Two years prior to the formation of the band, Brian was involved in a solo project. He recorded Safety Songs and then employed his musically inclined friends to accompany him on a tour to support the debut album. After working with his fellow musicians, Brian came to realize that he worked better as part of a band. The friends created a music ensemble and called themselves Barcelona. Fennell described the band's sound when he stated that, "[w]e classify our music style as piano rock."
Touring began in late 2005 upon the formation of the band. Brian Fennell, Chris Bristol and Rhett Stonelake attended Seattle Pacific University, where they posed as a student club in order to get access to free rehearsal space. Bristol and Stonelake were still seniors when the band began performing gigs. Most of the band's earlier shows were on the West Coast, which has been cited as a reason for their becoming a familiar name among music listeners in the west.
The band was featured on MySpace on August 15, 2007, which caught the attention of an A&R representative who helped initiate a promotional deal with MySpace Records and MySpace.com. The band made a television appearance on Good Day Sacramento on August 8, 2007 to promote their upcoming debut album, Absolutes, and play a sample set. Barcelona released Absolutes on September 25, 2007, and it received largely favorable reviews, especially from hometown critics.
The band has played charity concerts at Pine Lake Middle School and PCMS to raise money and awareness for the schools cause of Loose Change to Loosen Chains. The $10,000 that was generated was donated to the International Justice Mission (IJM) to help in their work of freeing the millions of modern-day slaves around the globe. On November 5, 2010, the band joined American Idol runner-up Blake Lewis, singer Claire Nordstrom, the Northwest Symphony Orchestra and several local choirs in "Primal Symphony", written and produced by Grammy Award-winning composer Mateo Messina. This annual benefit concert is put on by The Symphony Guild and supports uncompensated care at Seattle Children's Hospital.
Barcelona performed at Bumbershoot 2008 in Seattle.
On December 18, 2008 Universal Records announced that it had signed Barcelona to its label Universal Motown. The label released a remastered version of the band's original Absolutes on April 28, 2009, including four additional tracks. The re-release of Absolutes was self-produced by Barcelona and Brian Eichelberger, a close friend of the band and former member. Michael H. Brauer, a two-time Grammy winner for his work with artists such as Coldplay and John Mayer, mixed the album. The band has since parted ways with Universal Motown Records. They are working on a follow-up to Absolutes.
The song "Please Don't Go" is used in the second trailer for Water for Elephants, a film starring Robert Pattinson and Academy Award winners Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz.
In December 2011, Act As If (band) released a Christmas single, "Sleighbells & Reindeer," featuring Lucy Schwartz and Brian Fennell.