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Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath Talks Young Voter Apathy, Legacy + More in Exclusive Interview

Dave Kim, Tim McIlrath
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Few bands have been able to consistently maintain critical and commercial success like Rise Against. The Chicago, Ill. punk rockers have reached a massive audience with their music and social and political activism. Frontman Tim McIlrath chatted with us about making the greatest Rise Against album, the problem of low young voter turnout, the amusing mix up of his band and Against Me! and more in an exclusive interview for GRD before last night’s (September 17) show at The Orbit Room.

Rise Against have released six full-length albums starting with 2001′s The Unraveling. The band put out their most recent album, Endgame, in March of 2011. Despite each record improving over its predecessor, McIlrath feels they haven’t created the best Rise Against album yet.

“When we finish records, a lot of times there’s something about just feeling like you have more fuel left. You feel like you can keep going,” McIlrath says. “I don’t feel completely tapped when we finish a record. I always feel like we grew a little bit, which I guess is the goal in doing anything. You hope you grow and you hope you learn something. I feel like every time we do a new record, we kind of unlock different potentials in the band, you know what I mean? And of course the four of us grow together as musicians and work better with every record. You end the record on a different level than when you started that record, whether it’s your first or sixth record.”

Rise Against have been at the forefront at urging young adults to go out and vote during political elections. However, according to a GALLUP poll conducted from May to July of this year, only 58% of registered U.S. voters between the ages of 18 to 29 say they will definitely vote. While McIlrath doesn’t know the exact reason for such a disparity between voting demographics or the exact solution, he feels young voters are ironically not getting the unbiased info they need in the Information Age.

“I think it boils down to this gigantic information gap that is trickling down to the young voters and our audience,” the singer speculates. ” By the time they get it, it’s so polarized and it’s so politicized that they’re not sure what to believe. I know for me when I was growing up I wasn’t inclined to like either candidate. They were both just a bunch of rich guys competing for this job, and they were just going to do the same thing and nothing was going to change. ‘I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about the government. I don’t care about who’s president.’”

He continues: “And I think that this huge information gap exists in this country now where it’s hard to get the true, hard facts. We live in a world where information is at our fingertips, but because it’s at our fingertips so accessible so instantaneously, it also makes it a commodity that can be bought and sold in a way. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. It matters if you can say it first and beat it into someone’s head. Turn it into a 30 second sound bite or a quick little one-liner or talking point and that’s what gets out there. And it’s unfortunate because I feel like there are parties out there that count on our peers not voting. They expect us not to vote. They’re factoring that into their election. If they were to walk in to this show tonight, they would look around and go, ‘These people aren’t voting so let’s get out of here.’”

“There’s nothing more punk rock than to break that stereotype. There’s nothing more punk rock than to throw a wrench in someone’s gears and be like, ‘Guess what – we all voted.’ That changes everything. It’s really important, especially in swing states, and I feel like there are more now than ever before, at least in my life. There are two very different directions that this country can go in. The two candidates are very, very different. I think it would be very disingenuous of me as the singer of Rise Against to say that I’m partisan at all because I’m not. I have faith in common sense will hopefully prevail.”

You can watch the entire interview with Tim McIlrath below, where we also discuss the impact of Rise Against’s music video for “Make It Stop (September’s Children)” against homophobia, the courage of Against Me! singer Tom Gabel’s transformation into Laura Jane Grace, how things were much more simple back in Rise Against’s early days and more. Our first camera crapped out on us past the 13 minute mark but the audio is still intact.

Follow Dave Kim on Twitter and Tumblr.

Watch Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath Interviewed by WGRD

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