Rise Against Adds Veganism to Its Politically Charged Music

Bassist Joe Principe says his on-stage stamina has improved since going vegan.

Since 1999, Chicago, IL-based quartet Rise Against has been blending punk rock and melodic hardcore with socially conscious lyrics. The group had released two full-length albums on Fat Wreck Chords before finding mainstream success with 2004’s Siren Song of the Counter Culture. Last year, the group (singer/guitarist Tim McIlrath, guitarist Zach Blair, bassist Joe Principe, and drummer Brandon Barnes) issued Wolves, the band’s eighth full-length record. Recently, Principe went from being vegetarian to vegan, which gave VegNews the chance to speak to him about his band and how being 100-percent plant-based has helped his life and his music. Here are his answers.

VegNews: Why did you go from vegetarian to vegan?
Joe Principe:
I’ve been wanting to make the change for years but wasn’t quite ready to commit. I feel like you have to be ready mentally to take on such a commitment. There are some minor challenges that come up (especially on the road) with being vegan. Convenience is the only benefit to unhealthy eating, so I had to retrain my brain to look for healthy vegan options to things that I would normally get on the fly while touring or walking around a city. Pizza was hard to give up at first, but now the thought of eating dairy-cheese pizza repulses me. I’ve always felt guilty knowing the horrors of the dairy industry but still supporting in financially.

VN: What are the biggest differences you've noticed since going vegan?
Physically, I had a good week of my head draining (and a) constant runny nose while clearing out what my body didn’t want from dairy. Since then, I experience less sinus issues. Also, I have more energy in general. More energy means more physical activity, leading to more endurance. If you treat your body right, it will work the way you need it to work.

VN: Wolves has been described as "about recognizing the power within us all." How does this statement relate to veganism?
Wolves is all about using your voice. If there is a wrong in your life, speak up! It’s the only tool we have to inspire change civilly. Examples of using your voice would be the power of voting, starting a band, and peaceful demonstrations. There are so many great platforms at your disposal. I would never push veganism or any of my views on someone. Being force-fed anything usually results in regurgitation, (and) it’s not the reaction you want. I’m here to present facts and let people make up their own minds. That’s how I came across vegetarianism to begin with 20-plus years ago. I picked up a PETA flier in a tattoo shop while I was waiting for my appointment. I didn’t go veg immediately, but the information was ingrained in the back of head for a few years.

VN: What restaurants do you visit when you're on tour?
I always hit Red Bamboo in New York City, Pizza Luce in Minneapolis, and Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles. I want to check out Little Pine in LA and Timeless Coffee in Oakland.

VN: You're playing Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas. Will you be visiting Ronald's Donuts while you're there?
We are so stoked to play PRB! Doughnuts are amazing, but I try to stay away. I gain weight just looking at doughnuts.

Ryan Ritchie is the Features Editor who will be visiting Ronald’s Donuts during his next Vegas trip.

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