Post-hardcore quartet Thrice formed in 1998 in Irvine, California. Guitarist/vocalist Dustin Kensrue, guitarist Teppei Teranishi, bassist Eddie Breckenridge, and drummer Riley Breckenridge all knew each other from high school and the neighborhood skate park, and the usual round of practices, music competitions, and local gigs helped hone their new band's sound. By late 1999, Thrice had amassed enough material to cut a proper record. Working with Death by Stereo's Paul Miner, the quartet recorded 12 tracks and self-released the Identity Crisis LP in April 2000. More gigs followed, and Thrice's mounting buzz sparked the interest of Hopeless/Sub City's Louis Posen.
The Illusion of SafetyPosen signed the band in 2001, reissued Identity Crisis, and put Thrice on tour with Samiam. Tours with Midtown and Hot Rod Circuit followed, and eventually Thrice re-entered the studio with producer Brian McTernan. Although those recording sessions proved to be a trying period for the young group, The Illusion of Safety emerged and was later released in February 2002. Naturally, the band hit the road in support of the album, this time playing concerts alongside Further Seems Forever and Face to Face. Thrice also began headlining shows for the first time that year, and major labels began to take notice. Eventually, Island Records signed the band in June. A stint on the Warped Tour followed, and Thrice spent the fall playing club dates with Hot Water Music and Coheed & Cambria.
The Artist in the Ambulance February 2003 found the band returning to the studio with McTernan but this time, Island Records was footing the bill. The focused effort The Artist in the Ambulance appeared in August 2003, featuring the hit "All That's Left." Thrice supported it with an ambitious slate of tour dates that included jaunts to Europe. The band also continued to involve itself with charitable organizations, having actively supported nonprofits and charities since signing with Sub City (the charitable arm of Hopeless Records). Portions of the proceeds from Artist in the Ambulance went to the Syrentha J. Salvo Endowment, which provides financial assistance for cancer screenings.