When plugged in and turned up, the duo produce enough energy to power a house full of floodlights
— The Sydney Morning Herald
The band often find themselves being compared to The White Stripes but Kurzel expresses otherwise. "When we started to do our thing there was no White Stripes around. A lot of people I'm influenced by are a lot of old poor guys from the Mississippi who just play really honest and a dirty sort of blues. That's where The Mess Hall come from. We really never set out to be a two piece. It was just something that worked out that way". However The White Stripes had released two albums before The Mess Hall formed.
Original members Jed Kurzel and Anthony Johnsen began playing shows in 2001 and quickly gained a reputation as an exciting live act. They also recorded their self-titled lo-fi album, to distribute at live events. In 2003 the band signed with Shock Records and released the EP, Feeling Sideways. Produced by Matt Lovell (Something for Kate) and Chris Joannou (Silverchair), the short album earned an ARIA nomination for Best Independent Release. In early 2004, Johnsen left the band and was replaced by drummer Cec Condon of The Tremors and Mexico City.
In 2005, The Mess Hall released Notes From A Ceiling after a lot of anticipation. Jed Kurzel said the only recollection he has of recording the album is that Cec Condon nearly set fire to the studio whilst barbecuing, and that while he was suffering vertigo, the attending doctor was more interested in whether the band were touring on the next Big Day Out than attending to his illness. As well as releasing the singles "Metal And Hair" and "Pills", the song "Disco 1" received consistent radio play time on Triple J. The album won an ARIA award for Best Engineer and was included in both Triple J and Rolling Stone's Top 50 Albums of 2005.
During September 2007 The Mess Hall signed to Ivy League Records and released their new album "Devils Elbow". Soon after its release, the album won the Australian Music Prize, gifting the band $25,000 in prizemoney. As their momentum started, the Mess Hall also won the support slot for the Foo Fighters' Australian tour.