A Few Words with Rise Against

Originally rising out of a competitive Chicago punk scene, Rise Against has been bringing their music and their message to crowds all over the world for a couple of decades. Taking a moment between tours, singer and songwriter Tim McIlrath sat down for a few minutes to take some of our questions about the band, punk rock in the modern age, and their new album “Endgame.”
-Tell me about “Endgame.” How do you feel about it, what’s new about it and what’s different that the fans haven’t heard before?
It's a natural progression from appeal to reason. I think we've maintained a constant progression with every record and “Endgame” continues that. We've grown as song writers and as a band. I think it's apparent on “Endgame.”
-“Endgame” is reportedly an album that looks forward to a possibly brighter future. What is the message that you want people to take away from it when they listen?
Sometimes tearing down to rebuild is necessary, and the best possible solution. In some cases, it seems like little fixes to a bigger problem cause more harm then good.
-Music critics over the years have pointed to your musical changes and expansions since the heady days of “The Unraveling” and “Revolutions Per Minute.” How would you define the evolution (if you believe it happened,) and what would you say contributed to it?
Growing as musicians and as songwriters. As time moves on, we're exposed to more and more influences that affect the way we write. I think it's important to constantly challenge yourself creatively to keep things fresh and interesting.
-Which musical era of Rise Against is “Endgame” most similar to, or does it create its own?
I think it represents Rise Against in 2011. I do feel it has the energy of the sufferer and the witness. Very upbeat musically speaking.
-Some critics have criticized the band for “turning away from the underground” or writing “pretty but empty” songs. As a band with a reputation for thoughtfulness, what do you say to that?
You can't please everyone on your creative journey. I'm extremely proud of what we've accomplished and that's what matters. If you claim our songs are empty then you're truly not listening to the words.
-“Endgame” marks Zach Blair’s second full-length release with the band. Do you feel the band has gelled, and what does he bring to the process that no one before him has?
Zach is, by far, the most solid guitar player we've ever had. We've always needed a strong lead player and we finally found him. He's amazing live, a real asset to the band.
-It seems like even with a fair amount of mainstream success, Rise Against still carries an image with the music-listening population of the “underground fighting-man’s mosh pit band.” Does image matter to you, and what do you think of the image you have?
If you mean we've maintained integrity as a punk rock band, yes, I agree. The punk scene and its music is ingrained in us. It still is a huge part of us today.

-Punk and hardcore as genres have been through so many transitions over the years from underground counter culture like Minor Threat and Black Flag to pop punk like Blink-182 and back again. Where do you feel the genre is now, and what is its future?
There seems to be a resurgence of fast, aggressive punk bands popping up which is extremely reassuring. That kind of music is extremely important to me. The sound still carries into Rise Against with songs like “Disparity by Design” and “Collapse.” I always noticed music first then lyrics. It moves me which is why I became a song writer. It's my only source of self expression.
-Along those lines, where (if at all,) do you see yourself fitting in with punk in its present state?
I think we're in a great place musically. We're still ruffling feathers, but in a mainstream environment which was the goal on signing to a major [label].
-You’ve been on the road recently with Sick of It All. For as many bands who dream of going on tour with Rise Against, what’s it like for you to be on the bill with a throwback legend like them?
It's such an honor. They're huge huge influences on us and they took us on our first European tour. We're finally returning the favor. I'm just worried about going on after them every night because they are, by far, the best live band I've ever seen.
Give the readers (and me!) a few up-and-comers in punk that they should look out for, and the mainstream won’t play.
Two bands that impress me are Regulations from Sweden and OFF! from LA. They're definitely some of my new favorites.
Do you feel like your music is a cathartic outlet for you personally, or do you try to convey a message to the fans? Or both?
It's definitely both. Everything we do musically and lyrically are extensions of us personally.
I know you pride yourself on being socially conscious. I wanted to give you some space to talk about a few worthy causes that are important to you. So what organizations have your attention lately, and what do they support?
We're working with IVAW which is the Iraq Vets Against the War. There are so many disheartening stories that they're telling. Promises our government isn't keeping. Another organization is the It Gets Better campaign. It’s an organization that helps teens who are getting bullied because of their sexual preference.

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