Next time Chicago rockers Rise Against are playing your town and you see a familiar tattooed frame speeding by on a bicycle, it might be frontman Tim McIlrath.
When the political punk rocker was asked how he balances his private life with both his artistic and socially-conscientious endeavors, McIlrath said he doesn’t “claim to balance it” but did give KROQ/Los Angeles a glimpse into his pre-show rituals.
A guy who never imagined himself to have rock tar status, McIlrath likes bike riding in the town he is in or getting breakfast, connecting with fans at record store signings, and treating his dressing room like a living room.
“Your dressing room is kind of like your living room at one point,” McIlrath says. “It’s like your house. It’s where you’re living and waking up everyday. And so, you’ve got to treat it like that in a way. This is where I get stuff done; this is my home.”
“I take it one day at a time as cliché as that might sound,” continues McIlrath. “I’m kind of focused on the next thing and the show that day. I don’t think about what’s coming up because it’s a little intimidating to be honest.”
“We’ve already got shows booked from now until next March. We’re booking shows in March of 2013 as we speak. And so, it’s the kind of stuff that’s sort of vaguely in my peripheral but I’m only kind of focused on being home because I’m home now. When I’m in Europe, I’ll be focused on Europe and taking each one of those shows day by day.”
“We’ve been touring for twelve years now and so you sort of figure it out. You develop a sort of routine to survive touring and still stay engaged. And I guess challenged.”
For McIlrath, that includes doing little “normal” things that are very anti-rockstar.
“I’ll wake up on tour and the first thing I’ll do is get away from tour,” explains McIlrath. “I’m usually riding my bike through a town and just kind of trying to feel normal and stopping for coffee and shopping for records or something like that. I try to pretend that I’m normal for a few hours.”
Another way that Rise Against keeps themselves grounded is by doing things like arranging intimate record signings while they are in town. Their website boasts a number of past dates that McIlrath says can get “out of control” when they don’t “think things through” and seven hundred kids show up, but can be “so much fun.”
“Part of it is connecting with fans, but part of it is that we sort of live in denial that we’re a big band. I think we still kind of look at each other like we’re just a bunch of kids having fun.”
“We’re sort of delusional in that sense,” explains McIlrath modestly. “We think that we’re going to show up and only ten kids will show up and we’re just going to hang out with them for an hour and we’re just going to go back to the show. Every time it happens, it’s sort of a nice surprise, kind of ‘Oh wow. There’s actually a lot of people here.’”
–Nadia Noir, CBS Radio Los Angeles