Before Animals as LeadersTosin Abasi was a member of metalcore band Reflux that had been disbanded. Reflux's former record label Prosthetic Records saw Abasi's guitar work and asked him to create a solo album for them. Abasi initially declined, feeling such an endeavor would be "egotistical and unnecessary". Afterwards, Abasi enrolled in the Atlanta Institute of Music which helped give him new creative ideas for music composition. Abasi later changed his mind saying that "doing a solo album seemed to make a lot more sense", and decided to take the label's offer. However, he did not want the project's new album to just represent the idea of one person. Abasi's school experience aided him in developing ideas for the album. While at school he learned fundamental harmony, jazz playing standards, and improved on playing classical guitar.
Animals as Leaders was recorded in early 2008. Abasi recorded all guitar and bass tracks on the album; drums and various synthesized effects were programmed by engineerMisha Mansoor (Periphery, Haunted Shores).
Abasi and Mansoor are credited for composing the music for all tracks on Animals as Leaders. All twelve tracks on the album are guitar driven instrumentals that are intended to showcase Abasi's guitar skills. Abasi uses techniques such as tremolo picking, sweep-picking, two-handed tapping, fingerpicking, and slapping throughout the album.