Albarn is the frontman for the British rock group Blur. Hewlett draws comic books. He is most famous for Tank Girl, which was made into a movie starring rapper Ice-T and Stooges frontman Iggy Pop. Nakamura specializes in fantasy hip-hop, coming from the underground group Deltron 3030, which put its members into the year 3030, traveling the galaxy.
On its first album, Gorillaz featured the musicianship of Tom Tom Club/Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz, Deltron 3030 rappers Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Kid Koala, Buena Vista Social Club singer Ibrahim Ferrer, and Cibo Matto singer Miho Hatori.
The group is a mixture of Nakamura and Albarn's music and Hewlett's animation. They designed four cartoon characters to be members of the group a la Spinal Tap. Murdoc is the devil-worshipping bass player, 2-D is the melancholy lead singer, Noodle is the 10-year-old Asian female guitarist, and Russel is the drummer/rapper.
Albarn and Hewlett were roommates. They got the idea to create this group after each ended long-term relationships. After the appropriate grieving period, they decided to make good use of their time and began work on the look and sound of their pet band.
In 2002, they went on tour. The band played behind a video screen that displayed their cartoon images. Albarn was the only member who played every show.