Interviews

MUSIC INTERVIEW: Rise Against

Photo Credit: Nedda Afsari

Punk-rockers Rise Against have been a band nearing on three decades now and by that time you’d think their voice may have weakened, their fans might lose interest or their once youthful attack and exuberance has aged over time. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Their voice has grown into impassioned shouts, their fans have gained strength in ever growing numbers and their young fuelled energy doesn’t feel like it’s getting a day old. 

2021’s Nowhere Generation marked the bands ninth studio album, a record which rallies the troops and provides them with the ammunition, battle cries and protest songs they need to change a dismal looking future of corporate greed, a climate catastrophe and disappointing governmental power and their follow up EP Nowhere Generation II stands in allegiance with it. Back to perform at the sloping floors of O2 Academy Brixton five years after their last visit to the venue, we speak to bassist Joe Principe of Rise Against all about interchanging setlists, veganism and the prospect of the bands monumental tenth album. 

Amazing, well we definitely want to start off by touching on Rise Against’s latest release with the Nowhere Generation II EP. With this EP were these tracks very much a product of the Nowhere Generation writing process and when was the point you realised, they would suit being released as an EP and not part of the next Rise Against album, put on the back burner or end up as B-Sides like you did with Long Forgotten Songs? 

We ended up finishing seventeen songs when writing Nowhere Generation and we realised we didn’t want to put out an album that was too long, so very early on when we were sequencing Nowhere Generation, we sequenced the EP. We wanted to pick and choose a well-rounded full length and a well-rounded EP, so it wasn’t like we had songs we didn’t like as much, we just wanted to have a good mix of songs. It was very difficult to figure out which songs would make which release, but I think we did a good job.

We suppose one purpose of releasing this EP was to breathe a new breath of life into the Nowhere Generation album too right, as it’s over a year old now? 

It’s nice to be able to have this EP to refresh people’s memories of both the record and the EP.

Yeah, having just mentioned the album there, with Nowhere Generation of course it’s a record that really rallies the youth of today and gives them a message to really hold onto and pursue. At the same time, it’s an album that a lot of us can interpret our own messages to make change for a more hopeful future. We were wondering as you guys have managed to get back on the road now and the album has been out for a little while, what are some of the most memorable stories you have heard from fans about how they have been inspired by Nowhere Generation which you are willing to share? 

I can tell from the feedback we have been seeing out on tour that fans love Nowhere Generation. To me, the album represents everything that Rise Against stands for, even the sound from the early days of the band all the way through to 2022. Not that our other records are insincere, but Nowhere Generation is a really sincere record and it came together very fluidly, we wrote it in about two to three months too. I just like that Nowhere Generation represents all facets of the bands and fans picked up on that right away. To me, my favourite song is still The Numbers, I think lyrically, musically it’s just my go to song. Lyrically though I do think The Numbers represents everything Rise Against has stood for, for the past twenty-one years. 

The last time Rise Against was back here at the O2 Academy Brixton was back in 2017 on the Wolves tour cycle. Of course, you guys returned to the UK earlier this year for Download Festival and Tim and Zach did that string of acoustic shows here last year. What is it you’ve missed the most about especially the UK and this venue in particular as you make your return tonight, as you guys are definitely veterans to the UK at this point? 

It’s funny because not just Brixton, but London in general always brings me back to our first ever tour here. There is nothing like London, I flew in yesterday morning just so I could have the day to wander around and immediately I was brought back to twenty years ago, me just walking around London for the first time on our first Rise Against tour. I grew up idolising bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols, so I’m always brought back to that feeling. It’s the same feeling I get when I am in New York, there is so much energy in the city and it’s just alive. Then when you walk through the doors of the O2 Academy in Brixton, there is just that smell of the venue, I mean it’s not the most pleasant smell, but it brings you back.

Speaking of being back here, of course you guys are set to perform tonight, alongside the great The Story So Far. We can’t help but notice you have a lot of older Rise Against material on the setlist for this run, throwing it all the way back to your debut album The Unravelling for example. Talk to us about the process for putting this interchangeable setlist together, especially the decision to put quite a large amount of older Rise Against songs on there that haven’t been performed live a lot over the last decade? We suppose it keeps your sanity in check as a band, as well as treating your fans to the rarer and underrated stuff too right?

I feel like maybe we got a little bit complacent and I think it’s really easy to fall back on the singles. For me personally, it was like groundhog day we needed to change the setlist up and I think everyone was feeling that. It’s nice to revisit older songs because it revitalises the band excitement, it makes you realise we have this whole other side to the band we have kind of been neglecting, different eras, different times in our lives and it has been really nice to bring that back. It really does feel fresh, especially having been a band for so long, it’s nice to do this after the pandemic where we spent a lot of time reflecting on the band’s legacy. I think moving forward, we are going to make a conscious effort to play songs we have never played because, like tonight we are playing This Is Letting Go live for the first time, so it’s nice to be able to play songs we have never played live before or revisit older Rise Against material. 

One thing we’d love to talk about with you Joe is some of your favourite vegan spots you highlighted for Apple Maps recently. Seeing as though you’ve listed some amazing US based spots, we were wondering over the years if you have found any amazing vegan places here in London or throughout the UK you love too?

I hate to say it, but yesterday I definitely defaulted to Wagamamas Vegatsu Curry. Sometimes the convenience is more important than finding the best all vegan spots, because when you are on tour or put up in a hotel you don’t want to venture out too far, so I caved with a Wagamamas yesterday. Although I almost made it out to Neat Burger yesterday, but they closed before I could get there but I had every good intention to get there.

Just to wrap up then, we want to touch on the inevitable tenth album that we’re sure Rise Against won’t be letting us wait too long for, as we know you’ve said in past interviews Joe that you don’t want to leave a four-year release gap like you did between Wolves and Nowhere Generation again. We mean, that might not mean a tenth album just yet and it might mean standalone singles or another EP, but what are your ambitions for Rise Against going into eventually releasing your landmark tenth record? And of course, you guys are heading out with Blink-182 throughout Australia next year so you are very much in the busiest stages of your lives after this much time as a band. 

I try not to think about our tenth record too much because when I’m writing a song, it’s just whatever I am feeling for the day. I just turned 48 which is crazy, but when it comes to writing music, I still have this youthful energy and angst which doesn’t present itself every time I pick up a guitar. The Numbers for example was a burst of energy that came out really quick during the writing process, but then also I have moods that switch to songs like Pain Mgmt. I think at 48 years old; I still have that in me where writing a song just depends on my mood of the day and as long as I’m pushing that forward and it’s sincere, then I don’t want to overthink anything Rise Against does too much. 


Interview by: Katie Conway-Flood

Nowhere Generation II is out now via Loma Vista Recordings, available to stream or purchase HERE.

Katie Conway-Flood
⚫️Music Journo @bringthenoiseuk @discoveredmag @gigwise ⚫️Brewdog Crew @brewdogshepbush ⚫️Band Enthusiast ⚫️Vegan