The album was created in Akron, Ohio, also known as the Rubber City. As the two began to grow up, they realized that rubber companies, such as Goodyear, were a dying industry. They knew they were not guaranteed an automatic job by achieving a college degree, so the two dropped out of college to pursue their musical career. They began producing "The Big Come Up" in their basement. Carney and Auerbach recorded the album in Carney's basement, using two microphones bought off of eBay. They recorded their album on an 8-track tape recorder because there was no longer a need for a needle, it did not break or shatter, and it could be played in the car.
The record contains thirteen songs. Eight of them are original tracks, with five cover songs. "240 Years Before Your Time", the closing track, becomes silent at about 1:39 into the track on the CD version. This silence lasts until 21:41.
The Big Come Up was released through Alive Records on May 14, 2002. Alive re-presses this album regularly, often several times a year on different colored vinyl or with altered sleeve artwork. These are usually marketed as limited editions. They have released the album on vinyl on at least 14 separate occasions, opening themselves up to criticism, particularly in regard to the marketing term "limited edition".
The band also released an EP that included covers of the blues song "Leaving' Trunk" and the Beatles' song "She Said, She Said". The song "I'll Be Your Man" was used as the theme song for the HBO series Hung. "I'll Be Your Man" also appeared on the FX series Rescue Me.
According to Nielsen Soundscan, the album sold around 139,000 copies. The two did not make much money off of the album, so they had trouble paying for a tour. Therefore, they raised money by mowing lawns for their landlord. Although the album sold poorly, it gained a cult following and attracted critics. In 2005 music critic Chuck Klosterman singled out The Big Come Up as one of 21 "high-quality albums" from the previous three years. As the two blues-rock singers began to gain attention, they caught the eye of American Independent record label, Fat Possum Records. Fat Possum Records quietly released blues music that drew inspiration from the gritty country blues guitar rhythms and from artists like Junior Kimbrough, one of Carney and Auerbach's leading inspirations.
^Johnson, Susan Allyn (1 January 1990). "How the "Rubber City" Became the "Capital of West Virginia": A Case Study of Early Appalachian Migration". Journal of Appalachian Studies. 6 (1/2): 109–120. JSTOR41446454.