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."
Recorded at the 24 track SOMA Studios, Oui is a leaner, more pared down recording than The Fawn. The band recorded straight to tape using contemporary technology, such as pro tools, for editing rather than manipulation. After laying down the basic tracks, the vocals were done at Sam's house and then taken back into the studio, syncing them up on the two-inch machine. Sam states that his writing technique remained the same, "most often relying on accidental combinations, or lyrical dissonance to get ideas started. I search for words, ideas that some how resonate with the piece of music and I tried to come up with a stronger melodic presence vocally. Our goal was to sound like a band recorded live in a studio, (and) pretty much, that's what happened." The band brought in Paul Mertens to work on the horn and string arrangements. Paul had played with Archer on his solo outings and most recently worked with Brian Wilson, handling the arrangements of Brian's 35th Pet Sounds Anniversary tour. The group, cautious of letting the songs become too orchestral, decided to blur the strings amongst certain synthesizer tones to come up with a hybrid sound. The string synthesizer combination is best demonstrated on tracks such as "Seemingly" and "I Missed the Glance" whose subtle beauty gently washes over you. Oui is a pop album. From the opening measures of "Afternoon Speaker" to the serendipitous nature of "Everyday," Oui is a graceful recording of elegance, revealing its charms quietly and continually upon each listen.