“We’re not a political band. We don’t want to tell people what to do or what to think. We just want to tell them to think.”
As the words of Billie Joe Armstrong echo in my head, I picture a group of young musicians from Chicago, Illinois, under the guise of Transistor Revolt back in 1999 peeling away to form Rise Against two years later. Little did they know that they would sell out shows, play alongside rock’s biggest names, and inject political heart into a disorienting rock scene while defying generic labels.
The real story begins with California-based Fat Wreck Chords in 2001, which has released material for the likes of Against Me! and Anti-Flag. Rise Against are in between drummers and haven’t played a single gig, yet it’s this record label that’s willing to take them on. As bassist Joe Principe recalled to ROCKZONE, “…they’re sinking a ton of money in a band that they don’t know much about. They didn’t know if we were going to break up next week or what”.
Thank the music gods they didn’t break up, because with the release of The Unraveling (2001) and Revolutions Per Minute (2003), Rise Against became integral to the label’s new, heavier direction. The fast pace movement escalated when the band embarked on an extensive tour with NOFX and Agnostic Front.
2004 was change-ridden for the Chicago punk rockers. While they had signed onto DreamWork records the previous year, the label collapsed and the band ended up releasing third album Siren Song of the Counter Culture through Universal Music Group’s Geffen Records. The lineup had also undergone notable reshuffling with guitarist Chris Chasse replacing The Killing Tree’s Todd Mohney, who had already taken over from Dan Wlekinski back in 2001.
Rise Against’s political significance harks back to its participation in activist group Punkvoter during the 2004 US presidential election, and its contribution to the Rock Against Bush project raising over $1 million for then candidate John Kerry. As Tim revealed to Punknews.org, “every time Rise Against sets up some gear on stage and plays a show, there are important things to be talked about. There’s a dialogue being created”. This dialogue propels Rise Against above the rest on a wave of both physical and political energy exchange.
We shouldn’t forget the band’s commercial success, with The Sufferer and the Witness (2006), Appeal to Reason (2008), Endgame and latest offering The Black Market (2014) all peaking in the top ten of the Billboard 200. In 2006, Tim deemed their appearance “a rare thing, especially a band that’s presenting more important and subversive material like we’re doing”.
Rise Against have also played some iconic shows in recent times, performing in Africa for the first time alongside Bring Me the Horizon as co-headliners of RAMFest 2013.
The punk rockers supported the legendary Foo Fighters in 2011 and earlier this year on the Oceania leg of their Sonic Highways world tour. They later appeared at the sold out Rock on the Range in May, which boasted a lineup including Slipknot, Slash and Breaking Benjamin. Loudwire described their performance as “a high energy set”, while The Lantern asserted that they “cut right through to the audience, playing with an upbeat punk rock intensity”.
So, where exactly are Rise Against at now? No doubt on top of an impressive, Tragedy + Time enduring career. Watch our interview with the band below, before checking out their tour dates here.