Rise Against

Punk rockers with a political bent aren’t exactly a rarity, but Rise Against is a band that makes sure its actions reflect its lyrics. When military recruiting booths became a staple of the Vans Warped Tour, the group worked relentlessly to give them the boot.

“Every day on stage we’d speak our minds about how inappropriate it was to have military recruiters at a punk rock show,” singer/guitarist Tim McIlrath told Pollstar. “Because of that and because of a number of other bands and the kids that would really disapprove of their presence, they are no longer a sponsor on the tour.”

McIlrath also credited organizer Kevin Lyman for “not really wanting them to be out here anymore.”

“At one point, they complained to the Warped tour and specifically cited us: ‘Listen, Rise Against is giving us a hard time,'” McIlrath said.

“[Warped organizers] were funny; they were like, ‘You mean that shaggy-haired kid that’s 130 pounds is giving the Marines a hard time?’ They told them basically to buck up and deal with it, and that wasn’t the answer they were looking for so they took their ball and went home.”

Although no longer a tour sponsor, military tents do still show up independently from time to time.

“If we see them, we make sure and say something,” McIlrath said.

That commitment to ideals is part of what attracted manager Missy Worth to the band.

“It’s just great to work with a band that has conviction and stands by it no matter what it will do to help or hurt them,” she told Pollstar.

Worth came on board just after the group – comprising McIlrath, Joe Principe, Brandon Barnes and Chris Chasse – got its first major-label deal in 2003.

“When we were originally approached by major labels, it was just a whole new world to us,” McIlrath said. “We needed someone who kind of spoke this language, because we certainly didn’t speak the music industry language.

“We met a lot of managers before we picked Missy and she just really stood out as someone who really cares about us as a band and cares about our message. We knew she’d go to bat for us.”

The Agency Group’s Corrie Christopher has been the group’s agent basically “since day one,” according to McIlrath. Christopher began working with Rise Against six years ago when she was still an independent business owner with Fierce Talent.

“This was at a time when we had barely sold a couple thousand records and were playing in front of 15 kids a night,” McIlrath said. “She really liked the band and what we stood for. For someone to show that much enthusiasm to us that early on was rare, and we knew immediately that she would be a member of our team, so we’ve been with her ever since.”

Rise Against

Rise Against keeps Christopher busy with an average of nine months on the road each year.

“I have a week off between this tour and our European tour, and then I have a week off between our European tour and our next tour,” McIlrath said.

“Those little weeks add up here and there, so those times are usually just spent trying to catch our breath and get ready for the next one. You know, do a whole bunch of laundry and go back out.”

Somewhere in there, the band finds time to write and record.

“We write a lot on the road, mostly out of necessity because we just don’t have the luxury of being home long enough to actually write a lot of songs. We write during soundchecks or in hotel rooms or whatever. When we sit down to record, we’ll also finish songs right there before we go into the studio,” McIlrath said.

The band recently released its fourth album, The Sufferer & The Witness. The disc is the group’s second for Geffen after a pair of albums on Fat Wreck Chords. The move from indie to major has been a smooth one.

“It’s been a really good relationship with Geffen,” McIlrath said. “I know we’re really lucky to have it, ’cause I’ve heard the horror stories and we have friends who are on major labels that aren’t very happy with being there.

“With us, we have a label that’s really supportive of the music and the message and really stands behind us. We do well, as far as a punk rock band’s concerned, but we’re still not this multiplatinum band that some giant label should care about as much as they do.”

The punk world is often merciless when applying the “sellout” tag to bands that move to major labels, but the backlash has been minimal for Rise Against.

“For the most part, I think people are wising up,” McIlrath said. “Especially because there’s no longer a clear, black and white line between majors and indies.

“When you have giant independent labels like Victory or Epitaph – or even Fat or Vagrant – these giant labels that are selling millions of records, that kind of stuff is certainly blurring the lines.”

Rise Against will tour the U.K. and Europe through mid-September, then head out with Thursday on a co-headlining U.S. run. Tours of Australia and Canada will keep the foursome on the road through mid-February.

“Corrie always said it’s a band that went out there and just worked the road kid by kid, and believed that’s the way to touch people,” Worth said. “They continue to work that same ethic. They see their family, they see their children, but they’re out there, and they will continue to do that. It’s in their soul.”