Published on theMusic.com.au, Nov 2015
The stadiums that Rise Against now headline give a wider reach to their politically-driven music, but as frontman Tim McIlrath tells Daniel Cribb, making a connection with that audience is a lot harder.
Tucked away in a Perth club back in March of this year, Rise Against returned to their roots. The Chicago punk rock icons were on tour with rock heavyweights Foo Fighters, playing arenas, stadiums and more around the country to 50,000 strong crowds, but booked a last-minute gig at WA venue Amplifier Bar to remind themselves where it all started. “It was so much fun,” McIlrath recalls. “The Amplifier show was the smallest show that we’ve played in I don’t know how many years, and those Foo Fighters shows were the biggest shows that we’ve ever played.”
“And so that juxtaposition was a refreshing way to kind of remind ourselves who we are, what we do and why we do it, and put ourselves face to face with the people who made us tick.”
A Sea Shepherd stall follows the band on tour, educating fans on one of many things the band believes to be an important cause, and that show was no exception. The only difference was the amount of competition it faced, which was a lot less in a venue of that size. Usually Sea Shepherd has to fight to be seen and heard amongst other stalls at massive shows, and the same goes for the passionate themes McIlrath tries to convey through his music. “The more barricades you put between you and that crowd, the more distance you put, the harder it is to kind of reach people,” he explains.
“You take a different strategy and realise they’re not going to catch every innuendo of the song — or even what you say in between songs sometimes. But, you know, a show like that, we’re just trying to hook people into Rise Against and get them to kind of dig deeper and check us out and listen to another song or come to a show and that kind of thing.”
Once a potential new fan does a little digging, there’s a wealth of educating music to engage with, and that’s where stadium singles from 2014’s The Black Market really come into play. They serve two purposes: to leave their mark on a massive and sometimes uninterested crowd, while also working on a more intimate level, where McIlrath’s lyrics shine through.
Their upcoming Australian headline tour will likely mark the end of The Black Market‘s touring cycle, and will see them ease back into writing for album number eight. “I think we’re ready to do something different to The Black Market,” he tells.
“I think we’re going to tackle that over these next six months, but the Rise Against plan has always been a lack of a plan. We never really plan anything, we kind of just stumble blindly into the darkness.
“We were just [jamming] on stage here in San Francisco at sound check – playing a riff for eight minutes straight, whether it’ll be something that we can turn into a song or not we’ll see; we’re just playing it with all of our gut instincts.”