Rise Against: Interview with Tim McIlrath

Rise AgainstWhere will you be in July 2007? You don’t know. I don’t know. Tim McIlrath, vocalist for Rise Against, knows where he’ll be. He’ll be on tour.

Incidentally, that’s also where he is now, and it’s where he (and the rest of the band) will be in between the two. Releasing their second full-length for Geffen this week, dubbed The Sufferer And The Witness, McIlrath, Joe Principe (bass), Brandon Barnes (drums) and Chris Chasse (guitar) are already crisscrossing the nation as one of the headliners of this year’s installment of the long-running Warped Tour and, afterwards, will be heading to Europe for festivals and headlining dates.

Sufferer is the follow up to Siren Song For The Counter Culture and, according to McIlrath, it finds the band more comfortable in their own skin and writing the best material of their careers. You’ve probably seen the video for “Ready To Fall” on Fuse, so I’ll spare you the review lingo, but suffice it to say, this is a band who have worked to be where they are and are ready to make the most of it now that they’ve arrived.

And they have indeed arrived. Just don’t expect them to stay long. Tomorrow is another show.

How are things in the band leading up to the release of The Sufferer And The Witness?

Tim McIlrath: We’re definitely at a really, really good place in the band right now. We’ve sort of overcome all the obstacles that every new band faces. Years of really hard touring and nobody comes to the shows, or just trying to make ends meet.

Stuff like labels, label transitions, finding the right team for your crew and all that stuff.

I feel like we’re at a really good place with this band, and when you get to that place, you allow yourself to finally write the music you’ve always wanted to write, to be the band you’ve always wanted to be. There’s no more distractions.

We concentrate 100 percent on our band and on our music. It’s good. I think we’ve finally come into our own.

Is that how you thought about it going in to make this record?

We were ready to write this record. We sat down in January of ’06 and wrote the majority of the songs that ended up on this record in a three or four week period in our practice space on the west side of Chicago.

It went great, the songs just flowed out of us. There were really few questions and the song lyrics would just come out of us, it went really well and everyone really liked them. It was a pretty easy record to write and record.

A lot of that had to do with our relationship with Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore, our amazing production team in Ft. Collins, CO at their studio, The Blasting Room. They’ve been friends of ours for a long time. It’s been a good process and a good six months.

So there was no major label follow up anxiety?

Not really. We’re kind of past that. I think there was a little of that when we wrote Siren Song and we just realized that we don’t function well with those kinds of distractions and under that pressure.

That’s not our thing, it’s not what we do. We don’t live in fear. We’re not seeking approval. We’re not seeking our label’s approval. We’re not seeking anybody’s approval. We don’t live in fear of putting out a record they might not like, we don’t live in fear of being dropped from the label. We do what we do and we’ll always have Rise Against and what Rise Against is.

Aside from all that, we’re actually at a really good place with our label and everyone’s really stoked about what’s happening and everyone’s really on our side, so like I said, without all of those distractions, we were able to just concentrate fully on the music.