I’m talking to Tim McIlrath, lead singer of punk rockers Rise Against, on the eve of their latest Australian tour. They’ve just arrived in Perth and are enjoying a day off before the mayhem starts. He tells me they enjoy making the trek down under.
“We have amazing fans down here. In the first few years that we were a band we never made it to Australia, the opportunity never presented itself, and when we finally got down here we had no idea what to expect.”
“What we found was all these die hard fans who’d been following our career over the years without actually coming to shows.”
“By the time we got down here it was just this rush of enthusiasm and excitement and that was awesome. We kind of felt at home and our fans made us feel that way.”
Having toured here three times in the last four years, Tim has come to appreciate Australian audiences. He points out that “there’s so many places in the world where the audience isn’t as open to that diverse of a line-up, but Australia’s just one of those places where the audience is just ready for anything.”
This time around Rise Against are bringing the International Noise Conspiracy with them. The band have “crossed paths with them a few times over the years” and were looking for an excuse to take them on tour, so Australia seemed like the perfect opportunity and a place where they would be well received by the audience.
“Australian audiences are ready for bands that don’t sound exactly like each other and a different kind of show. That’s something we appreciate and certainly something that made it possible to bring Noise Conspiracy down here.”
Touring constantly since their newest album was released last year, Tim sees life on the road as an important part of being in a band. He feels it’s a natural thing for them to do.
“We come from the punk rock community and the hardcore community where touring is really a way of life. It’s what you do as a band. As soon as we were offered the opportunity to tour we knew that we just needed to get on the road and do it.”
“Especially in this day and age maintaining your presence out there and reminding the kids that you’re still a band and you’re still out there and you’re still playing shows, that’s important.”
“We like the live shows. They’re definitely the things that really get us enthused about playing and being a band and get us in touch with our fans.”
Following in a “long legacy of punk bands that have spoken for the underdogs and spoken for the disenfranchised and alienated youth” Rise Against are particularly outspoken in their political views.
While they do accept that their messages might be lost on the uninitiated, Tim says they at least hope to influence some opinions while they’re on stage.
“We’re certainly not naive to the fact that a lot of this is being lost in translation. There are a lot of people that are out there because they heard a song on the radio and they like it, you know, they just want to go out and have a good time. There’s certainly an argument to be made that that’s simply what music is for.”
“For us, coming from a punk rock community music has always been about way more than that. None of us got into this to be entertainers, none of us got into this to simply be a part of the entertainment world.”
Their aim, then, is to be “a voice for the voiceless.” There’s a certain nobility in that endeavor that you’ve got to at least give them credit for.
Photo by Evan Hunt