The one adjective you almost always see ascribed to Chicago punk-rock outfit is “political,” and there’s a reason for that. The band is known for its leftist politics, and its albums are rife with sociopolitical commentary. Beyond that, the guys are all strict vegetarians and active supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
But frontman Tim McIlrath claims the band’s forthcoming fifth album, Appeal to Reason, which is scheduled for an October 7 release, isn’t a political LP. In fact, he doesn’t consider any of the band’s material political in nature.
“When I talk to people about this band and what we do, or I read people’s interpretations of who we are as a band, a lot of times I see things like, ’They’re a radical band’ or ’They’re political,’ ’They’re controversial,’ ” McIlrath explained. “When I look and see what our band is saying, what we are asking of each other, what we are asking of the community we’re in and the people who listen to us, I see nothing but real common-sense things. I don’t see anything real radical about what it is we do. Only in a world this screwed up could concepts like being fair to people, being fair to each other, and growing up in a world that gives everybody a chance, only in today’s world could that concept be radical or be considered radical.
“This is music that appeals to reason — the reasonable parts of the human psyche,” he continued. “In my mind, it’s just straight-up common sense. We’re just in touch with reason, and that’s all our songs are — an appeal to reason. If you really look at them and strip back all the superficial parts of the songs and even the superficial parts of punk rock, you’ll find that there are some very reasonable things that are being asked of the world in our songs.”
A few weeks back, Rise Against — who will be touring in support of Appeal to Reason starting October 2 in Cleveland, with Thrice, Alkaline Trio and the Gaslight Anthem — were back in their old stomping grounds of Chicago to shoot a video for the record’s first single, “Re-Education (Through Labor),” with director Kevin Kerslake (Faith No More, Green Day). The clip, McIlrath admitted, does have a slightly political theme — one he feels practically anyone will relate to.
“It’s an important song on our record,” he said, adding that he’s proud of “every single second” of Appeal to Reason. “It’s talking a lot about the 9-to-5, dog-eat-dog lifestyle, and what we are asked to do to simply make ends meet nowadays, and I think it’s a feeling shared by people all around the world and especially in this country.
“One of the great things about doing a video is that your imagination is the only thing that’s limiting you, so you can do anything,” he continued. “So we have a video that’s going to encompass the anger and the angst that the youth of America feel toward society at large and the things that are demanded of them.”