Cool Hand Luke was initially formed by Brandon Morgan, Jason Hammil, and Mark Nicks in 1998 while they attended Middle Tennessee State University. A punk rock-influence showed itself within the band’s early music, especially on their first recording Demo Schmemo released on cassette a few short months after the band formed. The band’s sound soon changed to become more intricate,contemplative and intense, often being called emo or post-hard core. With Nicks on drums and lead vocals, Cool Hand Luke quickly became known for playing with their backs to the crowd, lengthy, emotively expressive songs, and deeply introspective lyrics about their faith. While still in college, Cool Hand Luke released an EP (So Far…) and a full length (I Fought Against Myself) independently. They were signed to Floodgate Records in 2002, releasing two full-length albums (2003’s Wake Up, O Sleeper and 2004’s The Fires of Life) through the label.
After an extended hiatus in 2005 (during which time Nicks spent time playing drums for Atlanta, Georgia’s The Chariot), Cool Hand Luke released a “retrospective album” entitled The Balancing Act, thus fulfilling their contractual obligations to Floodgate Records. The Balancing Act contained songs from their earlier independent releases, tracks from their Floodgate discography, and three new tracks written with a new cast featuring only Nicks from the original line-up.
In October 2008, Cool Hand Luke released another full-length album, The Sleeping House. The album, produced by Matt Goldman and showing such diverse influences as Fugazi and Keane, comprises twelve piano-based songs of a depth, intensity, and relative darkness unseen before in Cool Hand Luke’s work. The artwork-intensive album, complete with an enhanced CD, features comprehensive lyrics, explorations of each song, a music video, and in-depth exploration of the meanings contained within the decidedly cryptic artwork.
On March 22, 2009, Mark Nicks (the sole remaining member of the band) announced that he was working to complete what he thought was the final album under the “Cool Hand Luke” name.
Cool Hand Luke’s not-so-final album, Of Man, was released on March 25, 2011. Mark Nicks said, “The album tells the story of Jesus’ final days, from the perspective of the people in His life.” Over 30 friends contributed to the making of this album, including members of Underoath, Elliott, Quiet Science, Aireline, and Kopecky and original bass player Brandon Morgan. Only 500 physical copies of the album were pressed.
After doing one final tour to support Of Man, Nicks moved to Orlando, FL to pursue a Master of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary. During this time, Nicks began playing and writing with long-time friend Robbie Williamson from The Quiet Science. Together they formed Polyvalent, releasing the Flashing Lights EP and the full length Want.
And then came Cora…