The band formed in 1988 with an initial lineup of James Johnston (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Mike Delanian (bass), who by 1990 had recruited Nick Combe (drums).

After debut single “Snakepit” the band signed to the Clawfist label, releasing the “Ruby” single in late 1990 (a cover of the song by New York band The Silver Apples).with Nick Combe on drums and Joe Byfield on maracas. The band released three singles in 1991, one of which (“Some Fool’s Mess”) was named ‘Single of the Week’ by the NME., by which point Combe had been replaced by Max Decharne. The band’s debut album, You, the Night…and the Music, was released in 1992, with a US release on Rykodisc.

The following year they enjoyed popularity in the wake of their second album, the Mercury Prize-nominatedFrom The Heart of Town, which saw the band sign to Sire Records and play venues in the U.S., such as theHollywood Bowl and Madison Square Garden in New York, as a guest Of Morrissey. During UK dates for From The Heart Of Town saxophonist/keyboard player Terry Edwards joined the band, having played previously as a session player on the album. Following the subsequent European and U.S. tours, both as headline, and also supporting PJ Harvey, drummer Max Décharné left the band (later fronting The Flaming Stars), to be replaced by Ian White in 1993, who remains a member of the band to the present.

The new line-up of the band followed with The Traitor’s Gate E.P. (1995) and in 1996 the acclaimed In The Long Still Night (now signed to City Slang). The “To Love Somebody” single, released in March 1997 was the band’s last release before dissolving for almost three years.

The band returned in 2000 with the Blood Is Red EP, with Jeremy Cottingham having replaced Mike Delanian on bass. The band’s soundtrack to Nicholas Triandafyllidis’s 1999 film Black Milk followed in March. In 2002 they released the album Fire Music.

Following a hiatus during which Johnston toured and recorded as a full-time member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Gallon Drunk returned in 2007 with The Rotten Mile, with Simon Wring taking over on bass, and the remaining core members of Johnston, White and Edwards. A live album, Live At Klub 007, was released in 2008.

After Simon Wring’s death in 2011, the band recorded The Road Gets Darker From Here (released in 2012) in Hamburg’s leading analogue studio Clouds Hill. The subsequent tours for the album saw Leo Kurunis join the band on bass guitar, with this line-up then returning to Clouds Hill to record The Soul Of The Hour, due for release in March 2014 on Clouds Hill Recordings.

Original founding member Nick Combe died in 2015. Combe had played and recorded with The Scientists prior to joining Gallon Drunk, also making the video for Human Jukebox, from the Scientists E.P. of the same name. Combe also performed and made short films under the name Arthur Lager.