Brandon Barnes of Rise Against: Still giving it all
After 15 years and seven albums, Rise Against has withstood punk trends to become a mainstay on the scene. The band’s new album, The Black Market, solidifies its reputation. Recorded between January and March at Blasting Room Studios with long-time producers Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore, it’s another incendiary effort characterized by political lyrics that adhere to the band’s history as an activist group. Drummer Brandon Barnes recently spoke via phone from his Colorado home “in the mountains.”
Talk a bit about The Black Market. You recorded again with Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore. What do they bring to the table?
Bill and Jason are both great friends. They understand where we’re coming from. They’re like family. They’re like members of the band. They have a little studio in Fort Collins. It’s like a home away from home. It feels good. A lot of bands will switch producers. For us, it’s like a secret weapon. It’s so comforting. I’m glad we can keep working with them.
Did you try to do anything differently sonically with this album?
I think so. Every record, we are a little better at our instruments. We try to come up with some different sounds. We’re always evolving and growing. I think every record, we try to keep it Rise Against but change it up a bit.
To what extent does the album reflect the current social climate?
Our first single “I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore” is an anti-violence song. We did a video for it with [among other things] images of Chicago and the shootings that have been going on there. The whole gun thing in America baffles everyone. We tour in all these other countries and people there don’t have handguns like we do. It’s hard to find a handgun in lots of places. Here, you can get a handgun with a fake ID. It’s too easy. There’s some political stuff on the record, like always, but there’s personal stuff too. This one has a little bit of everything.
Songs such as “The Eco-Terrorist in Me” and “Sudden Life” suggest a call to activism. It’s like you’re telling people they need to get up and do something if they want there to be change. Is that accurate?
Yeah. People have to start it. They have to make the change. Songs like that can create a little bit of angst or make somebody speak their mind or think about their lives. It’s awesome to see people and fans react and tell you stories about hearing a song and volunteering or doing something proactive.
In the ‘80s, punk bands like Bad Religion and Minor Threat mixed in politics and it was accepted as just part of the package. I Do you feel like you’re part of a dying breed? Is it harder to find bands like that?
I think it is. You can’t fault people for that. There are bands that won’t touch politics because they’re not interested in it or they don’t want to ruffle feathers or they don’t want to bum out some of their fans. That’s fine. To each its own. But when we were younger and would go to punk shows, there would be a table out front with some literature about the government or police brutality or animal cruelty. You would bring it home and then realize, “That’s where my cheeseburger comes from?” It doesn’t matter whether you’re vegetarian, but if you’re going to eat meat at least get it from a place that’s not some huge disgusting factory farm where you’re essentially eating dying animals. At least if you pick up a PETA pamphlet, you can start to understand where your food comes from and take some responsibility. You should also want to know what your local government is doing in your town. I don’t go to the DIY punk shows anymore but I feel like it’s not as political as it once way.
When you joined the band in 2001 did you think you’d still be playing with the group in 2014?
No, not at all. I was in this band called Pinhead Circus and we were on BYO Records. We played in Fort Collins and I met Joe. When he called me, I was working at a hotel and going to college. I went out to record my first album with them. I had no idea 14 years later that I’d still be in the band. It’s amazing.
What’s kept the band together?
I think we’re all stubborn and want to keep doing it. There’s no way Tim and Joe and me are going to quit. We love playing music. This is what we’ve been doing for so long. Even if we were to do something else, I don’t know what we would do. The bands that last are people who like playing music so much they’ll go through all the traveling and the ridiculous things involved in being with a band just to keep playing music. Once you get on stage, it’s awesome. That part is never bad. We also like each other and we like traveling.
I like the fact that the new album still has that fire. You guys still sound fired up.
Tim is great. His lyrics are always intense and his voice is intense. We like to play all different types of music. We’ll go from a fast hardcore song to a more poppy song or a hardcore metal song. That helps too. We have wide musical range and that keeps it fresh. It’s not like,” This is our eighth album and it sounds exactly like our other seven albums.” We’re trying to bring it every time and do our best.
Upcoming 2014 Tour Dates
La Jolla, Calif. — RIMAC Arena
Oakland, Calif. — Fox Theater
Denver, Colo. — Riot Fest
Kansas City, Mo. — Uptown Theater
St. Louis, Mo. — The Pageant
Cleveland, Ohio — Jacobs Pavilion
New York, N.Y. — Best Buy Theater
Baltimore, Md. — Carroll Park
Boston, Mass. — House Of Blues
Montclair, N.J. — Wellmont Theatre
Upper Darby, Pa. — Tower Theatre
Atlanta, Ga. — Tabernacle
Orlando, Fla. — House Of Blues
St. Petersburg, Fla. — Jannus Live
New Orleans, La. — Voodoo Music Festival