In 1977, friends Frank Navetta and David Nolte began writing songs on acoustic guitars with the intention of forming a band. They initially called themselves The Itch, until Navetta came up with the name Descendents. By the end of the year they had failed to attract any more band members, so Nolte instead joined The Last with his brothers. In late 1978 Navetta was joined by drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Tony Lombardo, revitalizing the Descendents project. Nolte sang with the group at several of their early performances, but by the Spring of 1979 The Last were becoming more active and he left the Descendents. The singerless "power trio" lineup of Navetta, Lombardo, and Stevenson recorded the band's debut single at Media Art studios and released it on their own label, Orca Records, named after Stevenson's fishing boat. Navetta sang "Ride the Wild" while Lombardo sang "It's a Hectic World". Nolte produced and mixed the session, and his brother Joe turned the lead guitar level up, resulting in the guitar being very loud in the mix.
The band's music at the time was described by Stevenson as a "coffee'd-out blend of rock-surf-pop-punk music [...] The sound consisted basically of Lombardo's hard-driving, melodic bass lines, Navetta's tight guitar riffing, and my 'caffinated' surf beats."Steven Blush, author of American Hardcore: A Tribal History, describes the single as "a blend of Devo-style new wave and Dick Dale-like surf." Ned Raggett of Allmusic describes it as surf-inspired power pop with a new wave edge: "Not quite Devo if they grew up on the coast, but there's something to that comparison." Following the addition of singer Milo Aukerman to the band in 1980, their music moved in a hardcore punk direction with shorter, faster, and more aggressive songs.