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Goldfinger started out in 1994 when Feldmann met the band's original bassist, Simon Williams, in a shoe store where they both worked. The two made a demo recording and used it to recruit drummer Darrin Pfeiffer. Having recently moved from his hometown of Buffalo, New York, to pursue a career in music, Pfeiffer worked at a Los Angeles area coffee shop at the time, and played in another band. But after listening to the demo, he quit the band he was in to join the new group. Feldmann then brought in guitarist Charlie Paulson to round out the lineup. "The band was just something we thought we could have fun at, do a few shows," Feldmann later told Paul Freeman in the Orlando Sentinel. "I never expected it to go this far."

Feldmann continued working at the shoe store while playing gigs with his new band. He told the Bergen County, New Jersey, Record, "We were together for about two years and we played hundreds and hundreds of shows in front of about 30 people." The band got its lucky break when Feldmann included a demo tape with a pair of shoes he sold to a Mojo Records executive. The executive played the tape for his bosses, who promptly called Feldmann in for a meeting. Mojo Records signed the band, and Feldmann was able to quit his job at the shoe store within two months.

In spite of its punk and ska labels, the members of the band consider themselves to be "more of a pop band than anything else," as Feldmann explained to Alan Sculley in the Peoria, Illinois, Journal Star. But he added, "We have a ska sound. And we have a punk sound, and we have a pop sound, a reggae sound, and we have a metal sound. We have a lot of different sounds that kind of happen through our music."

In 1995, the year after the band's formation, Goldfinger released its first album, a demo EP titled Richter. The album got a lot of play on college radio stations and other independent channels, receiving strong reviews. Following this initial success, Goldfinger released a self-titled album in 1996. A cut off the Richter album, "Here In Your Bedroom," was well-received and brought the band to a new level of popularity. It became a hit after receiving extensive airplay on Los Angeles area rock station KROQ-FM. Following its debut, the song landed on the Billboard Top 10 Modern Rock Chart. The band also appeared on the popular Late Night with Conan O'Brian television show.

Following their successful studio releases, Goldfinger hit the road on tour, opening for such bands as the Sex Pistols, No Doubt, and Reel Big Fish. They played on the road for 19 months in a row, and in 1996 the group played 382 shows. Following this, the band released its second album, Hang Ups, which went on to sell more than 88,000 copies. The band also released the single "This Lonely Place" along with an accompanying video, and a single and video called "More Today than Yesterday." This song, a cover of a song by Spiral Staircase, was later featured on the soundtrack of the Hollywood film Waterboy. "This Lonely Place" played in regular rotation on MTV.

Founding band member Simon Williams left the band in 1998 and was replaced by bassist Kelly Lemieux. Lemieux and Feldmann had become friends in the early 1990s when they both played in the band Electric Love Hogs. In 2000 the band released an LP called Stomping Grounds, which included singles "Counting the Days," which received airplay in the United States, and "99 Red Balloons," which was aired in Europe.

In 2001 guitarist Charlie Paulson left the band and was replaced by San Diego native Brian Arthur. Arthur came on board in time to record the group's next album, Open Your Eyes, which was released on the Jive/Zoomba label in 2002.