Tim McIlrath remembers the advice Alexisonfire gave him two years ago: go to the Maritimes and they'll love you forever.
"They get ignored and it's not fair," the band told him.
It's something his band Rise Against experienced first-hand when the two groups toured here in the spring of 2005. "We met some really cool fans," says McIlrath. He wants to make sure they keep coming back.
The Chicago hardcore outfit has reaped the benefits of touring Canada. Rise Against recorded its major-label debut Sing Sirens of the Counter Culture in Vancouver and the album eventually went gold here. Last year's The Sufferer and the Witness went platinum.
The band was supposed to play the Flip the Switch festival at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth this week, but for reasons unknown to pretty much everyone, the show was cancelled at the end of May. That's not stopping the band from rolling into town with Silverstein and Comeback Kid, hitting the Cunard Centre on July 2. Rise Against has toured with both bands in the past and lead singer/guitarist McIlrath enjoys the company a package like this one affords.
"It couldn't be a better tour," says
McIlrath on the phone from Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, New Jersey's recently re-formed Lifetime—set to headline Flip the Switch—appear to be skipping Halifax altogether. "I saw Lifetime back in the day," says McIlrath, "but I missed the boat." He likes the melodic hardcore sound the band pioneered but he never really sank his teeth into its records during its '90s heyday. (His bandmates did, however, and the group recorded a cover of "Boys No Good" as a European bonus track for their latest album.)
Melody is an important element in Rise Against's music. McIlrath barks the vast majority of the band's lyrics but somehow manages to find melody in the band's no-frills sound. The songs are straightforward, to the point and, most importantly (and these days, most surprisingly), they stick in your head. It's what separates the group from many of its hardcore brethren and most likely what helped attract Dreamworks Records in 2003. Although influences include usual punk luminaries such as Black Flag, McIlrath has an unabashed love for more tuneful pop fare. "From Journey to old Bon Jovi, Queen and Skynyrd," he says.
Rise Against formed in 1999, but its members trace their musical origins back to the 1990s Chicago punk scene. McIlrath played in several bands with notable Chicago-area musicians, including current pop-punk poster boy Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. Bassist Joe Principe and Rise Against's original drummer Mr. Precision formed the rhythm section for 88 Fingers Louie. After releasing two albums on mega-indie Fat Wreck Chords, Rise Against signed with Dreamworks. Inner label reshuffling eventually landed them with Geffen, which released Sing Sirens of the Counter Culture in 2004.
Band members were well aware of the major-label horror stories experienced by bands in their position. But McIlrath says the transition has been easy for the group, perhaps a symptom of the changing landscape of the record industry.
"The lines between major and indie labels are blurring," he says. "There are independent labels that are as big as a lot of majors and the business practices of some indies are no better than their "corporate' counterparts. Being on an indie doesn't make you more ethical than a band on a major." He admits he'd rather be associated with a major than certain unnamed indies.
People get the impression that bands on majors are constantly surrounded by a buzzing network of assistants, stylists and label execs, but this couldn't be further from the truth, says McIlrath.
"We deal with a handful of people on an everyday basis," he says. "It's a very intimate relationship."
Rise Against head to Europe with The Used in the fall. After a break in 2008, McIlrath says they'll probably get down to working on a new record. Until then they'll continue to tour North America through the summer.
"Thanks a lot to all our Canadian fans," says McIlrath. "We can't wait to get up there and play some shows."
Rise Against w/Silverstein, Comeback Kid and 2 Cents, July 2 at Cunard Centre, 261 Marginal Road, 7pm, $33 door/$28 adv, www.ticketpro.ca, 866-908-9090.
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