As much as old punkers love to sit around and reminisce about the good ol’ days of “real” punk rock, even the crabbiest of aging punks have to admit there are some solid young bands out there these days. L.A.-based ska-punk quartet The Interrupters are likely to come up in that conversation as a prime example of a youthful band doing things the right way. That’s particularly true if you ask bands like Dropkick Murphys and Green Day — who have brought the young group on tour with them — or Tim Armstrong of Rancid, who jumped onstage with them two years ago at the inaugural It's Not Dead festival and also helped guide the band both on the road and in the studio when they were first getting started.
“It’s crazy because you blink and four years have gone by with two albums,” says guitarist Kevin Bivona. “After touring with these career bands like Rancid … the thing that I realized is that we all just grabbed a guitar at a young age, put together a band and went out to play shows. It’s super inspiring for us to be on shows with a band like that, because they can show us that we can make this our life if we put the work in and believe in what we’re saying. We come home from these tours inspired, and when you have that kind of opportunity, the only thing you can do is put 100 percent of your heart and soul into it.”
The Interrupters only burst onto the scene a few years ago with their 2014 self-titled record, but they’d been working together for some time before that. Bivona began working on vocalist Aimee Allen’s solo project while still maintaining his old reggae-rock band with a rhythm section made up of his brothers — twins Justin and Jesse — before the four got together to form the band as it’s known today. Six years later, the Bivona brothers and Allen are repping the next generation of punk music, and they’re helping to bring ska back at the same time.
“That brand of upbeat ska was the most fun for us to play,” Bivona says. “It’s just a formula that works for us, so we figured we’d give it a shot on that first record. We didn’t have a long game plan for this band or plan to make a career out of having a ska band, but we were just the most responsive to those songs when we got in the studio.”
Off the strength of anthemic hits like “Take Back the Power” (which has showed up everywhere from cellphone commercials to television programs to sporting events), “Family” and “She Got Arrested,” The Interrupters have become new staples at punk-rock venues and festivals around the world. Back in 2015 — before their sophomore record, Say It Out Loud, had even dropped — the group performed at the inaugural It’s Not Dead festival in San Bernardino, one of just a handful of younger bands on a lineup dominated by such veteran acts as Bad Religion, The Vandals and Pennywise. With another set lined up at the second It’s Not Dead this weekend, Bivona and the rest of the band can’t wait to get back onstage and perform alongside a bunch of bands with twice their age and experience.
“We grew up listening to these guys’ records and making tapes of all these bands, so it’s pretty surreal to be calling these kinds of guys our peers,” Bivona says. “We’re not exactly reinventing the wheel; we’re just trying to keep it rolling because this type of music was so important to us growing up. There are going to be kids discovering punk rock every day and going out to buy an Operation Ivy CD, and if we can have our record anywhere near those records, that’s a dream come true.”
As Bivona sees it, that first It’s Not Dead was about as perfect of a punk festival as can be. This year’s lineup, which features The Interrupters' tourmates Rancid and Dropkick Murphys as headliners, is arguably just as spectacular, as festival producer Kevin Lyman (also the man behind Warped Tour) once again continues to outdo himself in the name of punk rock.
“Kevin Lyman took a chance with us doing the first It’s Not Dead, but we got to know him really well last summer while we were doing the Warped Tour,” Bivona says. “He just loves music, and he’s been trying to put punk bands onstage for longer than most kids have been alive. I think the response and the attendance he got from the last It’s Not Dead shows that there is still an abundance of people who want to see this music. I think we can expect to see a big turnout again with everyone having a good time listening to real punk rock.”
The Interrupters play It's Not Dead with Rancid, Dropkick Murphys and many more at Glen Helen Park on Saturday, Aug. 26. Tickets and more info.