Cartel's earnest brand of emo-pop emerged out of Atlanta in 2004, when vocalist Will Pugh, bassist Ryan Roberts, drummer Kevin Sanders, and guitarists Joseph Pepper and Nic Hudson released an initial EP that caught the ear of the California-based Militia Group label. Militia signed Cartel, and the Ransom EP reappeared under Militia's guidance in 2004. The label then released Chroma, Cartel's full-length debut, in September 2005. The album cracked into the Billboard Top 200, as bloggers championed the band and the video for "Honestly" found moderate airtime on MTV. The majors noticed all of this activity, and in early 2006, Cartel inked a deal with Epic. Touring continued through the rest of the year, as the band opened for acts like New Found Glory and the Starting Line. That same year, however, Roberts decided to leave the lineup. He was replaced by Jeff Lett, who joined just in time for the band's 2006 Warped Tour dates.