There’s a palpable sense of adventure on Chicago four piece Rise Against’s 2006 album The Sufferer & The Witness. Having recently defected from Californian indie label Fat to major label Geffen, the band’s exploratory song structures and dynamic directional shift has brought a maturation to the sound few could have predicted.
Certainly, the addition of a string quartet to the mix has raised the collective eyebrow of the group’s loyal hardcore supports.
“When we first started using strings people were asking if we were afraid our fans would call us sell-outs because we’re incorporating classical instruments but we don’t see if that way,” explains bassist Joe Principe from San Francisco where Rise Against is touring with Thursday. “Something we’ve always been a really big fan of are string instruments and when tastefully done it’s effective. It compliments the song Roadside very well.
“We actually performed it last night with a string section for the very first time and I think the fans responded really well to it - they got something a little different. I don’t think bands should be afraid to try new things as long as you’re sincere and true to your heart as far as song writing goes then there’s nothing wrong with venturing into new territory. I think any band that wants to grow and have lasting stability has to keep things interesting.”
Inspired by this year’s progressive albums from AFI and The Killers, The Sufferer & Witness was, on the advice of their punk rock friends from Good Riddance, recorded at drummer/producer Bill Stevenson’s increasingly popular Blasting Room studios in Colorado, the studio of choice lately for many punk and hardcore acts.
“Bill understands aggressive punk rock, really melodic punk rock and obviously being in the Descendents and Black Flag he’s got the best of both worlds,” says Principe, formerly of 88 Fingers Louie. “He really paid attention to the grit behind our music and he wanted all the tones to be really big sounding and aggressive and I think he captured that. I think my bass sound on the record is one of the best that I’ve done.”
Stevenson, songwriter/drummer with punk-pop veterans Descendents and ALL, worked on the band’s previous album, 2004’s Siren Song Of The Counter Culture hence it’s certainly no major label compromise.
“If anything I think we’ve grown as a band together, whether we were on Fat or Epitaph or Geffen, it didn’t matter,” reasons Principe. “The Suffering & the Witness is just a product of us maturing as musicians and people.”