Originally posted July 8th, 2016.
After we meandered through the city of band merch tents and booths supporting various causes, Nic and I ended up in the photo pit at the Poseidon stage where we got up close for The Interrupters’ set. For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with The Interrupters, you’ve missed out. Of course you’ve probably heard the band whether you know it or not. Their hit “Take Back the Power” from their self-titled album was used in a T-Mobile commercial. It probably says enough about the band that Tim Armstrong has been involved with them both through his own Tim Timebomb and Friends project as well as producing their last two albums. His influence is definitely noticeable in their sound. Nonetheless they are distinguishable. Fronted by Aimee Interrupter with three brother backing her, Jesse, Kevin and Justin Bivona, the quartet plays upbeat ska punk with a bit of a 2 tone feel and look. Arguably one of the most danceable acts on this Summer’s Warped Tour, The Interrupters’ set exceeded expectations as their sound was as tight as their recordings and the energy was certainly contagious as they had most of the crowd skanking as soon as they hit the stage.
The Interrupters kicked off their set with “Haven’t Heard the Last of Me,” a song, like many of theirs, that is conducive to crowd participation. As the audience sang along “Na na na na na… you haven’t seen the last of me!” Aimee crisscrossed the stage, engaging the crowd in every direction. The set continued with an awesome selection of tracks from their first album such as “Liberty,” “White Noise” and “Take Back the Power” as well as some covers including Marley’s “Judge Not” and Op Ivy’s “Sound System.” Every song had the crowd dancing, even Jesus Christ, himself. You read correctly, a man dressed as Jesus joined the pit for some circle skanking. If SKAspot’s endorsement of The Interrupters isn’t enough for you, hopefully the “divine” endorsement is! Aimee got up close and personal with the crowd, leaving the stage and coming up to the front barricades of the pit as the band wrapped up with “Family.” Aimee summoned the audience to come in close as we were all “inducted” into The Interrupters’ family. Beyond the “warm fuzzies” of belonging, The Interrupters left the crowd energized despite the sore feet and sweltering heat.
I met up a little later with Kevin and Justin Bivona for an interview where we discussed their influences, work with Tim Armstrong and their new album “Say It Out Loud” which was released June 24th on Hellcat Records.
Andy: Tim Armstrong and Rancid/Op Ivy are clearly influences on your music. What are some other of the ska and non-ska musicians/bands that have influenced/inspired you?
Kevin: We’ll start with ska. Just before our set yesterday we were watching Dance Craze on our bus before we went out to play so The Beat, Bad Manners, Madness, The Specials, Bodysnatchers, The Selecter obviously… But then we’ve been lucky enough to tour with Less Than Jake and the Bosstones and those were bands that we grew up going to see. We “happened” a little later than the whole 2tone thing but I did actually see The Specials in 99 but it was without Terry Hall but most of them where there. Ska-wide… pretty much all the good ones. (Turning to Justin) What do you think non-ska?
Justin: Punk Rock bands oviously, we originally toured with Rancid. The Beach Boys… Cock Sparrer…
Kevin: That’s a good one! We rip a lot of them off.
Andy: Over the last few years Tim has worked with Jimmy Cliff on Rebirth, collaborated with tons of musicians with his Tim Timebomb and Friends project and has had a lot of involvement with the Interrupters in both producing and collaboration. What is it like working with him and how does the experience compare with working with other musicians?
Kevin: As a band, he’s the only producer we’ve ever worked with. It’s such a good fit because he’s a “band” guy and he comes up from playing in bands. He sees the bigger picture for us. He’s not as “in the tornado” as we are, so to speak. He’s really good at steering us in the direction we want to go in. As a producer he’s really involved in helping us with range and making sure our song-writing is on-point, but also making sure we don’t get too “in our heads,” overthink stuff, ruin something perfectly good because we’re thinking too much about it.
Andy: The Interrupters have lots of lyrical content that reflects an attitude of general government distrust and the need to overcome oppression. The political climate of the past decade has no doubt inspired these lyrics as I’m sure the current election will have an impact on new songs. Beyond pure reaction to today’s society/politics/etc., what message do you want to communicate to your listeners? What do you feel is your responsibility with affecting change?
Kevin: Well, I think the most important thing to us, first and foremost as a band, is just to put out a “fun” vibe and just have a place where people can have fun because we do address a lot of issues because there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, a lot of division, a lot of pushing and pulling but at the end of the day, we all have to share this planet. I think having a fun vibe, not taking it too seriously, but being aware is important. And yeah, like you said, in the last 10 years and even right now, there’s a lot of stuff that… we’ve made jokes that if Donald Trump becomes president, our third album is pretty much done and we’ll be the biggest band in the world. We’d have plenty to write about, you know! I don’t think we’re reinventing the wheel punk rock-wise as far as distrusting the government. I think a bigger part of our message is community, family, unity, diversity, loyalty. All the stuff that makes punk rock what it is.
Kevin: It’s hard not to put yourself in a box when you’re dressed like this. (laughs). But at the end of the day we want everyone to be able to enjoy the music not just a certain type of political thinker. That’s the beautiful think about music. It’s for everyone. You can interpret it however you want. If you like it, you can turn it up. If you don’t like it, you can turn it off.
Andy: Your newest full length album “Say it Out Loud” just dropped on June 24th. I actually have it in my backpack…
Kevin: (pointing to Justin) He’s the guy on the cover, look! (Justin poses like he does on the cover)
Andy: How would you describe this new album? What can listeners expect?
Kevin: I think if you liked the first record you’ll like this one. We’ve grown as a band, spending more time together on the road, and playing shows, meeting other bands. We touch upon many of the same topics from the first album but I think this one’s a little more broad. Maybe we touch upon a few more topics than the last one but still our vibe is fun, “dance-y,” punky ska. I think you’ll dig it.
Andy: What are some of your favorite tracks from this album?
Justin: Well my favorite track is “She Got Arrested.” It seems to be more of a universal favorite among some of the fans as well.
Kevin: Yeah – We’ve been playing that one out a bunch and it seems to be getting a really good response. It’s a fun one. My favorite track, and I might be a bit biased, is called “The Valley” and it’s about where we live and where we’re from which is the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. It was fun because all of my favorite bands name-dropped their neighborhoods so I said ‘we need a song where we can name drop streets in our neighborhood’ so we finally got to do that. And we got our dad to play trombone on it and he’s from the Valley too so… cool, yeah – check that one out!
Justin: Godfather Part II
Andy: What’s your favorite reading material.
Kevin: Whatever is on my iPhone. I guess social media.
Andy: What’s your most awkward moment on-stage?
Kevin: I’m going to take that one too – lots and lots of feedback.
Justin: I don’t know! I guess I don’t really think about phobias.
Andy: Favorite academic subject in school?
Kevin: My favorite was English because you got to do creative writing stuff.
Justin: Mine was government because you got to learn how it all worked so you could see through all the bullshit.
Kevin: From the perspective of the school district! (laughs)
Justin: Well yeah but then you go out and research and figure it out for yourself.
Kevin: Yeah – at least they give you the tools to figure it out for yourself.
Andy: Meat or Potatoes?
Andy: Beatles or Stones?
Kevin and Justin (simultaneously): Beatles!
Andy: Cats or Dogs?
Justin: Oh – definitely dogs! Can I re-answer the ‘Beatles or Stones’ question?
Justin: Beach Boys! (Laughs)
Andy: Stage or Studio?
Justin: Stage. I spend a lot of time in the studio but the stage it where it happens!
As a follow-up to the interview, I have listened to “Say It Out Loud” all the way through a few times and concur with Kevin that “She Got Arrested” is one of the best on the album. Besides “She Got Arrested,” some of my other favorites include “Babylon,” “Phantom City,” “By My Side,” and “You’re Gonna Find a Way Out.” That said, the new album from The Interrupters is an excellent followup to their freshman record and no song should be skipped (on either album)! If you haven’t already gotten your hands on a copy of the album, click here to order yours!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of SKAspot’s Warped Report where we catch Reel Big Fish’s and Beebs’ sets, check in with Beebs and B-Lay for an interview and meet up with Cody and Dan from Set it Off.
Check out The Interrupters' Website.
Check out The Warped Tour Website.
Check out more photos from the Warped Tour in St. Pete in the SKAspot Warped Gallery.
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