Milia and Jones formed the band while attending high school together at Brother Rice in Metro Detroit. They began by playing a mixture of Milia's early compositions and traditional bluegrass songs that Jones had collected. Around this time they also recruited Eli Eisman as a bassist. While Milia attended Michigan State University—where he studied poetry under Diane Wakoski—and Jones attended the University of Michigan, Frontier Ruckus expanded into a six-piece. The new formation included Zachary Nichols playing trumpet, musical saw, and melodica; Ryan Etzcorn playing drums; and Anna Burch singing harmony vocals—all of whom Milia met while in East Lansing.
In the beginning of 2007, shortly after the release of I Am The Water You Are Pumping, Frontier Ruckus began to receive attention in Michigan, with Metro Times considering the band "already one of the very best sounds to come out of Michigan this entire decade," and Real Detroit Weekly stating: "This is the best band you haven't heard and Milia is the most impressive wordsmith I've listened to in a really long time. I'm not sure If I can recall a voice as untreated and honest as Milia's... ever. His is a voice whose timbre carries as much meaning as the words that come through it."