meta-scriptRise Against's Tim McIlrath On The Deterioration Of The American Dream & Why He's Rallying For The 'Nowhere Generation' | GRAMMY.com
Rise Against's Tim McIlrath On The Deterioration Of The American Dream & Why He's Rallying For The 'Nowhere Generation'

Rise Against

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Rise Against's Tim McIlrath On The Deterioration Of The American Dream & Why He's Rallying For The 'Nowhere Generation'

With their new album 'Nowhere Generation,' rockers Rise Against sought to create a rallying cry for younger generations—and anyone barred from the American Dream

GRAMMYs/Jul 12, 2021 - 08:03 pm

When Rise Against's Tim McIlrath talks to his fans and teenage daughters, a troubling throughline emerges: how difficult it is to achieve the American Dream. 

"These ideas kept coming up," the singer and guitarist tells GRAMMY.com. "These anxieties about what tomorrow's going to look like, and also just the weight, they felt they were waking up with every day." Because of this, McIlrath says, the ideal and reality of the American Dream are pulling further apart.

After hearing those repeated concerns, he decided enough was enough. So on their latest album, Nowhere Generation, which was released June 4, Rise Against takes a stand against these demoralizing, capitalistic forces. "We are the nowhere generation/We are the kids that no one wants," he sings in the title track. "We are a credible threat to the rules you set/A cause to be alarmed."

"I think the Nowhere Generation concept is giving [a voice] to the fears of the younger generation," McIlrath says. "What they've communicated to me is that they feel like they are being asked to run this race while the finish line just keeps moving on them." Because of this, "I wanted to give that perspective a platform and a voice and create a song that was speaking to that sentiment."

To coincide with Rise Against's recent appearance at the GRAMMY Museum's Programs at Home series, available now on COLLECTION:live, GRAMMY.com spoke to McIlrath about the process of writing honest and authentic lyrics about the collective struggle, returning to the road in their 20th year as a band and why young people shouldn't feel alone in their fight.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What was your biggest inspiration for writing "Nowhere Generation"?

When we would talk to our fans, the theme was apparent. These ideas kept coming up. This idea of these anxieties about what tomorrow's going to look like, and also the weight they felt they were waking up with every day. 

The more I examined that, the more I realized that there's a lot of evidence and a lot of good reasons to feel that weight. Whether it's living in a time that has normalized the idea that one can work full-time and still live below the poverty level or living in a time where we're expected to accept the idea of concentrated wealth and the rise of the one percent. 

Living in a time where we're dealing with global warming and climate change, and society's response or lack of response to it. A number of other elements have contributed to this downwardly mobile landscape.

How did these conversations help you be more honest and authentic as a songwriter?

I think that having a relationship with our audience helps that. I think being a father of two teenagers gives me a bit of a crash course in it as well—and then just talking to the band about it.

It's amazing how many people have their own stories—their own things to add to this narrative. It takes on a life of its own. People talk about what it's like to feel like they're swimming upstream as they try to get ahead. They started asking questions like, "Why? Why does it feel like this? What's happening?"

What parallels do you see with your own experience?

I grew up in a relatively stable time politically, economically and socially, and I think we took a lot of that for granted. That's what made [succeeding] generations less sympathetic to these concerns. I think that we all think, 'Well, this is life. It's hard, and you figure it out,' without acknowledging 'Is life different? Is the experience different now than it was before? Are we living in a society that is ripping the crops out without replanting the seeds for the future?' 

That's what's happening now. I think that we're starting to realize the new and unique obstacles to getting ahead in today's world. Young people are less likely to own a home or have savings. That is keeping people from being able to pursue that American Dream.

"Nowhere Generation" reminded me of the Replacements' "Bastards of Young." A song about people that are trying to find a place in the world.

Yeah, that's one of my favorite songs. I think you're right. I think people feel a little bit lost. And "Nowhere Generation" is speaking to people who are trying to figure out where they fit in the landscape nowadays, if they fit in at all. 

And I talked about young people, but you don't need to be young to relate to this idea. For people my age, older than me, if you were part of this generation that is sort of falling victim to the short-term way of thinking instead of long-term, then you're part of the Nowhere Generation.

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On the song "The Numbers," and elsewhere on the album, you remind the listener that they're not alone in this fight. Why do you think that's important, especially entering into this post-pandemic world?

I think it's pointing out things like, despite its flaws, democracy is still our most effective way of governing. Giving voice to the people is still the best way we've figured out for human society to function. But it definitely requires those voices. It requires that voice. I think that not only that voice, but social movements throughout history have given rise to a lot of the ideas and concepts that we take for granted today.

"The Numbers" is reminding people that, no, you don't need to take it from us. There's a lot of evidence of individuals or groups that have put their hand on the steering wheel of history. And it shows them for the better. And that progress is often the result of somebody simply being fed up and trying to demand that they be listened to. 

We still have a government that's based on voting. It's people that need to be listened to. "The Numbers" reminds people that no matter how helpless you feel, your voice is still one of the most powerful gears of governance.

That song opens with a sample from "The Internationale." Why did you think that it fits with the album? And how can history be part of the solution?

Especially with a song like "The Numbers," it was talking about the people. "The Internationale" has always been an anthem of working-class people. It has been used by many different countries and [adapted into] most popular languages. 

I thought it was a good way to show the listener just how timeless some of these concepts really are. It turned into a great way to start the song and to start the album. It sets a good tone.

What was the most challenging song to write?

One of the last ones I got to was "Broken Dreams, Inc." I feel like I was out of ideas by the time I got into that one. I'd sit there for a while until one day I started writing that chorus and then the rest of it just fell out of me. But it took me a long time to get around to. I was almost going to give up on the song. Then, it all came together as one of the best songs on the album.

The band worked with GRAMMY-nominated creative director Brian Roettinger for the visual aspects of the album. Was it important to have a universal look and feel?

We wanted this era of Rise Against to be defined by a look that people would recognize. If you were to look back at it, you would see the imagery around development. You would know specifically that this was this era of Rise Against. 

And part of the way of doing that was working with a single person instead of many different people, which is what we've done in the past: Someone for the album, someone for the video, someone for the live look, someone for the merchandise and that. [They're all] great people, but this is way more universal and cohesive.

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I recently read the story of a Chicago fan who was so inspired by the band's music that he became a lawyer. What does it mean to see that tangible impact?

Seeing things like that is the best part of being in this band because you write these songs hoping that they land with people. [That they don't] just listen to it, but actually connect with it. Not everybody connects with it. It's just not the way it always turns out. 

When somebody does, it really takes this song that you pull out of thin air—you just made up—and turns it into something real and tangible. It validates the effort that you put in. It helps that person, but it also helps you as the writer of it to know, "Alright, there was a reason that put these words out to the world. They found somebody and they helped shape their path."

Have you stayed in touch with him?

No, it was just a very quick and random interaction at a coffee shop. We ate there, we just ran into each other on the street. But the story stuck with me.

The band's debut album turned 20 this year. What does that milestone mean to you?

It really puts a fine point on just how long we've been doing this. [It causes me to] look back on those days where we've come from, looking back on those songs, how we've grown musically, and sonically, and how Rise Against snowballed into what it is from some pretty humble beginnings. 

I don't think that the guys that made that record had any idea of what was ahead of them. That we would be touching the lives of people that were being born that year, or the years after that. That's something that I never thought we'd be playing shows for the babies that were born the same year the debut album came out.

Why do you think the band's sound is still effective all these years later?

That's a good question. I think punk rock has always been dark and angsty. And it's always been our response to mainstream music. And even no matter how popular it gets, it's still always going to have those roots, that it's something that was created in response. It's something that was created by people who felt like they didn't hear what they wanted to hear on the radio. They created their own thing, and I think that will always resonate with the outsider.

The band just announced tour dates for later this year. What does it mean to be able to get back on the road?

It means the world to us; it's really incredible. Especially during some of the darkest times, the pandemic, we wondered when our show would ever happen. If it would ever happen again. To see it actually getting greenlit, seeing the lights turn back on, that's pretty emotional. And I imagine it will be an emotional experience to play these shows again.

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Everything We Know About Twenty One Pilots' New Album 'Clancy'
Twenty One Pilots

Photo: Ashley Osborn

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Everything We Know About Twenty One Pilots' New Album 'Clancy'

Three years in the making, Twenty One Pilots are returning with their seventh album, 'Clancy.' Take a look at all of the details they've revealed so far, including the release date and track list.

GRAMMYs/Feb 29, 2024 - 10:57 pm

In a year that's seeing the return of alt-rock gods Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend and the Black Keys, Twenty One Pilots are ready to join the party, too.

The GRAMMY-winning rock duo announced on Feb. 29 that their seventh studio album, titled Clancy, will arrive in May via Fueled By Ramen. Along with unveiling the project's cover art and lead single, "Overcompensate," Twenty One Pilots declared in the first teaser that "a new chapter begins" with Clancy which will also bring a close to the ever-evolving narrative they started in 2015 with Blurryface.

Below, get all of the details Twenty One Pilots have revealed about Clancy.

It's Arriving On The 9th Anniversary Of Blurryface

Clancy will be released on May 17, which is a special day in Twenty One Pilots land. On that day in 2015, the duo released their now multi-platinum breakthrough album, Blurryface. (May is also seemingly a favorite month for the pair, as Clancy marks their third May album release; their last LP, Scaled and Icy, arrived on May 21, 2021.)

The First Single Is Here

A few hours after announcing Clancy, Twenty One Pilots unveiled the album's lead single, "Overcompensating." After a nearly two-minute synth intro that builds over a racing beat, the song sees singer Tyler Joseph return to his signature rap-inspired delivery. Its swirling production and echoing vocals feel reminiscent of Trench — but more on that later.

It Has 13 Tracks

Though the duo didn't post the Clancy track list, the song titles can be found on Apple Music. Kicking off with "Overcompensate," the track list is as follows:

1. Overcompensate 
2. Next Semester 
3. Midwest Indigo
4. Routines In The Night
5. Backslide 
6. Vignette
7. The Craving (Jenna's Version)
8. Lavish
9. Navigating 
10. Snap Back 
11. Oldies Station
12. At the Risk Of Feeling Dumb
13. Paladin Strait

It Takes Fans Back To 'Trench'

Despite the fact that TOP's first album teaser noted that "a new chapter begins" with Clancy, the cryptic clip proclaimed, "I am returning to Trench. I am Clancy." As the duo's fans know, Trench is the name of their 2018 LP; the project was the most conceptual and ambitious album to date, which could mean the same for Clancy. (In fact, the bridge of "Overcompensate" even features two references to two Trench tracks; "Welcome back to Trench" mirrors the outro of Trench track "Levitate," followed by lyrics taken from the bridge of "Bandito.")

Perhaps uncoincidentally, the red, yellow and black cover art vaguely calls back to the Trench cover art, which featured a smoky yellow color and a vulture.

It's The Finale To An Album Series

A press release revealed that Clancy "marks the final chapter in an ambitious multi-album narrative" which kicked off with Blurryface in 2015. What that means for the Twenty One Pilots' future is unclear, but neither their posts nor the release noted that it's their final album altogether.

It'll Be Available In Many Formats

For those who still love to buy physical albums, Twenty One Pilots have quite the array of options. Clancy will be available in a variety of physical formats, including two limited-edition deluxe box sets, four vinyl variants with additional retailer exclusives, an exclusive CD and Journal Book, and a Cassette and Photocard Wallet. 

You Can Pre-Order It Now

If any of those pique your interest, you can head to Twenty One Pilots' official store, as everything is already available for pre-order. You can also pre-save/pre-add the album on streaming services to stay up to date as the pair continues to take fans deeper into the world of Clancy.

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How Las Vegas Became A Punk Rock Epicenter: From When We Were Young To The Double Down Saloon
Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs a"not-so-secret" show at Las Vegas' Fremont Country Club

Photo: Fred Morledge 

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How Las Vegas Became A Punk Rock Epicenter: From When We Were Young To The Double Down Saloon

Viva Punk Vegas! It might have seemed unthinkable a decade ago, but Sin City is "the most punk city in the U.S." GRAMMY.com spoke with a variety of hardcore and legendary punks about the voracious vibe in Vegas that lends itself to punk spirit.

GRAMMYs/Oct 25, 2023 - 04:28 pm

These days, what happens in Vegas, slays in Vegas when it comes to the harder side of music.

It might have seemed unthinkable a decade ago, but as Fat Mike of NOFX and Fat Wreck Chords has been putting out there for a while now, Sin City is basically "the most punk city in the U.S." at the moment. Some might find this statement debatable, but Vegas has long attracted subculture-driven gatherings, from Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekend to the all-metal Psycho Las Vegas to the mixed bag that was Las Rageous. The latest slate of huge punk and punk-adjacent music events (from Punk Rock Bowling and When We Were Young to the just-announced new lineup of Sick New World 2024) back his claim even further. 

Mike’s own Punk Rock Museum, which opened in April of this year, has cemented the city’s alternative music cred — even as it’s still best known for gambling, clubbing, and gorging at buffets. 

In fact, A lot of the audacious new activity is centered away from the big casinos and in the downtown area and arts district of what is known as "old Vegas." Just outside of the tourist-trappy, Times Square-like Fremont Experience, there’s a vibrant live music scene anchored by a few key clubs, and an ever-growing slate of fests.

*Attendees at 2022's When We Were Young Festival┃Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic*

Live Nation’s second annual When We Were Young Festival brought out a largely Millennial crowd to see headliners Green Day and blink-182 this past weekend, alongside over two dozen more recognizable openers from emo/pop-punk's heyday. Tickets sold so well when it was first announced, that a second day was added to the schedule.

Green Day didn’t stop with their fest gigs; the band played a "not-so-secret" pop-up show last Thursday night at one of the most popular venues in town for punk, alternative and heavy music: Fremont Country Club, just blocks from festival grounds. The show served as a warm-up gig as well as an announcement by Billie Joe Armstrong: His band will join Smashing Pumpkins, Rancid, and others for a 2024 stadium tour. The band also debuted a timely new track, "The American Dream Is Killing Me."  

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"People who like punk and other heavy music want to be in a club environment like ours, not a big casino," says Carlos "Big Daddy" Adley, owner of Fremont Country Club and its adjacent music space Backstage Bar & Grill. Both have become live music hotspots not unlike the ones Adley and his wife/partner Ava Berman ran in Los Angeles before they moved to Vegas over a decade ago. 

"Fremont East," as the neighborhood is called, will soon see a boutique hotel from the pair. Like everything they do, it will have a rock n’ roll edge that hopes to draw both visitors and locals.

*Outside Fremont Country Club┃Photo: Fred Morledge*

The duo told GRAMMY.com that a visit to Double Down Saloon, Sin City’s widely-recognized original punk bar and music dive was what first inspired them to come to Vegas and get into the nightlife business there. Double Down has been slinging booze (like Bacon Martinis and "Ass Juice" served in a ceramic toilet bowl mug) and booking live punk sounds since it opened back in 1992.

"It's kind of a stepping stone for a lot of bands," says Cameron Morat, a punk musician and photographer, who also works with the Punk Rock Museum as curator of its rockstar-led tour guide program. "People always assume that Vegas is just the strip, but that's only like four miles long. There's a lot more of the ‘‘other city.’ There are people who are just into music and into going to local shows who don't ever go to the main strip."

In addition to the Double Down, Morat says Vegas has always had a history of throwing local punk shows at spaces like the Huntridge Theater, which is currently being remodeled and set to re-open soon for local live music. He also points to The Usual Place as a venue popular with local punk and rock bands now, and The Dive Bar — a favorite with the mohawk, patched-up battle vest scene, featuring heavy music seven nights a week, including a night promoted by his partner Masuimi Max called Vegas Chaos.  

*Cameron Morat┃Photo: Kristina Markovich*

While glitzy stage shows from legacy artists and mega-pop hit makers like Usher, Elton John, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga still get the most media attention, raucous local shows are starting to factor into a new generation’s vacation planning, too.

"There’s a really good scene here," Morat proclaims. "It's funny because a lot of people, the sort of gatekeepers of punk, ask ‘why is the punk museum in Vegas?’ But it is a punk city, and not just because you've got all the local bands and the venues."

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Morat, whose own band Soldiers of Destruction, plays around town on occasion, also notes other acts such as Gob Patrol, Suburban Resistance, and Inframundo as having fierce local followings. He says there’s a certain voracious vibe in Vegas that lends itself to punk rock creation, performance and attitude. "A lot of the anger from punk rock — like the disparity of wealth, for instance, is here," he says. "Five minutes down the road, you've got people throwing away a million on the roll of a dice. But you've also got people who are doing like three jobs just trying to pay their rent." 

Over at the Punk Rock Museum, Morat, who moved from Los Angeles to Vegas about seven  years ago, is keeping busy booking big-name guests to share inspirations and war stories, both weekly, and specifically timed with whatever big festival or event happens to be in town. He says he wants to feature artists that might not be thought of as traditional punk rock, but who have relevant backgrounds and stories to share. 

"A lot of these people have punk history the public doesn’t know about," he says. "I think if we just stick to a very small well of people, it's going to get pretty boring. So I'm trying to open it up for a bigger cross-section." 

*Imagery from "Black Punk Now" | Ed Marshall*

The museum is already showing the breadth of punk rock’s influence on music in general. During WWWY, the museum held events tied to its new exhibit "Black Punk Now," curated by James Spooner, director of the 2003 documentary Afro-Punk. As Spooner spoke about the film’s 20th anniversary and his new book of Black punk authors, musicians playing the weekend’s festivities from Sum 41, MxPx, Bayside, Less Than Jake came through to talk too. Warped Tour’s Kevin Lyman and Fat Mike himself also took part in the museum’s new after-dark guided tour series.

Bringing in a wider audience and a new generation of rebellious kids who seek to channel their angst and energy into music is part of what the museum — and, it seems, the myriad of events in Las Vegas these days — is all about. Despite what some punk rock purists and gatekeepers might say, the inclusion of tangent bands and scenes is in the original punk spirit. He’ll be booking guests tied to next year’s Sick New World, the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly bash and even EDC in the future (electronic bangers are not unlike hardcore ones and even Moby was a punk before he became a DJ). 

"I think that the museum is great for the punk scene here," he adds. "People will literally come to town just to see the museum, and then if there's a band playing in town in the evening, they'll go. So it's broadening the support for all the bands, local and touring. Some punk bands used to skip Vegas completely on their tours, but not anymore." 

Remembering When We Were Young: Avril Lavigne, Jimmy Eat World & More Bands Reflect On The Peak Of Emo & Hardcore Ahead Of Vegas Fest

Get Amped For When We Were Young 2023: Sum 41's Deryck Whibley's Favorite Emo Songs By Fellow Performers
Deryck Whibley performs in 2023.

Photo: Richard Thigpen

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Get Amped For When We Were Young 2023: Sum 41's Deryck Whibley's Favorite Emo Songs By Fellow Performers

Ahead of Sum 41's appearance at When We Were Young Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 21 and 22, lead singer Deryck Whibley curated a playlist of tracks from Blink-182, KennyHoopla, Good Charlotte and more.

GRAMMYs/Oct 20, 2023 - 07:30 pm

For the second year in a row, pop-punk is taking over Las Vegas. The When We Were Young Festival is bringing another slew of emo and pop-punk acts from the mid/late aughts to the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on Oct. 21 and 22, from Yellowcard to Rise Against to Green Day.

"Fat Lip" rockers Sum 41 are one of the 55 artists playing this year's iteration of WWWY, which will mark two of the Canadian group's final shows (in May, they announced they'll be disbanding after their current tour commitments). Though they've been touring for nearly 30 years, frontman Deryck Whibley tells GRAMMY.com that the front row "looks the same as it did in 2001."

"This music speaks to a younger generation, and the new generation always gets into it," he says. "There's just something about this kind of music that is youthful and exciting, and there's energy there. I think it's always going to be here."

In celebration of the 2023 iteration of When We Were Young Fest, Whibley put together a playlist of 15 songs by his fellow performers, including the Offspring, Blink-182 and the Ataris. Whether or not you're headed to Las Vegas, get your dose of pop-punk nostalgia on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, or Pandora.

GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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