Balloon Guy honed their chops as students at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, releasing a number of singles through the independent Generator Records. After sparking a major label race to sign the band, Balloon Guy signed with Warner Bros. who released their debut full length, The West Coast Shakes in 1996. The band recorded the album with fellow Minneapolis native and frontman of the amazing (and then Interscope-signed) band Polara.
Balloon Guy played a fuzzy, quirky brand of indie rock that received comparisons to Pavement. Unfortunately the promising band dissolved not long after the release of their debut. The Minneapolis periodical CityPages.com revealed the details surrounding the band's split: "Olson bailed on Balloon Guy after a sobering gig opening for the Goo Goo Dolls in Iowa City. "In the paper was a picture of us and it didn't even mention how we sounded," Olson chuckles. "It talked about how we kind of dressed like Weezer." He retreated to his parents' basement in Faribault, grew a mammoth beard à la Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and obsessively fiddled with weird beats off equipment he'd scored on the Warners' dime." Following the band's breakup, Olson shifted his focus to his one-time solo project, Smattering, transforming the project into a full band. Balloon Guy drummer Erik Mathison would later go on to plays drums with Moon Maan, led by former Afghan Whigs guitarist Rick McCollum.