Peter Svensson and Magnus Sveningsson, both heavy metal musicians, formed the group in 1992 in Jonkoping, Sweden, with drummer Bengt Lagerberg, keyboardist Lars-Olof Johansson and lead singer Nina Persson. Living together in a small apartment, The Cardigans recorded a demo tape which record producer Tore Johansson heard, leading to invitation to record at a studio in Malmö. Their debut album was Emmerdale (1994), which include the Swedish radio hit "Rise & Shine". The album was later voted the best of 1994 by a readers poll in Slitz magazine.
The rest of 1994 was spent touring Europe and recording Life, which was released in 1995. Life became an international success, selling more than a million copies worldwide and achieving platinum status in Japan. They were signed to Mercury Records thereafter, and released First Band on the Moon in 1996 was a marked departure from previous works, including more unusual accompaniment and lyrics with violent themes. "Lovefool" was a hit across the globe, especially in the United States and again in Japan, where the album reached platinum in only three weeks.