Rise Against is an American punk rock band from Chicago, Illinois, formed in 1999. Their current lineup consists of Tim McIlrath (vocals, guitar), Joe Principe (bass guitar), Brandon Barnes (drums), and Zach Blair (guitar), all of whom are straight edge (excluding Barnes) PETA supporters and strict vegetarians/vegans. The band is currently signed to Geffen, a record label owned by Universal Music Group. As of 2009, Rise Against has released five studio albums, two EPs, and one DVD.
Rise Against spent its first five years signed to the independent record label Fat Wreck Chords, on which it released two studio albums. The band gained mainstream popularity with its first two releases on Geffen, Siren Song of the Counter Culture (2004) and The Sufferer & the Witness (2006), which produced several high-charting singles, including "Swing Life Away", "Prayer of the Refugee", and "The Good Left Undone". Their most recent studio album, Appeal to Reason, was released in North America on October 7, 2008, peaking at number three on the U.S. Billboard 200 and producing the singles, "Re-Education (Through Labor)", "Audience of One", and "Savior".
Independent years (1999?2003)
Rise Against was formed under the name Transistor Revolt in 1999 by former members of the bands 88 Fingers Louie and Baxter. The first lineup consisted of Tim McIlrath (vocals), Joe Principe (bass and vocals), Toni Tintari (drums), and Mr. Precision (guitar and vocals). Though the band never performed live with this lineup, it released a self-produced demo/EP entitled Transistor Revolt in 2000, a year before signing with Fat Wreck Chords. Tintari left shortly after recording Transistor Revolt, and was replaced by Brandon Barnes, after a short time with Dan Lumley of Screeching Weasel and Squirtgun as the drummer. The band changed its name to Rise Against in 2001 and released its first album, The Unraveling (produced by veteran punk producer Mass Giorgini) on Fat Wreck Chords that same year. Mr. Precision left the band in 2001, and was replaced by Todd Mohney before the band began writing their second full-length album.
After touring in support of The Unraveling, the band returned to the studio in December 2002 to work on their second full-length, Revolutions per Minute (produced by Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room), which was released in 2003. The band toured extensively in support of its first two records, performing in supporting roles for Sick of It All, NOFX, Agnostic Front, No Use for a Name, AFI, and Strung Out. In addition, Rise Against participated in the 2003 Warped Tour.
Siren Song of the Counter Culture (2004?2005)
Rise Against signed onto Dreamworks Records in December 2003 and recorded their third album, Siren Song of the Counter Culture, in 2004. Dreamworks was shortly absorbed by the Universal Music Group, and Rise Against found itself with Geffen Records, a Universal Music Group subsidiary. Shortly after the band signed with Geffen, Mohney left and was replaced by guitarist Chris Chasse. Rise Against released Siren Song of the Counter Culture in August 2004 on Geffen Records. The album, in addition to being the band's first on a major record label, was their first to reach the Billboard 200 chart and to be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album received generally slightly positive ratings from critics. It was mainly criticized for its accessibility and melodious sound compared to previous Rise Against works. In giving the album 3 out of 5 stars, Johnny Loftus of Allmusic said that Siren Song of the Counter Culture sometimes "gets carried away with its own melodic urgency." However, he goes on to say that because of the album being the band's major-label debut, "maybe the fuller sound and occasional forays into acoustic guitars and cello overdubs...are OK."
Rise Against toured North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan in support of Siren Song of the Counter Culture. Some of the most notable mentions include performances on the first international Taste of Chaos tour in 2005 (with Funeral for a Friend, Story of the Year, The Used, and Killswitch Engage), a worldwide tour to the UK, Germany, Australia, and Japan, the Give It a Name tour in the UK, the Reading Festival and Leeds Festival in the UK, a US tour with Alkaline Trio, and the Warped Tour in North America.
The Sufferer & the Witness (2006?2007)
In January 2006, after touring in support of Siren Song of the Counter Culture, Rise Against recorded their fourth studio album at the Blasting Room studio in Fort Collins, Colorado with producers Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore. Mixed by Chris Lord-Alge at Resonate Sound in Burbank, California, The Sufferer & the Witness was released on July 4, 2006. The album peaked at number 10 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 48,397 copies in its first week of release; it was eventually certified gold by the RIAA in 2008. The Age newspaper said that with The Sufferer & the Witness, the band "returns to their punk roots." In addition to earning Rise Against its best chart and sales numbers at the time, the album was generally well-received by critics. Corey Apar of Allmusic, in giving the album 4 out of 5 stars, said of it, "the band's inner grit is aptly drawn out amid all the pit-ready choruses and fist-in-the-air, stirring lyrics." She goes on to say, "Rise Against continue to muscularly confront political and personal grievances to the tune of swirling guitars, assertive rhythms, and Tim McIlrath's sandpapered vocals." Contrastingly, Christine Leonard of Fast Forward Weekly says of the band, "Returning to their old school form with the ballistic intensity of "Bricks," they just as quickly lose focus with questionable efforts such as "Worth Dying For" and the oh-so-weary "Prayer of the Refugee."
A DVD titled Generation Lost was released on December 5, 2006 to promote the band and their new album. It contains a documentary of the careers of the band members, as well as live performance videos and making-of clips. Rise Against toured in support of The Sufferer & the Witness throughout the second half of 2006 and all of 2007. The band was a headliner in the 2006 Warped Tour. In late 2006, the band co-headlined a tour with Thursday that included the bands Circa Survive and Billy Talent. In early 2007, the band supported My Chemical Romance as openers on the first half of their arena tour. On February 23, 2007, Rise Against announced the departure of guitarist Chris Chasse on the band's official website. Chasse was replaced by longtime friend Zach Blair from Only Crime. On June 15, 2007, the band began their first official headlining tour in support of The Sufferer & the Witness; it was a North American tour that lasted throughout the summer months. During this tour, on July 3, 2007, Rise Against released an EP in Canada titled This Is Noise, which was subsequently released in the United States on January 15, 2008.
Appeal to Reason (2008 onward)
Rise Against performing live in San Juan Hill, New York on October 14, 2008 in support of Appeal to Reason
To support the upcoming album, Rise Against played at the sixteenth annual KROQ Weenie Roast on May 17 in Irvine, California, and at the sixth annual Download Festival on June 13 at Donington Park, England. They also played at Switzerland's Greenfield Festival as well as Germany's Hurricane Festival and Southside Festival. Like several previous years, the band participated in the Vans Warped Tour, although they decided only to perform on the tour's west coast swing from August 6 to August 17.
Rise Against's fifth studio album Appeal to Reason was released on October 4 in Australia, October 6 across Europe, and October 7 in the United States. The album sold 64,700 copies in its first week and peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard 200, making it Rise Against's highest charting album to date. Appeal to Reason was met with generally positive reviews. However, critics did not rate it as highly as The Sufferer & the Witness, mostly blaming the movement toward the mainstream and away from faster hardcore punk. Giving the album a C+ rating, Marc Weingarten of Entertainment Weekly says the album is filled with "protest anthems that lean closer to the burnished angst of such bands as New Found Glory and Fall Out Boy than the genuine outrage of brainy Green Day" and songs that are "peppy but pretty empty, power-chord downers with little bark or bite." Kyle Anderson of Rolling Stone states that the songs on Appeal to Reason "are driven by an ever-sharpening pop sensibility." He concludes by saying, "Rise Against may be nervous about leaving the underground behind, but with sharp songs like these, they're ready for the rest of the world."
Rise Against embarked on a North American tour with fellow punk rock bands Rancid, Billy Talent, Killswitch Engage, and Riverboat Gamblers in June and July 2009. They will be on a short tour of the UK in November, which is supported by the bands Thursday and Poison the Well. The band will release a split record with Face to Face, although no date has been announced. After completing a European tour from October to November 2009 and an Australian tour in January and February 2010, Rise Against will begin working on a new album.
Politics and ethics
All of the group's members are vegetarians/vegans and active supporters of PETA, an animal rights organization. Their video for the single "Ready to Fall" contains footage of factory farming, rodeos, and sport hunting, as well as deforestation, melting ice caps, and brush and forest fires. The group has called the video the most important video they have ever made. The Director's Cut of the video was first made available to a PETA website. In 2009, the band was voted Best Animal-Friendly Band by PETA. In addition to being strict vegetarians, all the members of Rise Against, except drummer Brandon Barnes, are straight edge, abstaining from consuming alcoholic beverages or using recreational drugs.
In addition to their support of animal rights, the band has voiced their support for other liberal-minded political causes. During the 2004 United States presidential election, the band was part of Punkvoter, a political activist group, and appeared on the Rock Against Bush, Vol. 1 compilation. During the 2008 presidential election, the band members endorsed Barack Obama. In a news bulletin in early 2009, the band stated: "Few things are more exciting than watching Bush finally release America as his eight year hostage."
On May 23, 2007 Rise Against announced their endorsement of a new line of Vans shoes that would be "completely vegan in consideration to animal rights efforts". In response to criticism spawning from a rampant rumor of Vans' use of sweatshops, Rise Against released a statement to address the matter on both their MySpace profile and website saying,
Just a quick note to address a handful of concern that some of you have addressed in regards to the shoe that we've teamed up with VANS to produce. All VANS shoes, including the RISE AGAINST VEGAN shoe are manufactured in factories that follow strict guidelines that are designed to protect the workers involved in this process. The right to fair compensation, the right to associate freely and bargain collectively, the right to work free from discrimination and harassment, and the right to a safe clean workplace are among many of the guidelines that VANS and the factories that produce VANS are committed to. We are proud to work with such a progressive and legendary company.
Musical style and influences
Rise Against's musical style throughout the band's career has been described by most critics as hardcore punk, melodic hardcore, or punk rock. The band has cited numerous punk and hardcore bands as influences to its music. In 2004, drummer Brandon Barnes stated: "I think we have a lot of different influences from hardcore like old Cave In, to a lot of punk like Face to Face, Screeching Weasel, and Down By Law."
In 2006, Tim McIlrath stated of the band's style: "We?re emulating Minor Threat and Black Flag. Who knows, maybe if Ian MacKaye was wearing eyeliner then I would be." Other bands that have influenced Rise Against include Descendents, Dead Kennedys, and Bad Religion.
Tim McIlrath ? lead vocals, rhythm guitar (since 1999)
Joe Principe ? bass guitar, backing vocals (since 1999)
Brandon Barnes ? drums, percussion (since 2000)
Zach Blair ? lead guitar, backing vocals (since 2007)
Toni Tintari ? drums (1999?2000) (only in Transistor Revolt)
Mr. Precision (Dan Wleklinski) ? lead guitar, backing vocals (1999?2002)
Todd Mohney ? lead guitar, backing vocals (2002?2004)
Chris Chasse ? lead guitar, backing vocals (2004?2007)