Revolver has teamed with Rise Against for an exclusive Inky Black on clear vinyl variant of their forthcoming new record, Nowhere Generation. Quantities are extremely limited — so order now before they're gone!
Rise Against have been pushing their potent mix of punk and politics since first forming in 1999. Along the way, vocalist/guitarist Tim McIlrath has been leading the charge with tuneful, pointed commentary around economic injustice and class disparity, collapsing social infrastructure, political corruption and so much more. With each of their eight albums Rise Against's message has reached an even wider audience — their records consistently debut on Billboard's Top 10 and have achieved Gold and Platinum certifications.
Unfortunately, for humanity, the societal ills that Rise Against target seem to be evergreen. So when the band began work on their ninth and latest album, Nowhere Generation, the singer had plenty of source material to draw from. But unlike previous albums, this time McIlrath and his bandmates — bassist Joe Principe, drummer Brandon Barnes and lead guitarist Zach Blair — came at these issues from a different vantage point.
Having now crossed into their 40s, the "Nowhere Generation" the vocalist sings of on the album's title track isn't Gen X, but rather the Millennials and Zoomers. He's worried that these kids are coming up in a significantly less stable time than ever before. From fans in the front row to his own 16-year-old daughter — they're the ones he's singing about at risk of "slipping through the cracks" of a broken world.
"A lot of Rise Against listeners are younger than me," says McIlrath. "They have different challenges before them than I did. 'Nowhere Generation' was sort of inspired by a lot of the younger generation telling me about their anxieties, their concerns and worries about the future of the world around them."
Ahead of the June 4th release of Rise Against's Nowhere Generation, the Chicago foursome's first for new label home Loma Vista Recordings, McIlrath weighed in on the myriad issues facing the youth of today, how he views his own songs about grassroots uprisings in the wake of 2021's Capitol riot, and the glimmer of hope Rise Against's music might offer to the Nowhere Generation.
"NOWHERE GENERATION" IS A SONG SUNG IN THE FIRST PERSON: "WE ARE THE NOWHERE GENERATION." BUT OSTENSIBLY THIS IS AN ANTHEM FOR THE YOUTH, THOSE THAT ARE NEXT IN LINE. WHY DID YOU CHOSE TO SING FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE?
TIM MCILRATH I'm always trying to figure out what voice to use in a song. A lot of my songs come from the perspective of a character, they're not always me. In this one, I really wanted to put myself in the listener's perspective ... This song was sort of inspired by a lot of the younger generation telling me about their anxieties, their concerns and worries about the future of the world around them. At first I treated those accounts as, Well, yeah, that's every generation. We're all swimming upstream against the tide, trying to overcome it. But the tide nowadays has been manipulated. It's driven by a lot of external forces, which create things like the rise of the one percent, concentrated wealth, the decay of the middle class, exploding college debt. I realized that a lot of the issues that this generation is facing are new and unique to this generation.
The sad irony, the kick in the teeth to all of this, is that I feel like "Millennial" became a dirty word. It became a punch line. It became, "Oh these people are entitled and self-absorbed. They don't know how to pick up the phone or run errands." But when you realize what they're faced with, you can see [how] that paralysis might be created. When you grow up in a world where you no longer trust the institutions around you to support you, or if you believe that the ladder to success has been burned away by somebody who used it before you — that affects you psychologically. It affects the way you look at the world. I wanted the song to come from that voice. I started to find real sympathy with these concerns and complaints. It was very much inspired by the people in our front row.
WAS IT DIFFERENT FOR YOU GROWING UP IN THE NINETIES? DO YOU REMEMBER FEELING OPTIMISTIC AS YOU ENTERED ADULTHOOD?
I grew up in a time of relative political and economic stability. Obviously, that's different for everybody — certainly different for women and people of color — but I grew up in a time where, historically, it was pretty textbook stable. Maybe that's what gave me the audacity to think that I could be in a band, you know what I mean?
My dad grew up loving sports, playing football and that kind of thing. That was all he wanted to do, but he had to work in a factory because he knew that his parents weren't going to be able to afford to send him to college. He gave up the idea of doing something fun with his friends to do that. Actually, eventually he joined the military for more access [to education]. He goes on, has a family, and now his son, me, is like, "I don't have to work in a factory. I'm going to go skateboard and play guitar with my friends." That's a luxury! I can explore this passion. I can go to punk shows. I can screw around on a skateboard on the weekend with my buddies. The generation that we grew up in allowed these things to happen, this kind of blank slate for the future. There was a lot of possibility and hope.
Now, I feel like there's this general malaise on this generation. They're faced with things like global warning, economic destabilization. Millennials came of age right at the start of the collapse of the stock market in 2008. Instead of saving for their future, or buying a house, they're paying off a really expensive degree ... and the job they found barely pays a living wage. I think therein lies the crux: people followed the rules. [Millennials] are finding out, "I followed your rules, and not only is it not working out for me, but you're making fun of me. You're telling me to pull myself up by my bootstraps, to burn the candle at both ends ... We're sick at having the finger pointed at us, we're going to point a finger at the institutions around us."
NOWHERE GENERATION IS YOU LOOKING OUT FOR AND TRYING TO REACH THIS YOUNGER AUDIENCE. IS THAT HARDER NOW WITH ALL THE OUTLETS? FOR EXAMPLE, YOU HAVE KIDS TUNING IN TO TIKTOK NOT JUST FOR THE LATEST DANCE MOVES, BUT ALSO TO GET THESE QUICK-HIT INFO DUMPS ON GENTRIFICATION, VOTERS' RIGHTS AND WAGE GAPS. HOW DOES RELEASING A POLITICAL PUNK ALBUM INTERSECT WITH THAT?
It's to be determined still, right? This is our ninth album. Every time we put out a record, I feel like we've released it into a different wilderness — the world looks different each time. For the first couple of records there wasn't much streaming or file-sharing. Maybe people were on MySpace, but for the most part people were buying CDs and playing them in their cars. The last record we released [Wolves] was in 2017; there was no TikTok [in the U.S.] five years ago.
It's funny because I have a 16-year-old in my house, so I've watched the way that she interacts with the world. I wonder what [Rise Against's] place is in that, or if we'll have a place in that. I'll be honest, Rise Against will probably keep doing what we do. We're not going to try and adapt to some new kind of TikTok trend. You're not going to see us doing a dance. We're going to do what we do and see if people respond to it. To your point, it is fun to watch something like TikTok — this fun dance app — where people [now] realize that's where the eyeballs are, so they're harnessing it for these sound bites of important information about social change and awareness. That's where the future of a lot of those ideas are going to be heard.
LIKE ANY FORM OF SOCIAL MEDIA, TIKTOK IS THIS HUGE OPPORTUNITY. IT'S NEVER BEEN EASIER TO PUT YOUR OPINION OUT THERE, BUT IT'S LIKEWISE EASY TO GET LOST IN THE ALGORITHM. I'M THINKING OF THE NOWHERE GENERATION TRACK "TALKING TO OURSELVES" — MAYBE THERE'S A SIMILAR ECHO-CHAMBER THEME THERE...
That's a good point: is what you're making getting listened to once it's out there? Something like 30,000 songs get uploaded to streaming services every single day, something ridiculous like that. [Editorial note: it's closer to 60,000 a day, per Spotify alone.] There are a million bands out there on streaming services, so you have to wonder: how does anybody find my band? Are they going to? But that's something I never thought about, in reference to "Talking to Ourselves." That song is more about how people sometimes characterize Rise Against as political, or even confrontational and radical. Those are all terms that we'll happily embrace, if that's what people think we are. But when I look at it, we're just trying to say things that are common sense, at least in our heads. Our mission isn't to shock you [or instigate you to] go out [and] go crazy.
The lyrics say we "never wanted to disturb the peace, but it feels like no one's listening." When you feel like you're not being listened to, that's when you create something that's a little more confrontational. There's that famous quote: "a riot is the language of the unheard." In some ways, punk music is the music of the unheard, music for people that feel like they don't see a world out there that represents who they are. They either look for that world, or they create that world. That's what I think punk does; that's what we've always done.
NOWHERE GENERATION OPENS WITH "THE NUMBERS," A SONG ABOUT POWER STRUGGLES WITHIN SOCIETY, AND THE POTENTIAL FOR UPRISING. AS YOU SING IT, "THEY HAVE THE POWER; WE HAVE THE NUMBERS." BACK IN JANUARY, THERE WAS THE STORMING OF THE U.S. CAPITOL. JUDGING BY THE BAND'S LONG POLITICAL HISTORY, THE SPECIFIC GROUPS INVOLVED IN THAT EVENT SEEM TO BE THE ANTITHESIS OF ONES YOU WOULD BE ASSOCIATED WITH. BUT IN LIGHT OF THE RIOT, DOES THE SONG HIT YOU ANY DIFFERENTLY NOW?
Absolutely. It definitely made me review that song and look at it in a different light. We wanted to talk about the power of the people — the power of social awareness — and how change comes from the ground up. We're the ones that compel our leaders to do the right thing. We wanted to talk about those allusions of control. Then the Capitol riots happened and, holy shit, those people are saying the same kinds of things to themselves. It made me reflect on that song, and what we're encouraging. Especially nowadays, I think of how many Rise Against fans have been led astray down these roads. I wonder if we have people like this in our fan base: people that have gone down these rabbit holes and been manipulated by disinformation. And the answer is probably yes.
Some people have tried to draw parallels between a band like us making calls to action — or movements like Black Lives Matter and the riots that happened in the wake of police brutality — to the Capitol riots. But the big difference is the Capitol riots have no foundation. It was all based on a lie, whereas something like Black Lives Matter, you can feel one way or another about police brutality, but you can't change the fact that Derek Chauvin put his knee on George Floyd's neck and killed him. You can decide how you feel about that, which side you want to take. You can argue whether burning down a police station or destroying property was the right thing to. But you can't change that truth.
With the Capitol riots, these are people that have been lied to. Swindled. And they've been manipulated by somebody who knew what they were doing. They knew they were manipulating people, using them as pawns to further their own political cause. This is something that can be talked about in a song: these calls to action are good, but if you are to mess with the origins of them, you really can wake a sleeping giant.
THINKING OF THE SONICS ON THE ALBUM, THERE'S, OF COURSE, A MELODIC HARDCORE PRESENCE TO SONGS LIKE "MONARCH," AND SOME MID-TEMPO, HOOKY ANTHEMS LIKE "NOWHERE GENERATION." BUT WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT A SUBTLER ACOUSTIC PIECE LIKE "FORFEIT," WITH THOSE VIOLINS GOING ON BEHIND THE BAND?
I've always liked that dynamic in our band, ever since we did "Swing Life Away" [from 2004's Siren Song of the Counter Culture]. It's a way to flex all of our muscles and show off all the things we can do, and still have it fall under the banner of Rise Against. We've done a handful of stripped-down acoustic songs in the past: "Swing Life Away," "Hero of War," "Roadside" or "People Live Here." The last record did not have an acoustic song, and I felt like something was missing.
"Forfeit" is a cool song. It's powerful, and it still feels like Rise Against. You could amplify the song, get the whole band behind it, and it could be really cool. I love those dynamics on an album, though. I think we've learned a lot about the different arrows that we have in our quiver. We've learned about the use of strings, that kind of thing. The only thing we did in between Wolves and this album was the Ghost Notes Symphonies acoustic record. We took that on the road, five shows with a string section, so it made you see how potent those songs can become when you add a little drama to them.
NOWHERE GENERATION IS ARRIVING DURING A PANDEMIC, WHICH HAS OBVIOUSLY BEEN A CHALLENGING TIME FOR PEOPLE'S HEALTH, WELLBEING AND ECONOMIC SECURITY. BEYOND THE PANDEMIC, THE ALBUM CALLS OUT A LOT OF DEEP-SEATED SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL INJUSTICES WITHIN SOCIETY. BUT I'M WONDERING, DO YOU THINK THE RECORD LEAVES THE LISTENER WITH A HEALTHY DOSE OF CYNICISM OR MORE OF A POSITIVE, HOPEFUL MESSAGE?
The answer is both. I always want to leave our listeners with hope; I want to leave them with a light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like that's my responsibility, and I truly do believe that there is hope. I think it's important to do things that Rise Against does, to point out concerns about the future and the direction of the world, but I never want it to have an "all is lost" vibe. There's too many times in history where we thought all was lost, but it wasn't. I think cynicism is the seed of the songs, but by the time I go through the process of writing it all out, I find these glimmers of hope.