Pennywise formed in 1988 in Hermosa Beach, the south bay of Los Angeles, which is the same small, coastal community that produced three of the most infamous hardcore punk bands of all time: Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and the Descendents.
The four band members, guitarist Fletcher Dragge, original bassist Jason Thirsk, drummer Byron McMackin and vocalist Jim Lindberg, began playing local backyard keg parties to increasing crowds, and with the help of friend Marc Theodore of Theologian Records, recorded the five-song E.P. A Word from the Wise. A college radio DJ liked what he heard and gave it to Brett Gurewitz, guitarist and songwriter for L.A. punk legends Bad Religion, who was also starting his own label, Epitaph Records. Epitaph had already released albums by Bad Religion, NOFX, Insted, and Down by Law. The band gave Brett a ghetto blaster recording of some new songs and he signed them to their first record deal.
Despite being courted by the majors during the great post-Green Day/Offspring punk rock signing spree, Pennywise chose to stay on Epitaph. They have released a series of popular recordings for the label, and in 2008, released Reason to Believe on MySpace Records in the United States and Epitaph in the UK. Fans also had the option of downloading the album for free, thanks to a partnership between MySpace, Textango and the Wise.