For several years, there have been a multitude of cool new ska bands trying to make the 4th wave of ska happen in Southern California. Unfortunately, none have been able to crack terrestrial radio, or any type of big time radio stream. When they started in 2012, a quintet from Los Angeles called The Interrupters were already poised to change that. Since first hitting the music scene, this band has climbed to the top of that proverbial mountain top. The band features Aimee Interrupter (lead vocalist), and the three brothers: Kevin Bivona (lead guitar), and the twins… Justin Bivona (bass) and Jessie Bivona (drums).
Before The Interrupters were the band they are today, they were playing shows like Tazy Phillipz’s “Ska Parade, Lounge” at the Slidebar in Fullerton. The band’s self-titled freshman album included other hits like “White Noise,” “Liberty,” “Family,” “A Friend Like Me” and their mega-hit “Take Back The Power.” As a band, the guys put out a great sound along with an energetic angst, which resonates with their fans. There’s one major factor that sets the band apart from the rest of the latest set of SoCal ska bands—their lead singer.
Aimee Interrupter’s unbelievable pipes and command the stage like a seasoned artist like Buddy Guy, or eve a more punk rock Gwen Steffani. Her stage presence is reminiscent of ska icon Pauline Black (The Selecter). Once the tunes get going, she belts out a sound similar to that of Blackhearts lead, Joan Jett, with the voice control of Dolores O’Riordan (the Cranberries). Another aspect of the band’s popularity is Kevin. He, too, is also a gifted performer. He tells funny stories, with great delivery between songs. His banter is very Dave Wakeling-esque (English Beat). As for their sound, it’s hard to put a finger on how to describe it. They are definitely a 3rd wave Punk-Ska band, but you can also hear that 80’s 2-tone feel with some 90’s Bosstones (Skacore) elements throughout their set. We’ll just call it the next frontier of ska.
Their first album was so successful and commercially viable in early 2015, the song “Take Back the Power” was featured in the Season 5 Trailer of the Showtime Series, Shameless. The song was also used in a national T-Mobile television commercial campaign, which drove YouTube hits for their music through the ceiling. The irony is not lost on their fans as they shamelessly love them. So this was a welcome sign of things to come.
To know how the band became this juggernaut of ska, it’s important to understand where they came from. The 3 Bivona brothers grew up in Los Angeles, listening to cool bands like most teens. They were into tunes by Operation Ivy / Rancid, the Offspring, and old school classics from the Clash and Prince Buster. Kevin is the oldest, and as luck would have it; one fateful day in 2005, he got the word he was the next keyboard player for the Transplants, the hip-hop punk fusion project led by Tim Armstrong of Rancid.
If that wasn’t ironic enough, Kevin later played with other bands, which included artists like Travis Barker of Blink 182 fame. He’s also performed on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Conan O’Brian. In 2011, Kevin engineered and mixed the Jimmy Cliff album Rebirth. The album was produced by Tim Armstrong. Both Armstrong and Bivona won Grammy’s for Best Reggae Album. Given Kevin’s impressive production chops, so it should come as no surprise that The Interrupters have a very distinct and well-produced sound.
In his early years, Kevin played with the Transplants, and had the occasional appearance with Rancid. When Armstrong started working with The Interrupters, their first album became a smash hit. Since then, the band has been playing everywhere and anywhere, honing their stage show and sound. Armstrong gave additional support by playing alongside them at countless shows. Aimee and the boys considered Tim, the 5th Interrupter. Every now and then, you may see icons of ska like Dickie Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Lynval Golding of the Specials, or Rhoda Dakar of the Bodysnatchers join them on stage.
In March, 2015, they released their EP, Babylon. The EP did well within the ska community. Consequently, Armstrong agreed to play along with them again. They went back to the studio to work on their sophomore album entitled, Say It Out Loud (Hellcat Records). The album came out, and the release coincided with their kick off of their appearance on the 2016 Warped Tour. Maybe only Warped Tour organizer, Kevin Lyman, knew just what an impact this band was going to have on the national stage. It came as no surprise to those in the know that they did as well as they did. Their single off the new album “By My Side,” took off like wildfire. What’s resonating most within the ska community is this song is getting the long awaited radio airplay. On deck for DJ’s everywhere is a song called “She Got Arrested.”
The Interrupters are currently in the midst of a North American tour, which features an all-female punk rock band as direct support. The band is called Bad Cop/Bad Cop (Fat Wreck Chords). The tour hits back in Socal at the Glass House in Pomona on November 25th. After the holidays, the band embarks on what may be a monumental tour. They are opening for Green Day on their European tour to support the band’s new album Revolution Radio. Their song Bang Bang is getting good airplay, so the tour should draw plenty of interest. Green Day lead singer, Billy Joe Armstrong is no stranger to up and coming bands that bring a pumpin’ sound. His son, Joey, is in the very successful band SMWRS. Since Billy produced their first two albums, it came as no surprise Green Day picked The Interrupters to be their opener.
With all that’s going on, the band recognizes they are in a great position, and they are grateful for the opportunity they have been given. Bottom line, their success is not by chance, or serendipity. It’s a result of hard work and being good, humble people. Truthfully, there‘s NO opulence, costumes, voice tracking or crazy lights at their shows. It’s just a great sound, raw emotion and energy, with a positive message. For those who have been waiting for that 4th wave of ska, the future is now. It’s just a hunch, but in about ten years, if you Google “the 4th wave of ska,” you just might read: The Interrupters are an American 4th wave Punk-Ska band from Los Angeles, California that was formed in 2012. In early 2017, they ushered in the 4th wave of ska and became part of that pantheon of great ska bands that defined a sound, revived a movement, and influenced a generation.
The Interrupters perform with Left Alone, Bad Cop Bad Cop, Johnny Madcap and the Distractions at The Glass House, 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909 856-3802, www.theglasshouse.us, Friday, Nov. 25, 7:30 p.m., $13-15. All ages.