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Interviews

Interview: The Interrupters Talk “Fight The Good Fight”, Self-Empowerment, and Warped Tour

By: Jessica Nakamoto –

The Interrupters. (Photo: Lisa Johnson)

The Interrupters. (Photo: Lisa Johnson)

Consisting of the three Bivona brothers on guitar, bass, and drums, and Aimee ‘Interrupter’ Allen on lead vocals, California foursome, The Interrupters are making waves with some new dance-worthy tracks. The band is no stranger to the spotlight as their list of accomplishments boasts impressive feats such as sharing the stage with punk-icons, Green Day, working closely with acclaimed producer and member of Rancid, Tim Armstrong, and even having a song featured in a T.V. broadcasted T-Mobile commercial. Yet, more impressive still, is the fact that all this success has come with only two albums under the band’s proverbial belt.

Thus, it’s no surprise that with a new album set for release in the near future (Fight the Good Fight out June 29 via Hellcat Records), fans have been chomping at the bit, eager to see what the new record will bring for the already acclaimed group.

Combining elements of ska, Two-Tone, and punk-rock, the album is yet another example of The Interrupters’ successful genre-melding style. With a theme of overcoming adversity and a characteristic up-tempo beat coursing through the twelve-song track list, Fight the Good Fightdoes not disappoint.

We had the pleasure of speaking with guitarist, Kevin Bivona who gave us some special insight into the new record, self-empowerment, and even his stage diving experiences!

Congratulations on your new album Fight the Good Fight, out June 29!

Kevin: Thank you so much! We’re really excited, the date is coming up super quick!

Could you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the record?

Kevin: Yeah! We did a lot of writing for this one [album], more than we did for the last two. We wrote around thirty songs! We pulled some that were brand new and some that might have been a couple years old. Basically, we were just trying to come up with the best material we had. Then, we got together at the end of last year with Tim Armstrong [producer and member of the band Rancid], went through stuff and started demoing and arranging it.

I think the main thing with this record is that it includes songs that we connected with more, as far as the spirit behind them. And of course, we tried to pick the strongest ones. So, that was definitely a big difference between this one [record] and the last couple [records]. We wrote more than we needed and we just picked what we thought were the best twelve in the end.

I see! Did all of you write songs individually before bringing them to the production table?

Kevin: No, not really. Aimee and I are kind of the main songwriters. Tim Armstrong himself, is also an amazing songwriter in his own right. He brings a lot to the table when we’re getting together to make these records.

Oh! And, to go back to the last question about inspiration, with the title, Fight the Good Fight, there’s a recurring theme throughout the record of overcoming adversity whether it be social, political, or anything you’re up against. Really, whatever your fight is. When we were finishing up the record and were trying to come up with a title, that kind of encompassed the vibe of the whole thing.

The title seems to serve as a really cool rally cry or call to action!    

Kevin: Yeah! And the thing that’s really interesting is that the record was done, but we still had a couple of titles we were kicking around. We had one title that we kind of decided on, and then, the very last day…actually, the day the record was getting mastered, Aimee called me and said, “you know, I think Fight the Good Fightshould be the name of the album”.

It’s a saying that’s been in our universe for a while. When we recorded our very first album, it was graffitied on the wall outside the studio and we took pictures next to it. We wrote a song called “Fight the Good Fight” on the first record, but it didn’t really fit. That song never came out, but, we thought it was a really cool saying. And, as we were getting ready to put this one [the new record] to bed, that was when Aimee was like, that’s got to be the name of the album!” Everyone loved the title and it just fit. It was a perfect thing.

Definitely! So, as your third album, how do you think the songs in Fight the Good Fightare similar to or different from your previous works?

Kevin: I don’t know how different it is! (laughs) As a band and as songwriters, we’re always trying to grow. So really, it might be more of a growth than a change. I think growth means trying to elevate ourselves as songwriters, singers, arrangers, and trying to make the best record possible. We’ve learned so much in our years of touring and making music together. We learned about ourselves and about the kind of music we want to make and the songs we want to put out. So, we kind of put all that stuff into it [the new record]. I think that’s one thing that would be different [from the previous albums]. It could seem like a change to some people, but, to us, it’s a sum of where we’re at now and it’s our growth as a band.

I know that in the past, you’ve have explored a range of music genres from ska, to 2 Tone, to punk-rock. Do you usually have a game plan when you get in the studio for which direction you want songs to go, or does that come a little later?

Kevin: That’s the fun thing about getting in the studio and having a producer like Tim Armstrong! Sometimes we’ll write a song and play it for him. It’ll be a punk-rock song, and he’ll be like, “try that song ska”. We won’t think it’ll work, but he’ll say, “do this, and change the tempo to this, and try this”. We do it and are like, wow! This is so much better! Or, the opposite has happened, when we’ve written a ska song, and he’ll say “double-time it and make it like a punk-rock song”. And the same thing happens [it turns out great]! That’s the cool thing about getting in the studio and working with Tim! He’s not only a great producer, but he’s in some of our favorite bands. He gets how bands work and he gets right in there like a fifth band member! It’s so helpful! He gives a nice objective view of what we’re doing and is someone we trust and respect.

A lot of that stuff happens in the studio. Sometimes we’ll write a song and sometimes it’ll be exactly how we’d thought it would be. But, we do like to experiment. Even if that’s the case [things turn out the way they planned], we’ll try it [experimenting] because you never know until you hear it!

Speaking about Tim, he not only works as your producer, but I saw that his band, Rancid, also did some vocals for one of your new tracks!

Kevin: Yeah! We were very lucky to have all four members of Rancid on our track, “Got Each other”, which is a street-punk, unity song. Each guy kicked a verse, and Branden [Branden Steineckert – drums for Rancid] was singing with us in the choruses. We are very grateful for that! Tim always does a vocal feature on our records. On the first record, he did “Family”, and on the second record he did “Phantom City”. This time, he brought the whole band with him and we were so excited to have that happen!

Wow! Sounds like fun! Does Tim pick the songs he wants to guest-star on or is it you guys who ask him to jump in?   

Kevin: It ends up being a mutual decision, but we always ask for more! (laughs) We’re like, “you should get in on this one! And this one! And this one!” and he’ll be like, “you guys! You got it with this one!” But, “Phantom City” was one where we worked together in the studio. It came out of a jam! We didn’t even have a song! We just started jamming and he [Tim] came up with the hook. Once we heard it come out of his mouth, we were like, “you’re the one who has to sing it!” So, he did a verse. Same thing with “Family”.

And then, with “Got Each Other”, it was a very basic idea that we showed him. On the first two records he sang ska songs. But this one, he heard it [the song] and was like, “this is thesong!” He was the one who gave us the pitch: what if we got all of Rancid together to sing! And we were like, wow! Sign us up! (laughs) It was such a great idea and it wasn’t something that we would have thought of. It was something that he came up with when he heard it. He said it could be a great unity song to get all the guys on, and he was totally right! We’re really happy with how that one came out!

The Interrupters will release their new album, Fight the Good Fight, on June 29th via Hellcat Records.

The Interrupters will release their new album, Fight the Good Fight, on June 29th via Hellcat Records.

That’s awesome! You mentioned unity and a sort of joint togetherness. It’s pretty amazing that both you and your twin brothers all picked music as a career path and even play in the same band!

Kevin: I know! It’s interesting! Speaking with a lot of musician friends, it seems like you don’t pick music, music picks you. It’s the same for Aimee. She’s been singing before she could talk! We all grew up playing in bands and it’s really the only thing that we’re good at and relentlessly never gave up at. We’re super lucky to be able to have the band and be able to go around and tour, make records, and play shows. We feel like the luckiest band in the world!

For sure! When you were growing up, how did you each discover what instrument suited you the best?

I don’t know, I kind of tried them all out! I tried drums first, but it was too much equipment to set up. My first band, I played drums, but I didn’t want to have to go with all that stuff. My Dad would have to pack it all in the van. Guitar seemed like an easier route. Then, for the twins, who are younger than me, I was like, “you play drums and you play bass”, and they ended up being great at those instruments! I think we were all so young when we decided that it’s kind of baked in their cake now! Jesse’s a great drummer and Justin’s a great bass player and those are their favorite instruments to play. So, we dabbled in all of them, but landed on what we play in The Interrupters, which is me on guitar, Jesse on drums, and Justin on bass.

Who inspired your music interest, or what was the first concert that you went to as a kid?

Kevin: Those are actually two very different answers! The first concert I went to was Michael McDonald when I was around 8 years old. I haven’t really pursued that genre. I love all genres of music, but I can speak for all of us when I say, punk-rock was the thing that resonated with us. We all discovered it around the same age. It was when we were in middle school and throughout high school. We were lucky to grow up in a time when there were such great records coming out like Hellcats and Epitaph. Just all the great punk-rock compilations in the 90’s. Even with all the music that we listened to, that’s [punk rock’s] the place we would go back to. It’s kind of like when we started this band. We had been playing in a lot of different bands with different styles, but this feels the most like home and it came the most natural to us.

Bringing it back around to the new record, I wanted to talk a little bit about the two songs you guys have released off the album. I really like the rebellious energy that’s present in, “She’s Kerosene”!

Kevin: Thanks! Have you heard the whole record?

I have! “She’s Kerosene” is definitely my favorite though!

Kevin: That’s awesome! In the studio, that’s one we all thought should be a single. It was kind of everyone’s favorite from the band and the label. Everyone got excited about that. And, when everyone gets excited about something, that’s usually a good sign! We thought it would be a good one to make a video for and we’re stoked about that too. We’ve even been playing it [“She’s Kerosene”] in the set [live show] now.

Was there any inspiration or story behind that particular song?

Kevin: Aimee kind of says it best because it’s one [song] that’s sort of close to her. But, it’s about breaking free of narcissistic abuse. Being in a relationship with a narcissist could be friendships, family, or any kind of relationship, really. And in a way, going back to one of our old songs, it’s about taking back the power [“Take Back the Power” – song from 2014 album] and breaking free from that cycle of abuse. It’s a self-empowerment song. Aimee said that she hopes when someone hears that song, and if they connect with it, they can find the power to break free from an abusive relationship.

Was this theme of empowerment something that you knew you wanted to tackle from the beginning of the record, or did it develop more as you went along?

Kevin: We never really have an agenda going in, but with the personal songs, and even the political songs, it’s all about being the best version of yourself that you can be. It’s ok to be different, and it’s ok to be unique. It’s a crazy world that we live in, but as long as we’ve got each other’s backs, we can get through anything. That’s kind of how we go through life as a band and that kind of spirit gets filtered through our music and our lyrical content. That’s just where it lands for us.

I see! Well, you guys always seem to do this in a really positive upbeat way. I noticed a lot of dancing going on in the music videos!

Kevin: That’s the thing! Even when we’re singing about heavier topics, it’s always nice to put a good danceable beat behind it, because when we go to shows, people are there to have a good time with the friends and family! They want to connect with something and forget about all that crazy stuff for a minute. So, that’s why we love playing upbeat fun dance music.

Do you have a signature dance move when you’re on stage?

Kevin: Oh yeah! (joking) It’s called the, trying not to slip and fall down move! (laughs)

Nice one! (laughs) You guys are jumping out and joining the Vans Warped Tour shortly after the album drops. Do you have a funny story or favorite memory that you could share from previous performances at Warped?

Kevin: Yeah! We did the Warped Tour in 2016 and it was one of the best times of our lives! One of our favorite nights was when Kevin Lyman [founder Vans Warped Tour] had asked us to play at one of the barbecues and learn some covers. The next thing you knew, we had turned into a full-on karaoke band! We were playing Rancid songs and Pennywise songs and all these other singers from other bands came up and sang them with us. It was such a fun night! It ended with us doing “Bro Hymn” by Pennywise and Kevin Lyman crowd surfing and hanging from the rafters of this little old place we were playing within the venue. That was a really fun memory!

That’s awesome! Would you ever crowd surf yourself?

Kevin: Oh! I definitely have! I don’t know if I would do it now though. I’m very injury prone! I fell off the stage and broke my arm in October!

Oh, my goodness!

Kevin: I’m trying to keep it very safe now! (laughs)

Definitely! In addition to Warped, you guys have been doing a lot of festivals recently, like Punk in Dublick!

Kevin: Those are a lot of fun! Especially playing with bands like Bad Religion! That’s a real bonus, getting to perform with some of our favorite bands. And we just did the Punk in Drublik Campout with Rancid and Mighty Mighty Bosstones! Not only are they some of our favorite bands, but they’re our friends now! We love doing festivals!

Speaking about big names, earlier, you guys hopped on a huge tour with Green Day across Europe and South America, right?

Kevin: Yes! We were lucky to go on the Radio Revolution Tour with Green Day. They took us to Europe, England, South America, Australia, New Zeeland, and they [Green Day] were just the best! They were so welcoming! And their fan base was as well! We learned so much as a band, getting to do shows at that level. I can’t say enough good things about those guys. And their families too! Their families came on tour and they were great! That was definitely a surreal moment for us!

How fun! To finish up, I have a couple of fill in the sentences for you! Want to give it a go?

Kevin: Sure!

If I had a superpower it would be…

Kevin: Flying!

One song on my summer playlist is…

Kevin: “On My Radio” – The Selecter

My favorite ice cream flavor is…

Kevin: Coconut Strawberry from the Salt and Straw [ice cream brand]. It’s a vegan ice cream. It’s really good!

Yum! Last one! If I could tour anywhere, it would be…

Kevin: Japan! We haven’t been there yet, so we’re excited to hopefully go there on this record if we get the opportunity!

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