“It was a dose of reality, reminding me that there’s still work to do in terms of loving one another and being open-minded as human beings,” Rise Against‘s bassist Joe Principe takes us back to feeling very isolated – yet also connected – on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee back when latest album Wolves (2017) was being recorded.
Formed in 1999 and growing up in what Principe describes as “a liberal city” in Chicago, the punk quartet’s ability to observe the world and connect powerful thoughts through their music hasn’t waned.
Sure their sound has evolved over eight records, most notably on seventh release The Black Market. Yet the RA sound has always been glued together by Tim McIlrath‘s razor-edged lyrics (and husky yet powerful vocals), and a stripped down vibe soaked up from living in the dark Chicago music scene.
While getting set after soundcheck at Perth’s HBF Stadium, kicking off their Australian tour in support of Wolves (our review here), Principe sat down – in the midst of pre-show vibes and shitty reception – to chat his affinity with connecting to locals in every country, playing with sincerity like old-school Chicago bands, and the drive his Nashville experience gave him to “start a dialogue”.
So first off, what excites you about the Aussie bands you’re touring with (Bare Bones, Pagan and Berri Txarrak)?
“You know, I love checking out bands from the countries we’re playing in. I’m all about wanting to see the live show and the vibe, I just think that’s cool. When I was growing up, I always loved it when bigger bands put local supports on the shows. So whenever we can do that, we jump at the chance to help those bands out. But it’s also cool to meet bands in their home countries.”
Yeah, definitely! I’m not sure if you get many comparisons between Chicago and Australian cities in terms of the music scenes… How would you reflect on that?
“For me growing up in Chicago, there’s a very unique vibe to the music scene, and it’s very hard to explain unless you’ve lived there. There’s almost a blue-collar, dark feel to all things that have come from Chicago as far as music – like Big Black, Naked Raygun… old punk bands. It’s very stripped down, like three chords, but it’s very dark sounding and feeling. So that just got ingrained in my DNA, to me there’s nothing like that scene. We were just this island in the middle of the United States (chuckles).”
“There’s an energy behind Wolves that the kids pick up on when we’re playing live shows, and we just give that back onstage. It’s been pretty remarkable.”
With it being seven months since you guys released Wolves, what’s been a live experience over the past few months where you’ve played a fresh track, and really felt that emotional connection?
“First and foremost – I know this sounds a little silly – but some songs translate better live than as the recorded version. All the songs that we’ve been playing on Wolves are just built for a live show. There aren’t a bunch of added guitar tracks and backing vocals on the record, where we have to duplicate everything on it live, and it works really well.
“The response has been great. I think there’s an energy behind Wolves that the kids pick up on when we’re playing live shows, and we just give that back onstage. It’s been pretty remarkable.
“There’s a sincerity and a vibe that those records bring out that you can’t duplicate with fancy production. If a song is there, it just translates. It could be the shittiest recording… That’s how we were raised and became songwriters.”
Having been to some of your shows, there’s a powerful political and emotional exchange combined. It’s a pretty unique experience.
“Yeah, and that derives from the bands we grew up listening to. They just had that energy behind their music, and on their albums. It was very stripped down but not super watered down, with bands like Minor Threat and Fugazi. There’s a sincerity and a vibe that those records bring out that you can’t duplicate with fancy production. If a song is there, it just translates. It could be the shittiest recording.
“That’s how we were raised and became songwriters, just listening to bands like that, picking up where they left off and running with it.“
“I definitely experienced that vibe in certain parts of Nashville, and it was very disheartening… It makes me want to go out and tour in those areas more, to start a dialogue and get people to think, ‘Hey, maybe there’s a better way than what I’m used to'”.
Moving to the recording journey of Wolves, it was interesting because you were out in the middle of nowhere in Nashville, which is supposed to be therapeutic. But then you saw all these Trump signs everywhere. How did that affect you?
“It was pretty strange, because we’re from Chicago, and it’s a pretty liberal city. So it couldn’t have been more polar opposite, being in Nashville. Or at least the outskirts where we were, it’s a very rural area.
“Growing up in Chicago, you think, ‘Oh of course people are against racism and homophobia’. Then you get outside your comfort zone and you’re like, ‘It still exists! It’s still there’ (laughs). So I definitely experienced that vibe in certain parts of Nashville, and it was very disheartening. But it was a dose of reality, reminding me that there’s still work to do in terms of loving one another and being open-minded as human beings…
“It makes me want to go out and tour in those areas more, to start a dialogue and get people to think ‘Hey, maybe there’s a better way that what I’m used to’.”
Interview by Genevieve Gao
Rise Against have only just kicked off their Aussie run, with a string of venues left to hit. Don’t miss out the unshakable energy when the punk rockers storm your state, tickets here.
PERTH, AU | 2.7.18 pic.twitter.com/XCqDC6tvGA
— Rise Against (@riseagainst) February 9, 2018
Rise Against – 2018 Australian Tour
Friday 9th Feb – Adelaide – Thebarton Theatre
Saturday 10th Feb – Melbourne – Margaret Court Arena
Tuesday 13th Feb – Sydney – Hordern Pavilion
Wednesday 14th Feb – Brisbane – Riverstage