Prior to 1991, Rancid vocalist/guitarist Tim Armstrong and bassist/vocalist Matt Freeman played together in a band called Operation Ivy. Op Ivy existed between 1987 and 1989. After they broke up, Armstrong developed an alcohol addiction. Two somewhat successful bands followed: the hardcore group Generator and the ska-influenced Dance Hall Crashers. Freeman knew that he had to keep Armstrong engaged in music so that he didn't slip further into his addiction, so he suggested forming a new band called Rancid in 1991.
Rancid is considered one of the most successful independent bands of all time. They've sold over 4 million records on Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz's Epitaph imprint but have never signed with a major label.
Rancid drummer Branden Steineckert previously played drums for The Used
but left the band in 2006. Steineckert's departure was unexpected but refreshing for both parties, with Steineckert excited that his first show with Rancid was in front of 2,500 screaming kids in London, England.
In 1993, Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong asked Green Day singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong if he wanted to join the band as a second guitarist. Billie Joe Armstrong appeared on the Rancid song "Radio," but declined the invitation to become a permanent member of the band. Realizing that the band desperately needed another permanent guitarist, longtime Lars Frederiksen offered to join the band after previously turning down an invitation as well.
In 1994, several major labels wanted to sign Rancid so bad that they started coming up with interesting ways of catching the band's attention. As a joke, Rancid convinced an A&R person at Epic to shave his head into a Mohawk and dye it blue. In an effort to sign Rancid to her label Maverick Records, Madonna even sent the band nude pictures of herself.
Rancid used to be good friends with members of both The Ramones and The Clash. Rancid played with The Ramones during their last show ever and frontman Tim Armstrong says he "would have cried" if Joey Ramone didn't like his band's music. Armstrong also released the last three solo albums Joe Strummer from The clash on his Hellcat label and called the punk legend "super f--king cool."
In 2011, Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong created Tim Timebomb's Rock 'N Roll Theatre, a musical webseries influenced by narrative-driven classic TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In the first episode, Rancid guitarist Lars Fredrcksen plays Dante, a cutthroat businessman who's literally murdered people to get to the top. The Devil – played by AFI's Davey Havok – decides to take Dante under his wing in order to show him the misconceptions people have about hell.