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07 Apr 2017

Serious Message, Fun Sound: The Interrupters Bring Their Female-Fronted Punk-Ska Music to Coachella

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The Interrupters. The Interrupters.

Can a punk band have a serious message and still be a fun listen? The Interrupters have answered that question—with a resounding yes.

On Friday, April 14 and 21, the Los Angeles two-tone punk band will be making its Coachella debut.

Fronted by female vocalist Aimee Interrupter, the band also includes the Bivona brothers: Kevin (guitar), Justin (bass) and Jesse (drums). You may recognize Kevin Bivona; he is also a member of Transplants (with Tim Armstrong of Rancid and Travis Barker of Blink-182), and he played on Jimmy Cliff’s 2011 EP, Sacred Fire.

The Interrupters have addressed political subjects on the band’s first two albums. The 2014 song “Take Back the Power” includes the lyrics: “What’s your plan for tomorrow? Are you a leader or will you follow? Are you a fighter or will you cower? It’s our time to take back the power.” The 2016 track “She Got Arrested” addresses the subject of domestic violence.

During a recent phone interview, Kevin Bivona said that while the band addresses political subjects, it isn’t entirely political.

“I wouldn’t put (politics) first, because we’re musicians, and we’re a band, but we’re not politicians,” Bivona said. “Some of our songs are definitely politically charged, but not all of them. I think it’s a spectrum, and I think everyone is political to a certain degree. Maybe we are more political than some bands, but in our genre of punk rock, it’s actually pretty common to have a stance, at least. But not all of our songs are based around politics or government. (We also do songs about) any general injustices, general relationships with people, and standing up for yourself. Everybody is a little political, and we’re on the spectrum.”

Bivona was a professional musician long before helping form The Interrupters and has appeared on numerous albums by other artists. He said he tries to create a healthy balance with the other projects in which he takes part.

“It kind of balances itself out,” he said. “Being that we’ve been so lucky with the touring opportunities that we’ve gotten with The Interrupters lately, it’s been my primary focus. Sometimes, it works out where I can go do a couple dates with Rancid in between Interrupters tours. There hasn’t been anything conflicting yet, knock on wood. I kind of take each thing as it comes and just try not to get bombarded. It’s something I think about, though, having that kind of a balance.”

Last summer, The Interrupters played The Warped Tour. I asked him if he felt the current tour—founded on punk rock in the mid ’90s, and now primarily appealing to fans of pop-punk, Christian punk and metal bands—would make the average punk devotee feel out of place.

“It seems that way, genre-wise, when you look at it, but getting to know the founder, Kevin Lyman, throughout the summer and watching the way the whole organization works—it is the same tour as it was in 1997,” Bivona said. “I think the music has evolved and branched out into different areas, but there definitely still is a home for punk rock. … You’ll see more punk rock on that tour this year or next year, especially with the political climate the way it is. It’s always a good time when there’s a lot of protesting happening—it’s a good time for punk to bubble up again, because it never fully goes away.

“It is the same festival as it was, but the young people’s tastes have changed, and we’re trying to bring punk back. I think part of us playing last year was trying to build a bridge between old Warped Tour and new Warped Tour. We’re a new band, but we’re also very inspired by the original punk rock and ska. Being a new band helps bridge the two together. It was actually a lot of fun to do that tour, because it still has a very DIY punk ethic, and all the bands work together, no matter if they’re metal, pop-punk or techno. We all still have to wait in the same line to get food and get a shower.”

The Interrupters are signed with Hellcat Records, a label founded by Tim Armstrong of Rancid that is an offshoot of Epitaph Records, which was founded by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Bivona explained his love for the label.

“The best part for us was when we got our first pressing of our first album, and just seeing that Hellcat logo on there,” he said. “We all grew up as such big fans of that label. When the Give ’Em the Boot compilations started coming out, we wore those out back in the days of CDs, when they’d get all scratched up and you’d have to go get another one. Plus, Epitaph putting out all those Punk-O-Rama compilations—that was how we discovered music back then. I remember the first time I heard Hepcat on the first Give ’Em the Boot, and the first time I heard “Sidekick” by Rancid was on Punk-O-Rama. Being part of that legacy is the coolest thing.”

While The Interrupters are new to Coachella, Bivona is not: He played the festival with Tim Armstrong when they performed as part of Jimmy Cliff’s backing band in 2012.

“It’s a very California festival, and we’re looking forward to the whole experience of the thing,” he said. “(We’re looking forward to) playing to audience that may have never seen us before, (people) who go to that festival just to discover new music, because a lot of people buy a ticket before the lineup comes up, because they love discovering new music and being at the festival all weekend. We hope to grab some of them. We also want to check out the festival. Toots and the Maytals is performing. We want to see Dreamcar, which is the new band with the No Doubt guys and Davey Havok, so that’s also a cool experience for us.”

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