Los Angeles ska-punk band, The Interrupters’ new record, Say It Out Loud, came out last week on Epitaph Records. I caught up with frontwoman Aimee, and guitarist Kevin Bivona for a chat and to get an insight into its creation.
Why is music important to you?
KEVIN BIVONA: I ask myself that all the time! From a young age, it was one of those things that I noticed in life. We all grew up surrounded by music. It’s something me, my brothers [Justin – bass; Jesse – drums] and Aimee too, have always been interested in, right?
AIMEE: It’s one of those things where I feel like, I was born that way. There’s nothing I could do to stop it, I was born to make music, write songs and sings. It’s a part of how we were born.
KB: I can’t change a tyre or build stuff…
KB: I’ve tried to build things out of wood with nails and hammer but I always mess it up, I tried to put up some shelves… but music came naturally to me. It’s all I got.
What do you love most about ska music?
A: I like that it’s dance music and there’s socio-political commentary but it’s also fun! It’s so light. We just connect to it.
KB: Definitely. I think every era of ska too, every time it booms, even from like when it first boomed in Jamaica up to 2-Tone and then in the ‘90s when the third wave happened—it’s all a great snapshot of what is going on at the time. It’s never really gone away, I think part of it is because people like to dance and have a good time. That’s what drew me to it initially. Do you think we’re in a new wave, the fourth wave? I can never tell.
I saw people online asking the same thing!
KB: I remember in the early 2000’s when Hellcat [Records] was putting out The Slackers, The Aggrolites and Hepcat, I almost felt like that was a fourth wave in and of itself. Maybe we’re the fifth.
It doesn’t really matter! What matters is your music. I don’t particularly even like labelling music myself. I either like it or I don’t.
How do you feel about your new record?
KB: I’m personally very happy with it. I can speak for the whole band when I say that we put a lot of love into the writing, recording, mixing and everything for this record. Once we finished it, I went through a two week phase of like, oh it’s not good enough! I took a couple of weeks off listening to it. We got back together a couple of months later to do the video for ‘By My Side’ so I started listening to it again, I was so pleasantly surprised how it had aged in my mind. I’m so happy with it now.
A: Same here, me too.
What was the first song that you wrote for it?
KB: If we want to go way back, the song ‘Control’ on side A. We actually recorded that for our first album [The Interrupters, 2014] but it didn’t make the album because we hadn’t worked out a good way to arrange it yet. We recorded it and mixed it, it almost went on it but we scrapped it and decided to hang onto it. We played it live on tour and figured out the best way to do it live, then we recorded for this record.
What are each of your favourite songs on it?
A: That’s a good question. I love them all for different reasons [laughs], I really do. They all tell stories. We write about what we’ve gone through and what we see, it’s all very personal and experienced-based song writing. I honour all of them for what they are and the work and love we put it. I love ‘[On A] Turntable’ and ‘By My Side’ and ‘Phantom City’. ‘Good Things’ is a favourite.
KB: I like all those too. One that I didn’t always like but it grew on me and I think it might even be my favourite is ‘She Got Arrested’. As we were learning to play that for our live shows, I really started to like it. I like ‘The Valley’ song because it’s where we’re all from. We had a lot of fun recording it. My dad played the trombone on that one.
Lyrically, there’s themes of social control, observations of what goes on in mainstream media, it also touches on important issues like domestic violence and I love that there’s vibes of self-empowerment; when do you guys feel most empowered in your life?
KB That’s a good one. I feel most empowered when I can be of service. Anytime I can help someone, whether it’s helping them move some boxes outta there garage or helping them go through a hard time—that’s when I feel the most in control and powerful. I feel that’s why we’re put here on Earth. It’s a rewarding, good feeling. Helping others helps you. What about you Aimee?
A: I think, as human beings we are always creating, whether we’re creating goodness in the world or activity in the world, we’re always creating something. I feel most empowered when I am creating more love, more joy and more peace. I quit smoking and I don’t chain smoke anymore, I’ve been smoke free for five months and I feel like that helps me be of more service to others. I also smell better [laughs]. It helps me feel empowered and I can keep creating good in the world—that’s what we try to do with our music and that’s what we try to do when we’re not making music.
Where do you come up with your best ideas?
A: On the toilet!
KB: That’s so funny, it’s funny because it’s true!
A: Or in the shower.
KB: I don’t want to go too far into detail but, on our first album ‘Take Back The Power’ may or may not have been written on a bathroom break. That song has been really good to us [laughs]. I think that’s where most people do their thinking and their instagramming.
You know what else is good? Sometimes we’re on tour and we have these long van rides and we get that time, that space to come up with good concepts. If you’re in the van long enough, you’ll actually have enough time to have an idea, flesh it out and work out if it’s even a good idea. You could think you have the best idea ever and then six hours later you’re still thinking about it and you’re sitting in the band and you’ll be like, nah maybe that wasn’t the best idea. Good ideas happen all the time but so do bad ideas!
A: I don’t think there’s any such thing as a bad idea. It’s always good if it’s creative, but it might not be good enough to record.
What’s an idea you’ve come up with that you’re yet to execute?
KB: We fantasise a lot about bands we could tour with and people we could get on our record or collaborate with.
A: We have a lot of that going on, we fantasize a lot! [laughs].
Who would you like to collaborate with?
KB: There’s so many. We’ve been very lucky already. Tim Armstrong produced both our albums. We had Rancid sing background vocals on the new one.
A: On the song called ‘Loyal’.
KB: Dicky Barrett [The Mighty Mighty Bosstones] came in and sang. The guys from Less Than Jake came and collaborated on a song. We’re toured with all of our favourite bands…
A: Bad Religion, Rancid.
KB: I think a rad collaboration would be, a hard ska song with Joan Jett and Aimee singing together. I would love to hear that and be in that studio session.
A: That would be so cool.
How did Tim help shape the new record?
KB: The best thing about Tim as a producer is that he rescues you from yourself. When you get to in your head or you’re over thinking something, he’s really good at pulling you out of it…
A: Yeah and if you’re not having fun.
KB: Being unsure of a lyric or a chord change in a song is so common as someone in a band. When you’re doing it and you’re unsure of it, then Tim Armstrong looks at you and says, “I think it’s great!” You’re like, whoa! If it’s good enough for Tim Armstrong, I guess it’s good enough for all of us. He also reigns it in, when we might get a little too outside of ourselves in the sense of not going too far off the reservation musically [laughs].
I heard that Tim used the same guitar that he used when he did Operation Ivy on a couple of the tracks on your record?
KB: Yeah. It’s a secret weapon! I don’t even know what kind of guitar it is because it’s so beat up AND awesome! He plugged that thing in and it’s just got THAT sound! He brought it to the studio a couple of times. It definitely livened the tracks up.
A: Yeah, hell yeah! That was a moment.
What was one of the most fun moments you had while recording?
KB: We always have fun moments in the studio. We were about to do, It’s Not Dead Fest in L.A. and Less Than Jake was staying in town about a mile away from our house, they all came over. We played them a song that we had an idea for some horns on, they played horns and sang on it, we had drinks—it was so much fun! Also for this record we just threw a house party and had our friends come over and do background vocals…
A: Yeah, a lot of the gang vocals on the record are just parties we threw and got our friends to sing on it at our house and we recorded it.
KB: I engineered the new Rancid recording that’s happening right now. One day we were in the studio after hours and I was like, hey! While you guys are still here would you mind singing on the new Interrupters record? And they totally did! It was so funny, Lars we cracking jokes the whole time, he was like, “Wait… are we paying for this studio time right now while we’re working on your record?” He was messing with us, it was so funny. They’re good friends.
Are you coming to Australia?
KB: God I hope so! We don’t have anything booked right now. We were out there for Soundwave 2015 and had the best time ever.
A: We definitely want to come back.
KB: We’ll be back the next chance we get!
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