The Frontmen Summit of Deftones, Rise Against and Thrice Discuss Winning

The 21-date North American trek kicks off June 9 in Chicago and also features support from Three Trapped Tigers and Frank Iero and the Patience.

When this summer’s Deftones, Rise Against and Thrice tour came up in a recent interview with Pierce The Veil, the band’s frontman Vic Fuentes half-joked, “Maybe they need another guitar tech.” That’s high praise from a band who has their own headlining tour on the horizon and whose last album, Misadventures,debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.

But in the rock world, that’s the kind of excitement this triple-bill inspires — maybe because it’s the sort of escape we need right now. Deftones bring their fantastical side, which lets fans drift off to another world. Rise Against is always politically outspoken about the present moment. And Thrice lives somewhere in between, a cerebral post-hardcore island that’s very much its own.

Rise Against and Thrice are approaching 20 years together, while Deftones closing in on three decades. They’ve all put in time, and over their careers, they’ve grown their respective fanbases into dedicated units that will come together this summer. Needless to say, the bands are up for the challenge.

Billboard spoke with the frontmen of the three groups– Deftones’ Chino Moreno, Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath and Thrice’s Dustin Kensrue — about the socio-musical collaboration in store.

Have the three of you spent a lot of time together?

Moreno: Yeah, with Rise we’ve done some festivals, and we have a lot of mutual friends in common, so we’ve crossed paths tons of times. And in those times, we’ve talked about doing something together. Tim’s actually performed with us; we did a couple of duets together live just having fun. And with the Thrice guys, maybe like seven years ago we did this Warped-kind of tour. So we have a history with those guys, and although our bands come from different places musically and geographically, it’s sort of a unique coming together of three different groups. I think it’ll be great.

Kensrue: Yeah, it’s good going into it knowing that it’s a good vibe, a good group of people, especially because when you’re out for a month and there’s a bad batch, it can be pretty brutal. We’ve had that, so we’re really excited. It’s such a different experience doing the two of four on the bill, and playing early and playing short. You get done with your set and you’re like, “Oh, man, I got the whole night ahead of me, how weird.” Headlining you’re like, “Alright, I’m done now.”

How long has this tour been in the works, and was it going to happen regardless of circumstances, or was it somewhat inspired by the craziness in the world right now?

McIlrath: I think a little bit of both. We’ve been wanting this to happen for a while. We’d be on tour somewhere, and all of a sudden there’d be a festival date. We’d cross paths with the Deftones and watch them play and hang out, and we’d look out across the festival of bands playing and we’d think, “Man, we should be sharing a stage with the Deftones. We should get our two bands together.” We would talk about it and kind of conspire. The stars never aligned for us; our schedules never worked out. Every single time we hung out with the Deftones over the last ten years, my last sentence of the night was always, “We gotta go on tour together.”

Dominik Magdziak Photography/WireImage
Dustin Kensrue of Thrice performs during the To Be Everywhere is To Be Nowhere Tour at The Sound Academy on June 21, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.

Talk about, as a frontman, how sharing the stage together inspires you.

Moreno: Honestly, I think we’re all different enough and we all have our own sort of place we come from. So if you look at it that way and you look at it as being inspired by this guy or that guy and say, “Wow, this is neat we can all share this moment together.” Maybe we come from different backgrounds or we come from different places musically, but, to me, it’s more complementing each other.

McIlrath: Rock has been so maligned the last few years, a lot of bands getting lumped into the same category. You mentioned the Grammys earlier — [it’s] kind of baffling to me the bands I see that end up in the rock category, or even bands that end up in the metal category or whatever.

And I think this tour shows you the varying degrees of what rock can look and sound like and the different approaches that bands can take. You’re gonna find three very different vocalists, three different approaches and three different bands. We’re all walking up there with guitars and bass and drums and we’re all playing rock music, but these are guys who have truly different approaches to everything from lyrics to what they want their shows to look like. And that’s kind of what makes this all fun, and shows you that when you peel back the layers rock is really diverse, there’s a lot of variety.

Kensrue: I think as a vocalist, and a guitarist even, it’s an exciting tour because there is a huge variety. But I think as much as I like good pop music and whatever, I do feel like there’s great guitar rock out there that’s doing well, and I think this tour is a cool coming together of three bands that have been doing it a long time. I think that might be why a lot of people are so excited about it — it’s a big fun rock show. And the bands definitely don’t sound the same.

What Rise Against song would you want Chino to sing?

McIlarth: Chino is such a powerful frontman and there’s really nobody like him out there so you’d have to find something that’s kind of up to snuff for a vocalist like that. I would love to put him on something aggressive — like, Rise Against has a song called “State Of The Union,” and I think that the untethered Chino is one of my favorite parts of him as a vocalist.

What song would you guys all do together and why?

Kensrue: Oh man, I’m thinking back to something that would be pre- all of our bands that we can all really dig that would be timely. We could do like a Bob Dylansong somewhere.

How does it inspire you to be around someone like Tim, who is so outspoken politically, and how do you handle a tour in 2017 under the all political craziness that is happening?

Moreno: I feel like we’re all affected by it obviously, but I think it’s great we have Rise to be that band to do that, and speak how they want to. Deftones have never been a band that’s been politically driven in any way. To me — and to us, in general — music has always been an escape from that type of thing. I get my high making music that sort of feels disconnected from society and what problems we may be facing here or there. I definitely have an opinion on the world, but my area is somewhere else and I’m comfortable with that.

So I think the balance of having a band like Rise, that is very outspoken, it’s a good juxtaposition in a way to have that. There’s time for that and there’s time for just letting loose and feeling free of the pressures of society. And Thrice is kind of right there in the middle of it. To me it’s a pretty rounded-out bill.

Tim, how do you feel being sort of the political spokesperson on this tour?

McIlrath: For a band like us, we want to talk about it — it’s the fuel that our band has always run on, the friction of society. So, in a lot of ways, this is a year in which our band has become sort of re-energized, in a way that we haven’t been in a long time. In a lot of ways our band was built for years like 2017. And it’s exciting as much as it is depressing.

I was listening to an interview with the guy who’s in charge of the Sea Shepherd, Captain Paul Watson, and they were doing that reality show where cameras follow them around trying to save the whales. He said, “Listen, I’m trying to put myself out of business. I’m trying to end illegal whaling and therefore ending my career.” And Rise Against is a band that we’ve been trying to put ourselves out of business, too. If the ills of society were cured tomorrow there wouldn’t be as much of a place for a band like Rise Against in the world, and that’s something I’d be okay with.

But for the political climate this year to all of a sudden turn around so fast, it sort of creates this place where a band like Rise Against is needed, not just for the four of us, but for our fans out there who are looking for a place to go, who are looking for a voice, looking for somewhere where they can find songs that distil how they’re feeling.

So you must not be worried about polarizing anyone in the audience. I’m thinking about shows past, where the upside-down distress flag was used. Are you planning on doing something like that again in this tour, making a statement in that way?

McIlrath: Yeah, what’s really awesome about being in Rise Against is that we’ve never been tethered by the “shut up and play” dynamic. There’s never been any false advertising about who we are. I mean, our name is Rise Against. You know what you’re coming to see. We’re up front about who we are and unapologetic about what we have to say.

I love being able to shock people. I love being able to show up at a festival as an opening band and take people by surprise. It’s exciting to be able to take what you’re passionate about, especially in such a tumultuous political climate, and be able to put it into a song without risk. Not to say the risk doesn’t exist, but it’s a risk we have never given a sh-t about. Polarizing people is our currency; it’s what we do.

I hear the term “safe places” thrown around. I don’t want to create a safe place. I want to create a place that is hostile toward racism, sexism, and misogyny. I want to create a place where that kind of stuff can’t exist, where those kind of sentiments are suffocated. And that, to me, is a Rise Against show, it’s a Rise Against record, it’s our community of fans.

What do you see being the bonding activities of choice on this tour?

Moreno: I’m way into road bikes and riding bikes, one of my favorite things to do. Summertime is a great time to get out and ride bikes, so hopefully we got some guys who like to do that. We like beer, that’s one thing I think hopefully we all have in common. We’ve partied with both those bands a bit back in the day, so nice craft beers and bike rides, that sounds like a good summer to me.

McIlrath: Our last tour was with Killswitch Engage, and after the show, the singer of Killswitch, Jesse [Leach], would DJ outside of the tour buses, and we would all play the bag game, corn hole, and we’d just sit out in parking lots all night and do that. You go into a tour like a Deftones and Thrice tour, and I’ll tell you right now, on that tour, there will be vegans and carnivores, stoners and straight edge kids, atheists and religious people all thrown into a dressing room somewhere. Video gamers, sports nuts, people who hate sports. I think it will be fun. There’s a variety of characters that are going to be out there, let’s just say that.

Kensrue: The first one that came to mind might have been on the Rise Against tour that we did ages ago with Alkaline Trio, and I think there was the tour where we tried to set up Tour U, which was a tour university. We were gonna teach classes to each other and I mostly remember planning it. It took a while to get off the ground, but I think it was on Alkaline’s bus one night and we had like four or five classes set up, a cooking class and all sorts of stuff.

I like the random times you go out for drinks and something different happens. I remember being on a day off in Savannah with Brand New years and years ago, and we ended up at this weird little Irish pub by the water. We were like the only people in this room with the guy playing covers on the piano and we ended up going up there, singing tons of songs with him and it was just ludicrous and amazing.

As far as what bands we’ve vibed with a ton, we end up going out with the same bands more than once, ‘coz you gotta find the band that you like, that draws, that you both make a little money. It’s hard to balance that all out. The Rise Against guys, we’ve seen them around; we haven’t seen the Deftones guys in a while. But all of them have been super sweet to us in the past.

Moreno: It’s funny, we’re a band that’s been around for god knows how long, but I still know there are a lot of people that have heard of us and have not been in front of us before. When we do things like this, like putting together tours, it’s always your chance to just show what you’ve been doing all these years to people, young and old, who maybe have not heard you. So, I think that benefits everybody on the bill, just to bring people together and obviously if it’s a band that you have those sort of diehard fan bases that’s great ‘cause Deftones have that. But it’s great to go with other bands and see the same thing. There are different people, and I think to be able to share a bill benefits everybody. It’ll be fun for us.

McIlrath: It’s exciting to be able to play in a room full of enthusiastic music fans of all kinds of music. I think just putting that kind of energy into a room is gonna be incredible, and the challenge of winning over a diehard Deftones fan that maybe hasn’t given our band the time of day — I love that challenge.

As our band was growing up, I loved opening shows or supporting shows because you were always kind of underestimated. In a lot of ways, they bought a ticket to see somebody else and you’re just kind of the obstacle in between them and their favorite band. I like being able to turn heads and win people over, because there’s something really satisfying about going out there with that challenge and trying to overcome it.

And we’re a different band than the Deftones. We’re a different band than Thrice, but I think the music fan today is also far more diverse than people give them credit for. I’m excited to tap into that enthusiasm of Thrice fans and Deftones fans and to see if we can find some common ground.