Rise Against's new compilation, "Long Forgotten Songs: B-Sides & Covers 2000-2013" -- which arrives today on Interscope Records -- is a rarities set that spans all the way back to before the Chicago punk band had landed a Fat Wreck Chords deal to release its 2001 debut album, "The Unraveling." The compilation gives fans a chance to hear how the band has evolved since recording its very first song, "Join the Ranks," as well as an opportunity to properly archive its rarities before they become too numerous to include on one album. (The track listing features 26 songs.)
Singer /guitarist Tim McIlrath recalls the band comparing notes backstage during its stint at Metallica's Orion Music + More festival in June and realizing the members themselves didn't even own all the copies of the B-sides they had recorded. "We were like, 'If the four of us don't have these songs, who really does?'"
"Long Forgotten Songs" also contains such covers as Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" (used as the theme to the cable series "Weeds") and Nirvana's "Silver." Two other covers -- Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and Bob Dylan's "Ballad of Hollis Brown," which Rise Against recorded for Amnesty International's "Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan -- Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International" -- are stark tales of the downtrodden struggling for physical survival. It's a theme McIlrath says Rise Against can relate to.
"I think that punk music has always kind of had an obligation to speak up for the underdog. Punk itself is people who feel like the black sheep of society, so to me, once you join the punk community you have a responsibility. Like if someone is to one day give you a microphone and say, 'Tell me what you're thinking,' that you use that microphone to do something more than just sell records and further ticket sales."
Rise Against's participation in Orion has spawned a live video for "Lanterns" (which exclusively premieres on Billboard.com today), a bonus track from its last studio album, "Endgame." But the band has scaled back on touring commitments to take a breather before starting work on its next record this fall. Given the group's socio-political bent, McIlrath says there are no shortage of issues to consider -- topics like gun control and labor unions have been on his mind of late.
"We try to write about the things that aren't being written about. If there's issues being talked about really effectively by other bands, other people, I don't want it to seem like we're regurgitating the conversation," he says. "I want to bring something to it, so I think when we sit down we'll try to figure out what can we add to the conversation."