Oui marks the triumphant return of The Sea and Cake after a three-year absence which saw the members of the band pursue a variety of interests; musical, professional and personal. The line up of the band remains Sam Prekop, Archer Prewitt, Eric Claridge and John McEntire. The Sea and Cake formed in 1994 out of the ashes of Shrimp Boat (Sam and Eric), and The Cocktails (Archer). John was a friend of the three and had just begun playing with Mosquito, which would later rename itself Tortoise.
In fall of that year the band released their self-titled debut record and followed it with three more for a total of four in four years, each gaining in popularity and critical acclaim. In 1997 after months of touring in support of their most successful record The Fawn, the band decided to take some time off to focus their energy in other places. Eric went to work on his paintings with a series of shows in Chicago and a bi-monthly insert in the Chicago Reader. Archer recorded his second solo record, toured and continued to concentrate on his Sof' Boy merchandise and comics (published by Fantagraphics). John played with Tortoise, built a studio (SOMA) and engineered the Stereolab record among many others. Sam painted for his debut solo show in Chicago and a July 2000 show at Clementine in Chelsea, released his debut solo record and toured extensively. When things began to quiet down in late 1999, the four began setting aside the time to record what would become their finest record yet, Oui. "Surprisingly the long lay off didn't seem to pose any ill effects, somehow the distant perspective supplied a new necessary focus", says Prekop. There were no impediments as far as reconvening and songwriting were concerned. Sam added that "I think (the fact that) Archer and I continued to work together during The Sea and Cake's down time was crucial. So when we started writing it wasn't like we were starting over, we were just working in a new context."