Created in 1998 by Jared Leto with his brother, Shannon, 30 Seconds to Mars began as a big family project. Matt Wachter later joined the band as bassist and keyboard player. After working with a number of guitarists (as the band's first two guitarists, Kevin Drake and Solon Bixler, left the band due to issues primarily related to touring), the three auditioned Tomo Miličević to round out the band's roster.
According to an interview from Virgin Records, the band's name
"actually comes from a thesis that the band found online that was written by a former Harvard professor. And one of the subsections of the thesis was titled 'thirty seconds to mars [sic]' and he goes on to talk about the exponential growth of technology that relates to humans and saying that we are quite literally thirty seconds to mars. What it means to us is, we thought it best described our music, in short."