Interview with The Interrupters guitarist/vocalist Kevin Bivona | By Ricky Frankel
It’s fair to say now that The Interrupters are a staple LA punk band. They have opened for legendary bands like Rancid, Green Day and Bad Religion and they really know how steal the show at a festival. One of the most surreal moments of this year’s Punk Rock Bowling Las Vegas was watching this massive wave of people rush to the stage right before their set started.
With two full-lengths and a ton of touring under their belts what is next for The Interrupters? In the short term, they are one of the very few bands that played It’s Not Dead Fest 1 in 2015 to be invited back play It’s Not Dead Fest 2 which is happening on August 26, 2017 at the Glen Helen Festival Grounds in San Bernardino, California. Features editor Ricky Frankel caught up with guitarist/vocalist Kevin Bivona to talk about It’s Not Dead Fest 2, what it was like working with Less Than Jake on their last album and their home, the San Fernando Valley.
When you are writing a new record, do you know right away which songs will be ska tracks and which will be a melodic punk tracks? How do you determine that?
That’s a good question! In some cases we know right away when the song is written how we are going to approach it but there have been times songs have been recorded both ways to see what feels best. “Control” from our second album was also recorded as a ska song but we felt the mid-tempo punk approach suited the song better. In many cases you don’t know ’til you try!
On your latest record Say It Out Loud (released through Hellcat Records in 2016), you have a song called “The Valley,” which is about the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. I’m from there as well — do you think the Valley gets too much flack from other parts of Los Angeles like Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood etc? If so, why do you think that is?
When I was growing up my city friends would make fun of the Valley. Back then they seemed so far away from each other! I never paid too much attention to that. I moved to Hollywood (like it says in the song) for 7 years, but ended right back up in my cozy suburban homeland!
Why do you think that the San Fernando Valley didn’t really develop its own punk scene like Hollywood and Hermosa Beach did even though the Valley produced bands like Bad Religion?
I can’t really say. We were lucky in the late 90s to have the Cobalt Cafe in Canoga Park. I think everyone who started a band in the Valley around that time has played there. 5 bucks at the door, all ages and sometimes up to 10 local bands on any given night.
What should people who don’t live in Los Angeles know about the Valley? What do you like best about it?
To people who don’t live in Los Angeles, the Valley IS Los Angeles. When I leave town I always just tell people I’m from LA because it’s all the same.
What was it like work with Less Than Jake in the studio for Say It Out Loud?Other than horns, did they add/ help with anything else?
That was one of the first sessions for the album and the reason they played on “You’re Gonna Find A Way Out” is because at the time it was the only song with vocals. They were super creative when coming up with horn parts and added a lot of great vocal harmonies that really elevated that track. We love those guys!
Other than the obvious metaphor, what is the story behind the lyrics of “On A Turn Table?”
That song, to me, reminds me to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty. Even if you have a bad day you can always wake up tomorrow and try again!
Tell me about the music video for “By My Side.” Where was it shot? How was the concept for initially thought up? You have a few big-name cameos in there as well.
We shot that video at South Bay Customs, a rad venue in El Segundo, California where we had played before. Great vibe, great owner, great energy and we just wanted to capture that. Tim Armstrong directed it and he’s amazing at capturing the urgency and excitement of a band performing live so we centered the video around live performance. He also made a cameo along with his bandmate Matt Freeman from Rancid and Matt’s famous Chevy Nova from the “Salvation” video! Elvis Cortez from Left Alone who booked our first show ever and our friend and rapper Philly Swain were also hanging out! It was a super fun day!
You have played a ton of festivals like Warped Tour, Punk Rock Bowling and Coachella, but you have toured with huge bands like Less Than Jake, Rancid and Green Day — which do you prefer?
We like it all for different reasons. We are so lucky to have played venues of every size, indoor, outdoor, rain, or shine! As long as everyone shows up to dance and have a good time we are down to play! We also have played a few pool parties which is another fun one!
The Interrupters is the only band (so far) that is playing It’s Not Dead Fest that played It’s Not Dead Fest 1 in 2015. What are you looking forward to for It’s Not Dead Fest 2?
Not the ONLY band! Our good friends Left Alone also played at IND the first time around. We are looking forward to being able to see all our friends and play a nice sweaty outdoor punk show!
What is the best memory you have from It’s Not Dead Fest 1?
The highlight of that show was when Tim Armstrong came out and played Operation Ivy’s “Sound System” and “Family” with us. The crowd was singing so loud and it was so fun that we almost forgot that it was 105 degrees for a minute! One of our top memories as a band. Period.
Of the many bands that have been announced for It’s Not Dead Fest 2, which ones are you most looking forward to seeing perform there?
Obviously Rancid and Dropkick Murphys. Rancid took us on our very first tour in 2013, we are super close with them and I get to play keyboards on the ska songs! Dropkick is another band that we have just because close with through touring together recently and they are not only a great band but great people as well. It’s gonna be a so fun!
Other than It’s Not Dead Fest 2, what does the future hold for The Interrupters?
We are making our maiden voyage to South America this fall with Green Day and could not be more excited about that! Other than that it feels like it’s about time for us to go back in the studio again!
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
We love New Noise Magazine! Thanks for the love and keep at it!