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Liz Phair and the Indigo Girls. That same year, they released their first, self-produced CD and were cited by Discmakers as one of the city's 10 top unsigned bands. Over the next few years, they grew their fan base, drove Vanna White (the nickname for their white touring van) through widening territory, earned a VH1 endorsement as one of "10 acts to watch" and were featured in a Technics ad that ran in Rolling Stone, Spin and elsewhere.
Along the way, Dena Tauriello joined the band. Her urgent and dynamic drumming style, which she forged through gigs on the New Jersey club circuit, pushed them closer toward the sound that Cathy and Kristen had always imagined. Cassidy, a one-named vocalist from New Jersey, sent them a demo after hearing they needed a singer. They all had met in the past, but this time, it jelled.
Cassidy moved back to New York City and would eventually become Kristen's roommate in New Jersey. The band decided to start from scratch, withdrawing into a hole-in-the-wall rehearsal space and not coming out until they had figured out who they were. They let their old management go, took over their own booking, started living on savings and credit cards and, at Cassidy's insistence, quit their day jobs.
Monterey Peninsula Artists Booking, whose clients include Aerosmith and Dave Matthews, signed Antigone Rising in early 2003 as the only artists on their roster yet to clinch a record deal. With Jen Zielenbach brought onboard in February 2004, they laid a new foundation based on slamming drums and Zielenbach's jazz and funk-inflected bass. After signing to Lava Records, they released the concert album From the Ground Up exclusively through Starbucks in 2005, and through conventional distribution later that year.