When punk band Rise Against made the transition from underground clubs to arenas, frontman Tim McIlrath noticed something upsetting. He would meet fans of the band and then later learn that they were afraid to tell him they were gay.
“They didn’t know if their favorite band was going to condemn them or not,” McIlrath tells Billboard.com. “I didn’t want our fans to think that their favorite band wouldn’t accept them for who they are.”
In Rise Against’s music video for single “Make it Stop (September’s Children),” which debuted yesterday (June 21), the band used the opportunity to tell young gay fans that, yes, “It Gets Better.” Partnering with the Dan Savage-helmed project of the same name, Rise Against traveled to McIlrath’s high school alma mater in Rolling Meadows, Ill. and shone a light on LGBT students who, even through merciless bullying, have chosen life over suicide.
Video: “”Make it Stop,” Rise Against
Rise Against was still recording its sixth studio album, March 2011’s “Endgame,” when Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi took his own life — and gay bullying shifted from a personal issue to a full-blown political one. “I knew it ‘Make it Stop’ was perfect for [commenting on gay teen bullying and suicide],” McIlrath said. “It would be a good vehicle to let our fans know exactly where we stand on the issue.”
Rise Against is the latest of many musical acts to pledge support for the “It Gets Better” project — a source of support for bullied LGBT teens — but one of the first rock acts to do so. “I don’t know why the rock scene is the way it is [tending to be more homophobic],” McIlrath said, “but being a guy who ended up in the scene, it’s a great opportunity to put water where the fire is.”
“Make it Stop,” Rise Against’s second “Endgame” single, handles the issues of bullying, homophobia and suicide in an explicit way — a more literal interpretation of the “It Gets Better” than past musical contributions to the campaign, including Katy Perry’s “Firework” video.
“I was putting the song together as the same time it began to trickle out what ‘It Gets Better’ is all about,” McIlrath said. “It’s exactly what I want to do in song form and they’re doing it in tangible form.”
McIlrath views the song as a road that will ultimately lead people to “It Gets Better Project,” but there is a personal element to the band’s involvement as well.
“I was bullied when I first got to high school,” he said. “I got really lucky thought because I found other freaks and we got each other through high school… I did have some gay friends and I even had a gay friend at school who committed suicide. That hit me really hard.”
(Additional reporting from Jillian Mapes)