In 1991, Andy Chase placed an ad that attracted fellow multi-instrumentalist Adam Schlesinger. In 1994 they met Dominique Durand, a native of Paris who had moved to New York City to study English, and with whom they shared admiration for The Go-Betweens, The House of Love, The Pastels, Prefab Sprout and The Smiths. Although Durand had never sung in a group, she was persuaded by Chase and Schlesinger to sing on some demos, and Ivy was formed.
In 1994, Ivy signed with Seed Records and released “Get Enough,” which the UK magazine Melody Maker named Single of the Week, followed by the EP Lately. In 1995, they released their first full-length album, Realistic. Lately’s cover version of “I Guess I’m Just a Little Too Sensitive” impressed its author, Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice, so much that he invited them to tour together. Ivy also toured during this period with Lloyd Cole, Madder Rose, and Saint Etienne.
Apartment Life (released October 6, 1997 on Atlantic Records) was praised by critics as one of the year’s best albums and established Ivy as a band that wrote pleasant, well-crafted pop songs. They were assisted by a wealth of guest stars, including Lloyd Cole, James Iha, Dean Wareham and Chris Botti. The album received more attention when “This Is the Day” and “I Get the Message” appeared on the soundtrack for the movie There’s Something About Mary.
Apartment Life, however, did not produce any hits, and Ivy was dropped by Atlantic. They signed with 550 Music on the condition that the band reissue the album. According to Schlesinger, four of the songs were remixed and the album was remastered and re-released on October 7, 1998.
Long Distance, their third LP, was released on July 10, 2001 on Nettwerk, and won the group a wider audience both at home and abroad. The album was released on November 8, 2000 in Japan, seven months prior to its US release, and the Japanese edition included a bonus track, “It’s All in Your Mind” (the US version included The Blow Monkeys cover “Digging Your Scene” as a bonus track instead).
On Long Distance, lush soundscapes and dense rhythm tracks were brought to the fore, and bouncy pop songs were outnumbered by moodier, more atmospheric songs like single “Edge of the Ocean”. Promotional videos were created for that song and the lead single, “Lucy Doesn’t Love You”.
By this time, the band had also found success on both the big and small screens, scoring the Farrelly Brothers’ Shallow Hal, as well as having their songs featured prominently in numerous films and television shows. Chase and Schlesinger had also begun to receive attention for their work outside the band: Chase produced the debut album by French pop group Tahiti 80, which was a hit in many countries and led to production work with several other groups; Schlesinger’s other band, Fountains of Wayne, released two critically acclaimed records, and he also received an Oscar nomination for his title song to Tom Hanks’s film That Thing You Do!.
Ivy released Guestroom on September 10, 2002 on Minty Fresh. The album contained 10 of the group’s favorite cover songs, including The Cure’s “Let’s Go to Bed”, House of Love’s “I Don’t Know Why I Love You”, Steely Dan’s “Only a Fool Would Say That”, Serge Gainsbourg’s “L’Anamour” (previously a B-side on the “I’ve Got a Feeling” single), The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and Papas Fritas’ “Say Goodbye”. Picking from several different eras, they revealed some of their sources of inspiration, and also displayed their ability to reinterpret many different types of songs in their own distinct way. Five of the 10 songs on Guestroom were recorded during one group of sessions in New York. The remaining five tracks were recorded at different times over the course of Ivy’s career, but were difficult to find, having been released only on limited-edition singles, compilations or soundtracks.
“Digging Your Scene” was also included on the album, and released in Japan and UK as a CD single. A video for “Let’s Go to Bed” was shot, depicting Durand and Chase in their NYC apartment, later joined by Iha.
The Lately EP was reissued in 2003 on Unfiltered Records with the same track list as the original.
Ivy gained even wider recognition in 2003–2004 for their song “Worry About You”, which was used as the theme song of the Stephen King series Kingdom Hospital and in the pilot episode of the television series The 4400.
In the Clear was released on March 1, 2005 on Nettwerk.
Ivy brought in UK producer Steve Osborne (New Order, Happy Mondays, Starsailor, Elbow) for his first-ever New York sessions to mix seven of the tracks.
In the Clear also featured guest appearances by friends like Iha, Porter, Brazilian string arranger Zé Luis (Bebel Gilberto, Caetano Veloso), and former Girls Against Boys frontman Scott McLoud, who dueted with Durand on the closing track, “Feel So Free”.
The album was given a warmer reception than previous releases. An animated promotional video clip was created for “Thinking About You”.