The Clientele's delicate and melancholy indie pop was initially compared to the music of bands such as Galaxie 500, Felt and Joy Division. The group was formed in 1997 in London by Alasdair MacLean (vocals, guitar), Innes Phillips (guitar, vocals), James Hornsey (bass) and Howard (drums). In 1999, Mark Keen replaced Howard, and subsequently Innes Phillips left to dedicate himself to The Relict.
In 2000, the album Suburban Light (by Pointy Records) was released, a compilation of several singles produced by the group at the beginning of their career. The Violet Hour, considered their debut album, was released in July 2003 on Merge Records in the United States.
Strange Geometry arrived in 2005. The following year, keyboardist, violinist and percussionist Mel Draisey joined the band. In 2007, The Clientele released the album God Save the Clientele. Two years later came Bonfires on the Heath. An EP, titled Minotaur, featuring songs recorded during the Bonfires on the Heath sessions, was released in 2010. Seven years later, the band released Music for the Age of Miracles. After another long hiatus, the band released I Am Not There Anymore in 2023.