Rise Against’s Joe Principe Talks New Album, Touring Again

Joe Principe (left), Tim McIlrath, Zach Blair and Brandon Barnes are Rise Against
Joe Principe (left), Tim McIlrath, Zach Blair and Brandon Barnes are Rise Against Photo by Wyatt Troll, courtesy Chromatic
“It was kind of like letting kids into a candy store,” bassist Joe Principe said of Rise Against’s first performance in almost two years.

Two decades into their career, the seasoned punk rockers typically play venues with capacities in the thousands. But less than two weeks ago, the Chicago-based outfit shook off the pandemic-induced dust in Cleveland at the Beachland Ballroom, which accommodates barely 500 people.

Principe told the Houston Press this was no accident. Choosing a smaller venue served as a good refresher for the group ahead of their larger gig at Pier 17 in New York a few days later, and it reminded them of an earlier time when Rise Against was becoming a recognizable name in the music business.

“It was intentionally a small show, just to get used to (playing) again.” Principe said. “There was no barricade, and kids were stage diving, and it was awesome. It feels amazing to be back on the road.”

The past year-and-a-half marked the longest break Rise Against has taken from touring since the band was formed in 1999.

“It was unnerving,” Principe said of the forced hiatus. “Before there was a vaccine, there was no end in sight. Some people were saying it could be four or five years before we got back on the road, and that was a very scary thought.”

Rise Against at Ak-Chin Pavilion in 2017 - PHOTO BY JIM LOUVAU
Rise Against at Ak-Chin Pavilion in 2017
Photo by Jim Louvau
Given the rise of the Delta variant, COVID-19 isn’t in the band’s rearview mirror, but Principe doesn’t think another lockdown is in the cards either.

“I can’t see the industry shutting down again,” he said. “There’s too much at stake. And now that there’s vaccines out there, I think we’re just going to end up going back to wearing masks, especially in hotspots.”

Which, all things considered, he thinks is fine. Rise Against couldn’t tour because of the pandemic, but Principe tried to keep it in perspective. Given the state of the world and how bad it got for so many, he said he was grateful for his health and his time with family.

“We’re just going to keep trudging along and being safe, and hopefully shows won’t be affected.”

Almost 18 months after it had been recorded, Rise Against’s ninth studio album, Nowhere Generation, finally hit streaming platforms and record stores in June of this year. Its release was delayed because the band wanted to properly promote it and didn’t feel that they could do so without touring.

“We pretty much finished tracking the record two weeks before things started shutting down,” Principe said. “We kept pushing the (release date), and we pushed it something like five times.”

But finally, the day came. Nowhere Generation has received rave reviews, and Principe is excited to share it with audiences. The record’s third single, “The Numbers,” is his favorite track because of its energy, but he thinks the whole record – even the ballad “Forfeit” – boasts a sense of urgency.

“It’s weird to finish something you’re so passionate about, that you spend all your time working on, and then you can’t show it to anyone,” he said with a laugh. “But I don’t want to complain too much. We were lucky enough to weather the storm and still be a band.”

Rise Against, The Menzingers and Descendents are scheduled to perform at 6:30 p.m. (doors open) on August 12 at Bayou Music Center, 520 Texas. For more information, visit, $45.
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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever