Dntel is pronounced din-tell. Tamborello admitted that the name was not intended to mean anything. When asked to create a meaning for it, he quoted it as a shortened version of "Don't Tell" although he admits that this meaning is a bit of a stretch.
Tamborello first began creating music in 1989, when he was in Junior High School in Santa Barbara, California. His father — a jazz saxophone player and flautist — bought Tamborello a drum machine, a sequencer, a keyboard and an eight track recorder, primarily for the possibility to create music on his own. He recorded an album under the pseudonym Antihouse in 1993, and released it in 1994. He began work on the first Dntel EP in 1994, which was not released until later.
Around 1994, Jimmy Tamborello was also the bass player for a band known as Strictly Ballroom. The band was often described as "Enocore," for the way it fused hardcore punk rock with soundscapes inspired by Brian Eno. Strictly Ballroom recorded one album, titled ''Hide Here Forever'', which was released in 1997 on the Waxploitation Records label.