Origin: Berkeley, California
Genre: Punk rock, ska punk, street punk, hardcore punk
Years active: 1991–present
Let’s Go (1994)
…And Out Come the Wolves (1995)
Life Won’t Wait (1998)
Let the Dominoes Fall (2009)
Honor Is All We Know (2014)
Rancid is an American punk rock band formed in Berkeley, California, in 1991. Founded by 80s punk veterans Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman, who previously played in the highly influential ska punk band Operation Ivy, Rancid is credited—along with Green Day, The Offspring, Bad Religion, NOFX, and Social Distortion—for reviving mainstream interest in punk rock in the United States during the mid-1990s. Unlike many of their contemporaries, however, Rancid remained signed to an independent record label and retained much of its original fan-base, most of which was connected to its underground roots.
Rancid includes Tim Armstrong on guitar and vocals, Freeman on bass and vocals, Lars Frederiksen on guitar and vocals, and Branden Steineckert on drums. The band was formed by Armstrong, Freeman, and former drummer Brett Reed, who left the band in 2006 and was replaced by Steineckert. Frederiksen joined Rancid in 1993 when the band was searching for a second guitar player.
To date, Rancid has released seven studio albums, one split album, one compilation, two extended plays, and a series of live online-only albums, and has been featured on a number of compilation albums. The band has independently sold over four million records worldwide, making it one of the most successful independent punk groups of all time. The band rose to fame in 1994 with its second studio album, Let’s Go, featuring the single “Salvation”. In the following year, Rancid released its highly successful album …And Out Come the Wolves, which produced its best-known songs “Roots Radicals”, “Ruby Soho” and “Time Bomb”, and was certified gold and platinum by the RIAA, selling over one million copies in the United States alone. Its next four albums, Life Won’t Wait, Rancid, Indestructible and Let the Dominoes Fall, were also critically acclaimed, though not as successful as …And Out Come the Wolves. Rancid is currently recording their eighth studio album Honor Is All We Know, which is expected to be released early 2014.
Early history (pre-1993)
Childhood friends Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman grew up together in the small, working-class town of Albany, California, near Berkeley. The two had been playing together in the influential ska punk band Operation Ivy from 1987–1989. The band became popular in the punk scene at 924 Gilman Street, a club and concert venue featuring Bay Area punk bands. When Operation Ivy broke-up, Armstrong and Freeman decided to form a new band, and formed a ska punk band called Downfall, which disbanded after a few months. They then started a hardcore punk band called Generator, which also disbanded shortly after. They also started the ska influenced Dance Hall Crashers, though left the band shortly after it was formed. During this time, Armstrong was struggling with alcoholism, and to keep him focused on other interests, Freeman suggested they form a new band. In 1991, they recruited Armstrong’s roommate Brett Reed as their drummer and formed Rancid.
A few months after the band’s inception, Rancid began performing around the Berkeley area, and quickly developed a fan following. Rancid’s first recorded release was a 1992 EP for Operation Ivy’s old label Lookout! Records. Shortly after releasing the extended play, the band left Lookout! and was signed to Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz’s record label, Epitaph Records. Rancid released its self-titled debut album through Epitaph in 1993.
Breakthrough success (1994–1996)
While Rancid was writing for a follow-up album, Billie Joe Armstrong joined them to co-write the song “Radio”, which resulted in Armstrong playing a live performance with Rancid. Tim had previously asked Lars Frederiksen to be Rancid’s second guitarist, but he turned down the request initially as he was playing with the UK Subs at the time. After Billie Joe turned down the request, Frederiksen changed his mind and joined Rancid.
Frederiksen played with the band on its second studio album Let’s Go (1994). That year, its then-label-mates, The Offspring, experienced huge success with its album Smash. Rancid supported The Offspring’s 1994 tour, which helped Let’s Go reach number 97 on Billboard’s Heatseekers and the Billboard 200 charts, respectively. The album also provided its first widespread exposure when MTV broadcast the video for the single “Salvation.” Let’s Go was certified gold on July 7, 2000, and with the success of the album the band was pursued by a number of major record labels, including Madonna’s label Maverick Records. Many rumors circulated during this time period. Some of the rumors were Epitaph employees were not allowed to discuss matters with the press, Rancid convinced an A&R man from Epic to shave a blue mohawk, and Madonna sent the band nude pictures of herself.
The band eventually decided to remain signed to Epitaph, and the next year released its third album …And Out Come the Wolves on August 22, 1995. The album quickly surpassed Let’s Go in terms of success, and reached number 45 on the Billboard 200 album chart. on January 22, 1996, the album was certified gold. The album received positive reviews, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic described the album as having “classic moments of revivalist punk”. Erlewine praised the music and claims the album “doesn’t mark an isolationist retreat into didactic, defiantly underground punk rock”. Three of the album’s singles, “Roots Radicals”, “Time Bomb”, and “Ruby Soho” all charted on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, and earned Rancid its heaviest airplay on MTV and radio stations to date. The band also performed “Roots Radicals” and “Ruby Soho” on Saturday Night Live.
Middle years (1997–2003)
After two years of touring for …And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid returned to the studio in 1997 to begin recording its fourth studio album, Life Won’t Wait, which was released on June 30, 1998. The album branched out from Rancid’s previous musical styles, and combined punk rock with elements of roots reggae, rockabilly, dub, hip-hop, and funk, drawing comparisons to The Clash’s Sandinista!. Though the album did not achieve the success of …And Out Come the Wolves, but has since garnered a strong cult following in recent times. In 1999, Rancid decided to end its seven-year relationship with Epitaph and signed with Armstrong’s founded Hellcat Records (which is a sub-label Epitaph).
A second self-titled album was released on August 1, 2000 and would be its first album released through Hellcat. The album failed to achieve the success of Rancid’s previous three albums and reached number 68 on the Billboard charts. On the album, the group largely abandoned its ska-punk influences, recording a more hardcore-influenced album.
The three original members of Rancid released three songs under the name Devil’s Brigade in 2002, one on the Give ‘Em the Boot III compilation album, and two on a 12-inch vinyl record. In March of the same year, a split album with NOFX titled BYO Split Series Volume III was released, in which Rancid covered NOFX songs and NOFX covered Rancid songs.
After a break from touring in 2001, Rancid returned to the studio with Gurewitz in 2002 to record its sixth studio album, Indestructible, which was released on August 19, 2003. It featured the song “Fall Back Down”, which was Rancid’s highest-charting album to date, reaching number 15. Unlike the band’s previous albums, Indestructible was distributed by a major record label, Warner Bros. Records.
In 2004, after a tour for Indestructible, Rancid went on an extensive hiatus. The band members worked with side projects, although it had not officially disbanded. Armstrong continued to play with his side project the Transplants, who released their second album, Haunted Cities, in 2005. He also contributed guitar and backing vocals on Cypress Hill’s song “What’s Your Number?” from its tenth album Till Death Do Us Part. Armstrong also released a solo album, A Poet’s Life in May 2007. Frederiksen continued working with his side-project Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards and released their second studio album, Viking, in 2004, the album was co-written and co-produced by Armstrong. Freeman briefly toured with Social Distortion in 2004 as John Maurer’s replacement until the band found its current bassist Brent Harding. Freeman and Frederiksen both had children during this time as well—Freeman had two, and Frederiksen had one.
Reformation and Let the Dominoes Fall (2006–2010)
In early 2006, Rancid reformed to embark on a successful tour and played a number of acoustic performances as part of Hellcat Records’ Hellcat Nights concert series at The Echo. It was the band’s first live performance since its hiatus. On April 13, 2006, Rancid announced plans for a worldwide tour beginning in July 2006, and the release of a DVD consisting of 31 of its music videos, as well as a tentative release date of Spring 2007 for a new as-yet-unnamed studio album.
Similar to a number of other bands signed to Lookout! Records, in September 2006, Rancid had taken its self-titled extended play from the label’s catalog.
On November 3, 2006, Reed left Rancid and was replaced by Branden Steineckert, formerly a member of The Used.
Rancid released a compilation album, B Sides and C Sides, on December 11, 2007. The album consists of various b-sides, “c-sides”, and songs from other compilations.
Rancid toured Japan in April 2008 for a number of shows following its two days headlining the Punkspring 2008 festival. Following the Japanese tour, Rancid embarked on a full tour of the United States during the summer and a tour of the United Kingdom in the winter.
Rancid used to host a one hour once a week XM radio show. The show was called Rancid Radio and was on “Fungus” channel 53 Saturday at midnight. However, the show was cancelled due to Fungus 53 being taken from XM’s programming.
Although plans for a follow-up to Indestructible had been mentioned during 2005, 2006 and 2007, it would not materialize until January 2008, when Rancid entered Skywalker Sound to record it. The resulting seventh studio album, Let the Dominoes Fall, was released on June 2, 2009. In late May, the full album was streamed from the band’s MySpace page. It was Rancid’s first album without its “classic” line-up, with Branden Steineckert replacing Brett Reed on drums in 2006. The album was written at Branden’s Unknown Studios in Utah and was recorded at Skywalker Sound in Nicasio, California. Music legend Booker T. Jones performed organ on one song. A deluxe version of the album included the CD, some of the songs recorded acoustically on another CD, and a making of the album DVD. Rancid toured North America in the summer of 2009 in support of Let the Dominoes Fall, with Rise Against, Riverboat Gamblers, and Billy Talent as its opening bands. The tour began on June 4, 2009 in Vancouver, British Columbia and ended in Toronto, Ontario on July 31.
On June 10, 2009, the band appeared as the musical guest on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien playing “Last One to Die” from Let the Dominoes Fall.
Honor Is All We Know (2011–present)
Rancid did a small US tour supporting Blink-182 from August 25 through September 4, 2011, to enable them to warm up before entering the studio in September 2011 to record their eighth album with Brett Gurewitz. A 2012 release date was expected. The band also mentioned that a 20th anniversary world tour would accompany the album. They were announced to headline one of the biggest punk festivals in the world, Groezrock in Belgium. According to Tim Armstrong, Rancid’s new album will arrive after the Transplants release their new one.
In March 2012, Rancid played some shows with Cock Sparrer. It was the 40th anniversary show for Cock Sparrer, and the 20th anniversary for Rancid. To accompany the shows, Pirates Press Records released a split 7-inch between the bands which featured “East Bay Night” from Rancid. As part of their 20th anniversary, they headlined the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool along with Public Image Limited, Social Distortion and Buzzcocks sharing headline slots, and on December 8, 2012 played in Birmingham along with Cock Sparrer as part of Rebellion Festival.
In December 2012, Rancid released their first new studio song in three years, titled “Fuck You”, which they made available for free download on their website. The song was included on Oi! This is Streetpunk, Volume Two, which was released on December 12, 2012.
In 2012, Rancid released Rancid Essentials, an online-exclusive massive box set celebrating the band’s 20th anniversary through Pirates Press Records. The box set features all of Rancid’s officially released albums and compilations including their debut self-titled EP from 1992 through 2009. 92 sides of music on 46 re-mastered 45 rpm 7-inches housed in a leather box. The albums were released each on their own on 7-inch and individually as well.
On February 6, 2013, Rancid uploaded a picture to their Facebook page of the band in the studio with the caption, “Recording has begun.”
In a December 2013 interview on Reddit, Rancid drummer Branden Steineckert revealed that the new album is called Honor Is All We Know and it will be released in 2014.