Last Christmas, this writer walked into a bar in London to find a band inspiring wild, chaotic dancing, broad grins and manic laughter among the crowd. The band were The Interrupters, from Los Angeles, California, and this writer hasn’t stopped banging on about them since.
Backed by three brothers – Jesse, Justin and Kevin Bivona (that would be drums, bass and guitar, in that order) – at the front of it all was one of the coolest, sassiest, most-bona-fide superstars-in-waiting NME had seen in eons. Her name was Aimee Allen – think: the cartoon woman on the record sleeves of original 2-Tone band The Beat, made real, but angry.
When the band returned to the UK this summer, we vowed we’d speak to them and so we did. We’re sold. Now here’s five reasons why you need The Interrupters in your life too…
They’re a ska punk band… but – woah – don’t stop reading!
In 99 percent of cases, ska punk is the bubonic plague of musical genres. The Interrupters are the one percent.
“We’ve heard that before,” says Kevin, “and the fact that you still like us and want to speak to us is something we take as a huge compliment…”
“Can I tell you something Sir Elton John said about us,” asks Aimee.
After you’ve picked his name up off the floor, sure.
“He’s played us on his radio show a few times,” she continues. “He said, ‘Some people call it ska. Some people call it punk. Some people call it ska punk. I call it ‘up music’ and I love it…’”
Aimee prefers to refer to the music her band makes as ‘unity music’. “Music that brings people together. If you come to one of our shows, everyone’s family. We’re there for you…”
The Interrupters are the band their teenage selves needed
“I’m really interested in how music can make people feel less alone,” says Kevin. “I needed that when I was growing up. One of the bands who helped me so much when I was a kid was Rancid. We’ve got them on our new album on a song called ‘Got Each Other’. The lyrics go, ‘If you are alone tonight / You can come with us / if you don’t have friends and family, or people that you trust / We will be your confidants, your sisters and your brothers / We don’t have much, but we’ve got each other’. That’s kind of our mission statement.”
“It’s what Joan Jett did for me when I was a teenager,” says Aimee. “I had a horrible, abusive stepfather. He’d put in me in my room and take away my music as a punishment. I hadn’t done anything wrong, he just loved to torture me. As an act of rebellion I’d sit in my room and shout the lyrics to Joan Jett songs. He’d come in and beat me, but it was worth it. He could take my music, but he couldn’t break my spirit.”
They’ve written an incredibly important song about domestic violence
The band’s new album, ‘Fight The Good Fight’, is fire; a sequence of songs both political and fun. But go back to album number two, 2016’s ‘Say It Out Loud’, and you’ll find a song about domestic violence called ‘She Got Arrested’, that is one of the most powerful punk rock songs of the modern era.
“I’ve been the victim of domestic violence,” says Aimee. “So has my mother. So have so many of my girlfriends. I knew I had to write a song about it. The song is kind of a fantasy, how women who’ve been the victims of domestic violence would like things to play out but they’re too afraid to fight back. It’s a song about not being sorry about standing up for yourself.”
“I think the most powerful line in the song is ‘She’d do it again’”, adds Kevin. “It’s a song about justice…”
As well as being one of punk rock’s most interesting new voices, Aimee has – literally – one of the coolest
“I’ve been singing as long as I remember,” says Aimee of her throaty rasp (think Brody Dalle gargling wasps). “I never cared about singing well, I just cared about getting what I was feeling inside out. I remember singing for my mum when I was little and her bursting into tears and telling me I was the best. It was then I thought, ‘maybe I could do this’. When I got older, I moved from Montana to LA and would spend every day walking up and down Sunset Boulevard asking people if they were in a band and if so could I join…”
This, she says, was because “it’s what people do in films. How else was I to know how to join a band?” Aimee’s journey to the front of the stage with The Interrupters was certainly storied…
“I had a solo thing before. I was playing in a club with my punk band and [musician, producer of superstars and American Idol’s longest serving judge] Randy Jackson was there. He helped me get signed and Mark Ronson produced my first solo album [2003’s ‘I’d Start A Revolution If I Could Get Up In The Morning’]. The music was pretty confused. It was kind of hip-hop and rock. Very produced. It never really felt right and that album didn’t actually get a proper release in the end.”
“For me? Everything started when I joined The Interrupters. They were the band I always dreamed of being in…”
Their heroes genuinely love them – so you should too!
“It’s the highest honour that Rancid took us on our first tour,” says Kevin, excitedly. “That Tim Armstrong has produced our albums. That Green Day took us out on tour. We would be nothing without those bands. But you know what the best thing about those bands championing us? We’ve learned so much and we’ve learned from the very best. They treat people well. Most importantly, they treat their fans well. They’re the model for what we want to do with The Interrupters…”
The Interrupters’ 2020 Tour is on sale now. It starts on January 27 in Cardiff and ends in London on February 7. Their third album, ‘Fight The Good Fight’, is out now on Hellcat/Epitaph Records.