New Music Discovery of the Week: The Interrupters "In The Mirror"

This week's ALT 104.5 New Music Discovery of the Week is The Interrupters "In the Mirror"

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When considering Los Angeles outfit The Interrupters, take a moment to kindly forget jargon like “SoCal punk rock” or “next wave ska” or whatever perimeter you want to secure around them. A typical Interrupters gig feels like going to church where all the religious iconography is taken out and replaced with mirrors so the band and audience become one. Ignited by frontwoman Aimee Interrupter and the Bivona brothers’ indefatigable enthusiasm, attendees can see joy in action; discover strength in numbers; and feel bulletproof when facing the forces that haunt them. There are no victims or outcasts in attendance when the quartet are onstage: Transfixed by the legendary ‘80s 2 Tone ska movement and fueled with a contemporary energy that makes 180-bpm thrash-metallers seem positively slack, Aimee Interrupter and the Bivona brothers Kevin, Justin and Jesse blur the enthusiasm between band and audience in a way that’s equal parts dance party, cardio workout and personal therapy.

The Interrupters formed in the band’s hometown of Los Angeles in 2011. Guitarist Kevin Bivona and his twin brothers Justin (bass) and Jesse (drums) were thrilled by the 90’s punk-rock resurgence as well as the groove, energy, and messages found in the original 2 Tone ska bands. Prior to meeting Aimee, the Bivonas were mainstays of Tim Timebomb And Friends, the ad hoc band founded by Tim Armstrong, working in the studio and backing the Rancid co-founder on tours. It was only after the Bivonas met Aimee in 2009 and started playing together did The Interrupters know they had a 100db je ne sais quois between them. Armstrong has been a mentor, producer, and acted as an honorary “fifth Interrupter” with the band, offering sage advice to parallel the band’s sweat equity.

Their self-titled 2014 debut caught on like pacific coast wildfire, bolstered by incredible songs, Aimee’s 100,000-watt charisma, and a stage presence best described as the kinetic energy of Hi-Bounce balls in human form. The Interrupters maintained their velocity across two additional LPs, Say It Out Loud (2016) and 2018’s tour de force, Fight The Good Fight, all issued on Hellcat, Armstrong’s imprint via Epitaph Records. And let’s not forget the relentless touring that included a stint on the Vans Warped Tour and various support slots for punk-rock royalty such as Rancid, Bad Religion, Green Day, among others.

At the start of 2020, the band’s intentions were to record a new album and open up for Green Day’s intended summer stadium tour. But, as we all know, things shifted, so while the world was going through the isolation and biological fear of the pandemic and its attendant social and cultural maladies, The Interrupters did what they did best—get on with it.

The first order of business was creating the documentary, This Is My Family, culled from interviews, archive material, and glorious footage of the band throwing down at the Summer Sonic Festival in Tokyo. A compelling watch for both hardcore fans and the uninitiated, the doc shows the intrepid team further blurring the lines between work and play. After that project’s completion, the band went all Fixer Upper on their LA compound, turning the garage into a 10 X 20 home studio, and learning the finer points of home remodeling (building, sanding, painting, etc.) via YouTube tutorials.

While previous releases were produced by Armstrong, the pandemic significantly limited his participation with this record. Kevin Bivona took his place in the producer’s chair as (in his words) “the accountable one,” overseeing the proceedings, reviewing the band’s backlog of tracks, supporting the ideas and contributions of life partner Aimee and his siblings, as well as sorting out an abundance of ideas recorded as cell phone voice memos. Freed from the constraints of recording schedules and the financial pressures of expensive studio time, the record took shape organically. If Aimee wanted to keep vampire hours and record vocals at two in the morning, it was no problem. If lyrics weren’t flowing, Kevin and Aimee would leave the compound on their bikes and shout ideas back and forth while cycling through the neighborhood. The result? The most personal Interrupters album to date—and the one all four members feel most connected to.

And for good reason: The breadth of styles the band chose to pursue gives another dimension to their fortifying, rocket-fuel-soaked ska. Into The Wild encompasses moments that are expected (“Worst For Me,” “Anything Was Better”), curious (the young-oldies vibe of “My Heart”), and the positively astonishing (the guitar-free, orchestral closer “Alien”). Pandemic be damned, The Interrupters made sure their fourth album would reflect the love they feel for their community in both their hearts and personal playlists. The band extended invites to local rocksteady homies Hepcat (“Burdens”), new-school British reggae ambassadors The Skints (“Love Never Dies”) and bona fide ska icon Rhoda Dakar from the legendary Bodysnatchers (the gloriously propulsive “As We Live”) who trades verses with Tim Armstrong himself.

While these details are truly exciting to hear, Into The Wild has a particular kind of resonance for Aimee. The relative ease of the proceedings had a profound effect on the vocalist, who felt empowered enough to embrace much darker, personal avenues in her lyrics.

“I feel like a burden has been lifted by making this record,” she reveals. “A huge weight is gone. If you ever want to know me, you can listen to this record, and I can die knowing it tells my story. While we were recording, I felt like I was healing and closing those chapters in my life. For years I tried to, but I never could. I wasn’t ready, or I was too traumatized. Now I feel strong enough, I’ve finally said what I’d been keeping inside for so long. And, it feels so good.”

“Us being this close-knit family, working and isolating in our own space is why the record’s called In The Wild,” says Kevin. “I almost felt like we were in the woods camping, and we only had each other to rely on. Once we started, it became our whole life and all-time fell away.” In The Wild may not be the record The Interrupters intended to make, but it’s the one they ultimately believe they were meant to make.

Eleven years in, four records deep, an incalculable number of road miles logged around the world, and significant radio chart success, The Interrupters remain committed to shaking off the ghosts, doing the work, and uplifting their fans for some psychic crowd-surfing. We live in a world where many bands’ level of fan investment is limited to waving at them through an open five-inch space of tinted limo windows. By comparison, The Interrupters are so dedicated to their mission, they’ll practically hang on the corner with you while you wait for your Uber. For that reason alone, you should see where In The Wild will take you.

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