“I think over the years bands can deviate from their sound and I feel like we haven’t. The sound of Rise Against is very present on ‘The Black Market’ and that just means the world to me, once we deviate from that sound, that’s when I start to worry *laughs*”
From Bio: After 15 years, and six incendiary albums, Rise Against have become one of the most successful, challenging and revered punk rock bands on the planet. Rise Against have sold four million albums globally across their last four releases – with 2011’s ‘Endgame’ debuting at #1 in Germany and Canada, #2 on the U.S. Billboard album chart, and locally debuted at #3 in Australia. Rise Against have already announced several new shows in the US and Canada, in support of ‘The Black Market’, which includes performances at all three Riot Fests in Toronto, Chicago and Denver and the Made In America festival in Los Angeles.
We had a great chat with Joe of Rise Against about the band’s new album ‘The Black Market’ as well as being a band for fifteen years and maybe a hint as to when we’ll see them back in Australia?
Thanks for your time today, Joe. Where do we find you today?
I’m at home in Chicago and we just got done rehearsing for a few days and we’re starting to play out and we have a few random festival shows and then we start touring heavily in the fall, but we’re just kind of getting back into it. We had to get out of studio mode and into live mode, so it’s interesting to play these songs live in a room after being stuck in a studio for three months, but it’s cool, I’m really excited to get back to it.
To kick us off and to throw you off guard early on is there one word you can use to sum up the new album?
Let me see… I would say, energetic *laughs* I don’t know, that’s a tough one. I guess for me there’s this super energetic vibe throughout this whole record, so energetic comes to mind, but I don’t know what it is about this record versus ‘Endgame’ or ‘Appeal To Reason’ but it’s that moment in time where the vibe was right, the time was right and we captured a very raw Rise against, and I always feel like that’s what we do best, just simple, four guys playing punk rock music, so I’m really excited that this vibe has carried onto this record. ‘The Sufferer & the Witness’ kinda had that vibe for me, but this record I would say it’s my second favourite record *laughs* because ‘The Sufferer & the Witness’ was like a milestone for us, musically throughout our career that marked a growth spurt for us, and this record kind of has the same vibe for me.
Can you tell us about the title of the album ‘The Black Market’ and how that came about?
Yeah, Tim could probably describe it best, it’s his concept, but I will try my hardest. With that title and where it came from, with every record we get together and Tim writes all the lyrics and has to get his head in that frame of mind and it’s a pretty dark place you know, for someone to come from the studio recording guitars, you’re hanging out with your buddies, having a good time but you really have to submerge yourself in heavy lyrical content and you have to do it fourteen or fifteen times per record and he realised this record he wasn’t feeling angry or upset you know what I mean? I would say ‘Endgame’ was really political and this record he just wasn’t feeling that and it was kind of like this concept of this pressure and almost this bringing yourself down into this heavy kind of world of lyrics and that may not be the best explanation of what you’re looking for *laughs* but that’s the only way I can describe it. It was his way of talking about how that feels to him, that’s what the song ‘The Black Market’ is about which is the title track of the record, but yeah that’s kind of the short answer to that question. That never occurred to me, it never occurred to me how hard it is for him to accomplish that and the expectations that he feels with Rise Against’s lyrics and writing those, because Tim, over I don’t know, would say ten years, he also has acoustic songs that he writes and they may never see the light of day, he just kind of sits on them and lyrically they’re a lot lighter by nature and they’re easier to write and it just never occurred to me what he had to go through and that’s kind of what this record is about.
After six albums, did you have an idea going into the new album of how you wanted it to sound or did it evolve into it eventually became?
It’s definitely this constant evolution from day one demoing to all the way through to Tim recording vocals, and it’s always constantly changing, and what I mean by it, the songs, the structure, maybe we’ll cut a chorus or maybe we’ll come up with things to fit into the songs and it’s a very organic process for us, that’s just how we’ve always done it. We never really set out to do anything specific, thematic or I guess we just do what we do what we do best and that’s write from whatever we’re feeling that day, if I’m angry or pissed off I’m gonna write a fast punk rock song, or if I’m feeling pretty good I’ll write a poppy song, so that’s just kind of how we do it, no kind of premeditated thing, it just happens organically.
I have to say, I wrote these questions as I was listening through the album for the first time and as each song came on I found myself going ‘oh my god’ I was blown away with it, which leads me to ask, when you finally get to hear the finished product, what’s the first thing that goes through your mind?
I would say there’s a lot of ‘oh wow, we did that?’ *laughs* like I said, when things are ever changing in the studio you tend to forget what you’ve done on say the first song that was completed, and what I mean by that is like backing vocals and things like that, but I would say when I first listened to this record in its entirety all the way through I was just really proud of it because like I said, it captured what we do best and that’s wrote very energetic songs and it stems back to our roots with bands like Minor Threat and Bad Brains and Bad Religion. I feel like those bands spirit is alive on this record and that’s important, it’s a punk rock kind of energy on it, and that kind of carries over onto it, even the song ‘Zero Visibility’ that is a very rock and roll kind of song but there’s still this punk angst behind it, so I’m just very proud of it.
To pick one track out, ‘Tragedy + Time’ was my standout on the album, is there a story behind this one you can share with us?
Well, it’s funny because, well it’s not funny… we sat on that music for a couple of months, we demoed it at the end of last year and I didn’t really know what Tim was going to do lyrically for that and when I found out that he was talking about suicide and coming out of a depression it really kind of gave new meaning to that song, as by nature it’s a very poppy song, but I think the intent was to have something so catchy that at least from my perspective it’ll appeal to more people because it has such serious lyrical content and it was a way to get people to listen to the lyrics you know what I mean? I don’t know if that was Tim’s intent but that’s how I took it, and that song is definitely one of my favourites, but it’s like a very heavy lyrical content on that. Yeah…
After fifteen years together, what do you still enjoy about being part of Rise Against?
I think for me personally that fact that we can be Rise Against in 2014, like maintaining the roots of the band is very important to me, since I started this band coming out of my old band and it meant a lot to me, because at the time there wasn’t a lot of punk rock that was coming out of Chicago that sounded like us and it’s cool that we kind of morphed into our own sound and it’s still present in 2014, I think over the years bands can deviate from their sound and I feel like we haven’t. The sound of Rise Against is very present on ‘The Black Market’ and that just means the world to me, once we deviate from that sound, that’s when I start to worry *laughs*
So we won’t expect a dance pop album anytime soon?
Definitely not *laughs* it blows my mind that there are different styles on the record but it’s still sounds like us, when Tim starts singing it just makes sense, but definitely no EDM songs or anything like that *laughs* but yeah…
So when you look back at ‘The Unravelling’, what do you see as the biggest change that’s taken place within the band to be who you are today?
I think it’s just growing as songwriters and people, the work ethic is still there, the reasons why we still play music is still there and those are very present today, it’s just growing as a person, we’ve been a band almost fifteen years now and it’s just a natural progression of four guys just hanging out with each other for so long, it’s first of all crazy that we’ve been a band for fifteen years *laughs* it doesn’t feel that long, but it’s great that we’re still on the same page in 2014.
Touring wise, when can we expect to see you back in Australia?
Yeah we’re kind of working that out right now as we speak, we’re figuring out the schedules and what makes the most sense, but we definitely plan on being there early next year, we can’t wait to get back there.
Maybe festival season?
Yeah that’s the thing; we’re trying to figure out what makes the most sense. I can’t say anything definitive yet, but it’ll be announced soon enough…
Lastly, let’s try and predict the future and the remainder of the year, so I want you to finish this sentence for me, by the end of 2014, Rise Against will…
Rise Against will have played the same show with The Cure and Slayer on the same day *laughs* there’s a festival that we’re playing in Chicago and Slayer and The Cure are playing the same day as us *laughs* it just blows my mind.
From: Chicago, IL, USA
Band members: Tim McIlrath – Vocals, Guitar, Joe Principe – Bass, Brandon Barnes – Drums, Zach Blair – Guitar
Forthcoming release: The Black Market – (July 11 – Universal Music Australia)