Frontman Greg Graffin partially brought Bad Religion back together in 1984 and hired two new members, Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson (who would remain with the band until 2013) and bassist Tim Gallegos. Drummer Pete Finestone (who left in 1982) also rejoined during this time. The new line-up recorded a new EP, which had only five songs, and was just over ten minutes long. It was originally released in a 12" format, with only one side of the vinyl containing all five tracks. The A side contained no music or sound of any kind and was mirror-smooth. It was re-released as part of the 1991 compilation '80-'85, and again remastered for the 2004 reissue, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?.
There has been some confusion over when Back to the Known was released. Due to a typo on a number of internet sources and the back cover of the vinyl, many believe that the EP was released in 1984, but this appears to be false. According to a Bad Religion fan site, the EP was recorded in 1985 with then-former and now-current guitarist Brett Gurewitz producing it.
No songs from this EP made it on to the band's 1995 compilation album All Ages.