Interrupting the Interrupters
It's pretty much impossible not to like the Interrupters — either the band, or the members who compose it. On stage, the ska-punk outfit belt out catchy, anthemic, morsels of joy with titles like "A Friend Like Me" and "Family," that stress the bonds of… well, friends and family. An Interrupters show is both a raucous affair and a communal one — a mosh pit with fists in the air one minute, hundreds of voices joyfully singing and smiling in unison the next.
Meanwhile, singer Aimee Interrupter and the three brother Bivonas — guitarist Kevin, bassist Justin, and drummer Jesse — are as affable and engaging off-stage as they are on. The whole "family' thing they promote in song and on social media band dinner videos is not just an act: They literally are family, with spouses Aimee and Kevin living together in one house while the rhythm section twins occupy another. And their concerts feel like one big get together, with the audience acting as various extended family members from town to town.
As previously mentioned, they're pretty much impossible not to like. Which is why I kinda felt bad having to throw their band name back in their collective face on the eve of the release of their fourth studio album, In the Wild (available on Aug. 5 from Hellcat/Epitaph Records). But because the group are such good sports, they consented to my concept of periodically interrupting them during our interview when they least suspected it. This is… interrupting the Interrupters.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, why don't you tell everybody how you all first came together as a band?
KEVIN BIVONA: We met each other while…
So anyway, was there ever any discussion about you all going full Ramones and everyone taking the last name Interrupter instead of just Aimee?
JESSE BIVONA: No, because it happened organically, and we're all brothers and they're married. So we're not like the Ramones. Our last name's actually Bivona.
KEVIN BIVONA: If anything, it'd be the Bivonas.
So why not become the Bivonas, like Van Halen or something?
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: It should have been.
KEVIN BIVONA: It's a very interesting name. I haven't met many other Bivonas.
JUSTIN BIVONA: Maybe it'll be an album title one day.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: It's the name of a town [their ancestors came from] in Sicily. And the twins took a pilgrimage to Sicily, to the little town of Bivona.
JESSE BIVONA: We went and visited our namesake, tiny little mountain town in the middle of Sicily.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: And everything was closed. And they didn't speak Italian, so they just showed them their ID and they were like, "Oh."
I saw you guys play both before COVID hit and after. I'm curious how it's different from your end. What are the challenges of touring with COVID out there?
KEVIN BIVONA: Well, it's…
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: It's a laundry list. See, now I'm interrupting him!
KEVIN BIVONA: I think you were going to say, being safe and super conscious of everyone's health, how's everyone feeling, and trying to operate in a way where we're not being irresponsible. Touring used to be wild. We'd go into a city. And if we had the night off, we would just go all around town, go to restaurants. Maybe, we would go to find other concerts that were happening of other bands that were on tour. But now it's different. If you have the night off, it's irresponsible to go out to as many places as you can. And we kind of stay in a bubble with our whole touring party.
And there is a beautiful brand new appreciation for live music on both sides of it, whether it's the audience or the band. We're so grateful to be back out on tour. And I think that that is the one silver lining is how important and irreplaceable and essential live music is. And that's something I've noticed, on top of the fact that we all have to be using hand sanitizer all the time.
I know you're about to play a bunch of European dates. How is touring Europe different from America?
JESSE BIVONA: Well, they don't have…
So, moving on, what's the worst show you all have ever played?
JUSTIN BIVONA: We did a show in Australia. It was 110 degrees. And we all got offstage and threw up immediately.
KEVIN BIVONA: Immediately! We didn't even talk about it. We all walked to separate corners of this field and started throwing up.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: Because it was that hot. It was the hottest show in the world.
KEVIN BIVONA: And we were wearing suits.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: And I was wearing a leather jacket. And the thing about the leather jacket is if you miscalculate and you put on the leather jacket and it gets too hot and you've miscalculated, it's too sweaty in the leather jacket to actually come off! So you're stuck with it.
KEVIN BIVONA: It becomes a part of you.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: It becomes a part of you! There's no slipping it off. It's just stuck. So I was stuck with that leather jacket in 120 degrees. The hot ones are the hardest ones.
KEVIN BIVONA: I'm trying to think if we ever had any straight up disasters on stage. In Salt Lake City, I went for my guitar solo in our song "This is the New Sound," and I fell off of a 10-foot stage and broke my arm in the middle of the show. That wasn't rad. But I got back up and I finished the set with a broken arm. I gaff taped my wrist, and then I was in shock. So I took advantage of that, the adrenaline of the shock. And then I started feeling very faint and I was like, "This is going to be our last one guys."
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: But you asked if there was a doctor in the house.
KEVIN BIVONA: And there were two doctors! I was like, "I think we've made it. There are doctors here"
How many more dates did you have to do with that arm?
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: All of them.
JESSE BIVONA: Three months of touring.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: Because we went on tour with Green Day right after that. And we weren't going to miss that for the world. We pulled it together. I iced him every night while he was sleeping.
KEVIN BIVONA: Like an assistant coach. I'd come off stage. She'd be like, "You have to ice." I'm like, "I don't feel like it." She's like, "You got to ice."
You have some different sounds on the new album, including almost even like doo-wop in some spots like "My Heart? Where did that song come from?
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: That song I wrote about my 13-year-old German shepherd wolf dog that passed. And I was so sad. I had her for 13 years. She was just my whole life. And when I lost her, I had this song that I would sing in my head, the chorus from "My Heart."
And I was singing it and I sang it for Kevin and he put some guitar chords behind it. And I said, "It doesn't have to be an Interrupters song, but let's just do this song for my heart." And we tried in some ways to try and make it an Interrupters song briefly, maybe for a few minutes. And then we were just like, "You know what? Let this song be what it wants to be." This song is its own thing.
KEVIN BIVONA: It's like that sixties, Phil Spector, girl group vocals with the backgrounds. And her having written the song in that way, it felt like the best thing we could do to support the song was to just play it that way. And it ended up sounding like an Interrupters song when we all played it on our instruments and we had her vocals.
So that was the cool thing about this record, is just letting the song dictate what style the song wanted to be. And us just doing our best to support that. And I think it took us in some really cool places on this, while still keeping it in our universe.
How do your songs usually come together? Or is there no typical way that you all write your songs?
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: I don't think there's a typical way. Sometimes I'll write a chorus and sing. I'll sing it around the house or I'll sing it on tour until they give in and decide that it's amazing and we've got to record it and write it. Sometimes it's just lyrics. Sometimes Kevin will sit on the piano or the guitar and I'll just start singing. There's a song, "Kiss the Ground," on the album where Kevin just picked up the guitar and I just start singing the chorus. And Kevin's like, "That's great."
KEVIN BIVONA: I'll be like "Yeah, that's a song. We should make a voice memo of that so we don't forget."
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: We have 40 to 80 song ideas.
KEVIN BIVONA: Once the seed of the song is there, we collect them all. And then all four of us get in a room on our instruments and go through them. And the ones that come naturally, that we could really work out as a band are always the ones at the front of making a record. And the ones that I feel like we're pulling teeth to get it together, we're always like, "All right, let's come back to that one." And sometimes...
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: Yeah and, sorry to interrupt, but if we're not really excited about it and really passionate about it...
KEVIN BIVONA: We kind of move past it. And then we'll always come back to it. Later we'll be like, "Hey, what about that one thing?" And it's like, "No, remember, we didn't like that." But we recorded a song on this record that we were like, "Oh, I don't know if it belongs on this record." And then as we were mixing the record, one of the twins pulled it up and we listened to it. And Aimee was just like, "Whatever happened to this song?" We're like, "Ah, we decided it didn't fit." She goes, "No, this fits. This needs to be on the record."
And she hadn't done vocals yet. So while we were mixing the record, she goes back in the studio, does vocals for this song. And that song is called "Worst for Me," which is an up tempo punk rock song on the record. And she was totally right. The record totally needed it. Totally fit in with her story. It is her story. And it's one of those songs where we were just having one of those nights where they were like, "Hey, remember this one?" And pulled it up on their phone and played it. And we were like, "Yeah."
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: The twins are the archivists of the band.
JUSTIN BIVONA: What about this one from four years ago?!
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: They have every idea we've ever thought of in a catalog. And they record all of our shows. So every show's recorded. Everything we've ever done, they have recorded away.
I'm now waiting for the deep cuts box set to come out.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: So are they.
JUSTIN BIVONA: I'm already writing the liner notes.
What about when it comes to covers? I've seen you guys do covers live, obviously you have the Billie Eilish song. So how do you decide which songs you want to cover?
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: I think it goes back to the...
All right, next question: Which song do each of you love to play the most live?
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: We have a lot of songs where the crowd sings with us because it's not our show, it's everybody's show. We're all a part of it. So any song that everybody's singing is my favorite. And when that happens, I am the happiest. It's just everything I could ask for. It's the most beautiful thing in the world. It makes me feel less alone. "Got Each Other" is a good example of that.
JESSE BIVONA: I'm going to go with "Broken World." Whenever we're talking about set list, I'm always a champion for putting "Broken World" on the set list. It's one of those ones where we're all doing this, as far as vocals and what we're playing on our instruments and stuff. So it's not always "fun to play," but it's a big vocal. The crowd sings along loud. And I think, not to get full of ourselves, but I think it's impressive when we pull it off.
KEVIN BIVONA: He likes a challenge. I don't like a challenge.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: I don't like a challenge.
KEVIN BIVONA: I like simplicity. My favorite song to play by the Interrupters in a concert is "Friend Like Me," because that is, for me, the easiest song to pull off. And it was the first song we ever recorded. And everyone's singing and I love that.
JUSTIN BIVOINA: I've always had fun playing "She Got Arrested," but honestly, on this last tour, "Judge Not." I know it's not our song. It's a cover. But we put that third in the set, and when it comes up, I'm just having so much fun dancing and playing that one.
KEVIN BIVONA: Yeah, that might be my current favorite to play too. It's so fun to play.
JUSTIN BIVONA: It's something where even if you're in a slump for the first two songs, when that comes in, I'm just like, "Oh yeah. Okay."
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: And "This is my Family" is one of my favorites because the crowd sings, "this is my family." We all sing together. Feels like a nice pasta dinner with everyone.
Okay, maybe the most important question of this interview: Who controls the stereo while on tour?
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: I think I probably do. Because we drive in silence.
KEVIN BIVONA: True. However, on the last tour, we had to quarantine in Cincinnati, Ohio for 10 days. And Justin discovered this song called "Cincinnati, Ohio." And if you want to talk about who's controlling the stereo, he played that song every day for the rest of the tour. We would just get on the bus and he'd be like, "Cincinnati, Ohio." It was actually a really good song. I forgot what the artist name is.
JUSTIN BIVONA: Connie Smith.
KEVIN BIVONA: Anyways, that became the theme song of the tour. But Aimee used to control the stereo. And now whoever is maniacal enough to torture us controls the stereo.
JESSE BIVONA: There was also a period of time where you just had your noise canceling headphones and you'd be like, "Listen to whatever you guys want! I'm in my own world."
KEVIN BIVONA: It's true. We had a van driver one time that would put on a record while he was driving overnight. But he couldn't pick up his phone to change the album. So it would just loop and loop and you'd wake up after three hours and he'd be like, "Oh, hey, are you awake? Can you change this record?" Dude, I know, I've been listening to it!
When and why did you guys start putting little platform boxes on the stage to be able to jump on while performing?
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: Since the beginning.
KEVIN BIVONA: Our first tour, we were opening for Rancid and they had them up there. And we were just like, "Oh, this is fun. I want to jump off these." So then when we weren't touring with them, we just had our own.
Ever have any mishaps jumping on or off one of those things?
KEVIN BIVONA: That was my broken arm.
JUSTIN BIVONA: I fell on my butt once.
KEVIN BIVONA: Justin in Vegas one time jumped up and it slid out from under him. And this is earlier in the tour we were all talking about. We've all fallen down on stage, right? And Justin's like, "I've never fallen down on stage." And I'm like, "Well then you haven't been on stage enough." And then sure enough in Vegas. And it was scary because when he jumped up on the box and it slid off from under him, it shot into the barricade and he fell on his butt. And I just remember looking at him like, "There you go. We got one."
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: Wait, have I fallen on stage?
Don't jinx yourself.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: Oh no!
KEVIN BIVONA: Jesse fell off a stage one time before a show.
JESSE BIVONA: It was on the Rancid tour. We were in Edmonton, and we were doing a changeover. We're about to go on in literally eight minutes. And I'm standing on the side of the stage, and me and Justin get the set list out. And then we're like, "All right, great." Then I took one step back and there was no more stage. My rib caught the side of the stage.
KEVIN BIVONA: It was a high stage.
JESSE BIVONA: It was an eight-foot stage. So I fell. My rib caught it. I hit the ground. Justin turned around and goes, "Where'd you go?" And then I'm on the floor. "What are you doing down there?" We go back up to the dressing room to get ready for the show. And as soon as I open the door and walk in, Kevin and Aimee looked at me and go, "What happened?" They could see it on my face or something.
KEVIN BIVONA: He was sweating.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: His whole side was all bruised.
JESSE BIVONA: I had a micro fracture in my rib and it hurt to sing for a week.
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: But you played the drums. And you like a challenge.
KEVIN BIVONA: He doesn't want to brag, but he will.
JESSE BIVONA: I'm just glad I didn't break my leg. Because looking back on it, I got off easy, honestly.
KEVIN BIVONA: We would've still made you play with a broken leg. He likes a challenge.
Before I let you all go, anything you would like to say to your fans?
AIMEE INTERRUPTER: We…
Well, I think we're all out of time. Thanks again!