Rise Against frontman Tim McIlrath was last seen touring hard-working union towns with Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, which was no shocker, considering the pop-punk performer has a long history of mixing politics with the arts. His secret to creating a popular song that gets a poignant message across? Make it a fun song, with a deeper, darker meaning.

"It's such a balancing act trying to combine art and politics and create a message, but still create something that's compelling for the listener," McIlrath told the Vancouver Sun. "You could have the most important message in the world, but if you don't have a catchy chorus, no one's gonna hear it. So it's the sugar-coated bitter pill."

Along those ranks, McIlrath and Rise Against have a string of catchy choruses and chart-topping rock songs, including "Prayer of the Refugee," "Savior," "Re-Education (Through Labor)" and “Help Is on the Way.”  They’ve also experienced remarkable Billboard fanfare, as their latest album, ‘Endgame,’ debuted No. 20 on the Billboard 200 earlier this year.

That chart success still baffles McIlrath. "The Billboard charts were never really anything I put a lot of stock in, and we didn't start Rise Against with the goal of being part of that world,” he said. "So to see our name up there right next to, like, Adele and Lady Gaga or something like that is really strange.

“Deep down in my heart I'm delusional and I still think we're a basement garage band."