Jon Philpot has previously released music as part of the duo Presocratics, in collaboration with guitarist and composer Need Thomas Windham. Presocratics released two albums on the record label Table of the Elements in 2001; both were produced by Philpot. The first Bear in Heaven release (Tunes Nextdoor to Songs, Eastern Developments 2003) was an EP of solo recordings by Philpot, with guest musicians performing on various instruments.
Shortly after the release of Tunes Nextdoor to Songs, Philpot joined with guitarist Adam Wills, keyboardist/guitarist Sadek Bazarra (a graphic designer with Brooklyn design collective GH avisualagency), guitarist David Daniell (of San Agustin), and bassist James Elliott (Ateleia, School of Seven Bells). Eventually drummer Joe Stickney (formerly of Perpetual Groove, drummer with Paul Duncan, Rhys Chatham's Essentialist project, and current touring drummer with Panthers) was added to the lineup. Daniell left Bear in Heaven in 2005 to focus on his solo project. In 2006 they did a Take-Away Show video session shot by Vincent Moon.