2 Sick Monkeys formed in December 2000, primarily to support Darrin Mooney (Primal Scream) in a one-off gig at a drum event in Swindon…they have now played over 1,000 gigs including 10 European tours and 1 tour of Japan.
They describe themselves as tight, melodic and in your face.
Hailing from Denver, All Waffle Trick carries the flag of quintessential pop-punk, and colors it with shades of ska and melodic hardcore.
With an irreverent and in-your-face attitude that shines through their recordings and fun live shows, the trio blinks an eye to the 90s, influenced by artists such as Blink-182, Green Day, Millencolin and The Offspring.
In 2001, I moved to the Northern English city of Leeds, in part because of the live music venue, The Cockpit. This small venue put on all my favourite bands of the time, and had a long history of putting on great live music. I worked in another venue in the city on weekends, so […]
In 2001, I moved to the Northern English city of Leeds, in part because of the live music venue, The Cockpit. This small venue put on all my favourite bands of the time, and had a long history of putting on great live music. I worked in another venue in the city on weekends, so Tuesday night was my big night out, and Tuesday nights were Slam Dunk at The Cockpit. A solid mix of ska punk, pop punk, emo, rock, metal and whatever else alternative kids were listening to in the early 2000’s.
So here I am, 21 years later. The Cockpit has long since shut down and whilst the Slam Dunk Club Night plays on at its new home, the Key Club, it’s the festival that I am at today. Now held across two cities with more than 50 bands, across five stages, things have really grown from that two room sweaty Tuesday night under a railway arch.
The lineup covers a wide range of punk and alternative music, but because I’m old and stuck in my ways, I’m mostly staying at the Dickies stage, which is the main stage this year, hosting The Suicide Machines, The Bronx, Hot Water Music, The Vandals, Streetlight Manifesto, Pennywise, The Interrupters, The Dropkick Murphy’s and headliners Sum 41.
I’d originally bought tickets on the basis that Rancid were headlining, but they pulled out for undisclosed reasons. Then support from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones collapsed along with the band. Things were looking bleak, and I actually looked into selling my ticket, only to have two of my close friends and original Slam Dunk allies to buy tickets, so it was to be a big day out for us old guys.
The venue for the festival is Temple Newsam House. For further personal historic links, this was the site of the first music festival I ever went to (V98), and a big part of my musical taste was formed in these park lands. The benefit of this location for me is that it is close to home, the downside is that it still takes an hour and a half to get in, as traffic is not well managed and everything is already getting expensive (£10 to park in a field, £10 for a bus), I’d planned to ride my bike to the event, but for three of us, that didn’t make much sense.
Inside the arena, the stages are far enough apart that there is little noise mix from bands and practicalities like bars, toilets and food concessions are plentiful, the addition of a separate “real ale” bar was a pleasant surprise, and I managed to spend an impressive amount in this tent after and before every band. The tent also provides some welcome shade from the unexpected sun that I was totally unprepared for!
So, on to the music…
Hot Water Music, a band that I’ve discovered backwards through Chuck Ragan’s solo work, come out impassioned and full of energy, although the crowd are a little flat with it being an early set. Despite this we get a solid effort from the band, though possibly things are held back a little by a lack of catchy hooks and sing along choruses in the songs performed. Finishing with “Trusty Chords” gets the crowd interested from hearing a song they know. Whether they know the song from Epitaph‘s Punk-o-Rama compilation, or it’s just a favourite is hard to say, but in a pre-internet world, compilations from Independent punk labels are how a lot of us discovered new bands, especially those that didn’t tour the small northern venues like the Cockpit!
A quick trip to the bar revealed the sound of Punk Rock Factory carrying on the wind from the Rock Sound Stage. I was familiar with the band from their Youtube videos of punked up, harmonized pop covers, and as a father of small children, I found myself singing along to “Let It Go”, whilst appropriately stood at a urinal. If I have to play Disney songs on long journeys, then at least they can have crushing guitars as well, and hopefully, like some kind of gateway drug, this leads my kids down the path of home made tattoos and living in a van (or some other punk cliché).
The Vandals took to the stage with a not too reassuring “We’ll do our best”, and whilst I appreciate their honesty and openness, first song “Café 405”, is out of time and out of tune.
Three songs in, things are starting to tighten up, “People That Are Going To Hell” gets people moving a little, but on the whole, the crowd remain static. “And Now We Dance” raises the energy, “The New You” keeps it going, but there’s just not enough there to hold the attention of the majority of the crowd. My friends desert me to hit the real ale bar, I hate myself for giving up on the mighty Vandals, but cold beer and the Cancer Bats on the Jagermeister stage lure me away. I’m not massively familiar with the Cancer Bats, but the wall of noise, that I could feel through the ground and see vibrating through my pint has led me to listen to more of their back catalogue.
I had a dream the night before Slam Dunk that I took all my family to see Streetlight Manifesto, but instead of their usual set list, they played a really challenging, four hour Jazz set, stopping only to enjoy a sit down meal, where they served soup from tea pots. I was trying desperately to convince my family that really, they’re a great band, whilst simultaneously enjoying the weird spectacle.
Fortunately, there’s no Jazz today as Streetlight Manifesto, a later addition to the bill, take to the stage. There’s a clear sense of excitement in the crowd as the eight piece tear through classic hits “We Will Fall Together” and “The Three Of Us” along with lesser known tracks with a level of energy normally reserved for headline shows. The crowd sings along, dances, moshes; it’s a perfect blend of everything you want on a summers day. The only slight letdown is Tomas Kalnoky shouting “this is the big finish!” and then promptly not playing “Keasbey Nights.” I get the reasons, and I support them in letting go of a song that doesn’t really represent the band, but for many in the crowd it’s the song they came to hear and there’s visible confusion as the band leave the stage, though encores aren’t really a thing at 16:30 on a festival stage are they?
I last saw Pennywise in 1999. So its been a while. Late last year I read Jim Lindberg’s book “Punk Rock Dad,” which renewed my interest in the band, so I’m excited to see this set, and if the number of Pennywise T-shirts I’m seeing are anything to go by, so are the crowd.
From the get go, the band are on full attack. There’s no sign of age in the band and the crowd are loving it. Covers of AC/DC’s “TNT” and “Breed” by Nirvana continues the energy. Early songs “Pennywise” and “Society” lead to Lindberg lamenting to having been “doing this for thirty years,” but it’s not slowing them down.
The crowd holds middle fingers aloft for “Fuck Authority,” and whilst it feels cheesy, a load of middle aged men swearing at the sky, its kind of cathartic, and hey, it’s a great song! Who doesn’t enjoy feeling like an angry teenager (teenagers maybe?).
A cover of “Stand By Me,” which closed 1992 album Wild Card/ A Word From The ‘Wise surprised me, as I was certain it was Lagwagon, so I learned something important today if nothing else.
Set closer “Bro-Hymn” has exactly the effect you’d expect. Huge “wooahs” from the crowd, that epic bass riff and impassioned singing along. Obviously it’s a great song, but I think it hits harder now, after the last few years and I think everyone can take some strength from this song and apply it to someone they’ve lost.
The Interrupters carry a strange position in my mind. I love their songs, they’re great live, but there’s just something not quite right. Something doesn’t sit right with me, and I hate myself for being so negative, but its all a bit too clean cut for me. Like it’s the soundtrack to Disney film where some hopelessly good looking, talented young people form a ska punk band and take over the world with a weird crusty mentor behind them (Called Tim?).
Opener “Take Back the Power” feels stronger than normal. Maybe its that they’re more established, or maybe my cynicism is fading? Either way I enjoy it for what it is, well polished, perfectly-performed ska pop-punk.
Ignoring a weird segue about how they all used to bathe together… “She got arrested” gets a great crowd sing along, and is probably my favourite of their songs, not least as it was my introduction to the band back in 2017 and a great example of the quality story telling in the lyrics of some of their songs.
A cover medley of “Keep ‘Em Separated”/ “Linoleum”/ “Ruby Soho” gets the crowd going before surprise high point for me, a cover of Bad Religion‘s “Sorrow,” which goes down well with the crowd (For reference Bad Religion played Slam Dunk in 2019, as did the Interrupters).
The band finishes with “She’s Kerosene,” keeping the party going, the crowd moving and generally capturing the moment nicely. People are drunk, its sunny, the people want to dance and the Interrupters deliver.
The Dropkick Murphys take to a stage with a full length riser, done out to look like a stone wall, but there is a notable absence. Al Barr, it is announced, has stayed home to care for his sick mother. Ken Casey steps up for lead vocal duties and the evening begins with the sound of bagpipes on the cool evening breeze.
“State of Massachusetts” gets the kind of crowd reaction you’d expect from a classic pop hit or a song about Yorkshire, such passion for such a challenging subject is strange, but hey, it’s a great song and the drunk, bouncy, dancey crowd are loving it.
“Barroom Hero” is introduced as the first song the band ever wrote, which is a bit of trivia I didn’t know, but I remember it from way back in the 90s, so I guess that makes sense. The crowd offer weak “Oi! Oi! Oi!” effort which is a disappointment, maybe the crowd aren’t as au fait with shouting Oi! as I’d like? Though I accept my drive to shout “Oi!” is probably higher than most.
The slip up begins with the instruction to sing along to the 1937 hit “I’ve Still Got Ninety-Nine” by the Monroe Brothers, which although an undeniably good song, probably isn’t too familiar to the crowd today. On the upside, we’re promised an acoustic album in September, which is one to look out for. Whether it’s new material or reimagined classics has not been confirmed, but hopefully there will be an associated tour.
“Rose Tattoo” brings the sing along from the crowd, but lacks the momentum to get the crowd moving. This is exacerbated by the big screen showing bored, static faces in the crowd for the first time. Fortunately, “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” brings the party back before the end of the set. I’ve never seen such passion for a missing wooden leg, as the crowd goes nuts, with crowd surfers from all directions riding above the waves of the crowd. All parties appear to have legs intact, so that’s good.
Headliners Sum-41 were a bit of a quandary for me. The first album was an important soundtrack to my late teens/ early 20s and I saw them play in Leeds twice in 2002, but I haven’t listened to their music since Does This Look Infected from the same year.
A bit of pre-show research suggested they have had seven further releases, including 2019s Order In Decline, but in the spirit of openness, I’ve not felt inspired to check these out.
The band come out to a stage with blood-soaked Marshall speaker cabinets, a giant skull, jets of fire and “Motivation” from the first album, All Killer, No Filler. More people than I expected are really into it, though competition with Deaf Havana and the Nova Twins is limited and the other stages have closed.
The stage is set for a night of big rock and I’d like to say I invested more effort into rediscovering Sum 41, but too much sun, too much beer and a designated driver who wanted to beat the traffic meant we made an early exit.
The fourth album can be a bit of a curious point on a band’s timeline. The dreaded “sophomore slump” has long been in the rearview, and generally by the time the fourth album roles around, a band is at or around the decade mark in their career. It can be a time of transition; a […]
The fourth album can be a bit of a curious point on a band’s timeline. The dreaded “sophomore slump” has long been in the rearview, and generally by the time the fourth album roles around, a band is at or around the decade mark in their career. It can be a time of transition; a time to build off some old influences and also to incorporate new feelings and directions out of a desire to keep from getting stale or repetitive. Sometimes, the results can be ground-breaking, at least sonically if not always commercially or critically. Ignorance Is Bliss by Face To Face, for example. Darkness On The Edge Of Town. No Code. Sandinista!. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Life Won’t Wait. Question The Answers. ZOSO, or however that translate without the ability to add runes to the text here. So on and so forth.
And so here we find The Interrupters. The widely beloved LA-based ska punk band are back with In The Wild, due out August 5th on Hellcat Records. Recorded during the forced doldrums that were the shutdown of the last couple of years, the album finds the band (which surpassed the decade mark during said shutdown) building on the high-energy, rock-steady core that they’ve built over the course of three records and hundreds of shows, revealing a work that is their most varied, most introspective, and, subsequently, their best effort to date.
We caught up with the band’s air-tight rhythm section, sensational twin brothers Jesse (drums) and Justin (bass) Bivona to talk about the album’s recording and its personal nature. While much of the process for In The Wild was similar to the band’s previous output, there were a few marked differences that shaped the direction of what was to come. As Jesse explains the fourth album cycle, “one of our little press points about this record and relating it to the previous records is that the first album is kind of like a first date, where you just talk about surface-level things, nothing too crazy. Second album, you start to let them know a little more about you. Third album, you’re kinda getting into the nitty-gritty. Fourth album, all the baggage is out, the drama is revealed, all the secrets are out.”
The secrets are indeed out in more ways than one on In The Wild. It is by far the band’s most personal album to date, and it’s their most sonically diverse album to date, and both of those things are by design. Thinking back to the early days of the band, specifically around the recording of the band’s self-titled 2014 debut record, Jesse describes that the band was “just trying to keep it simple. We weren’t trying to reinvent anything, we were just trying to be a straight-ahead ska-punk band.” The more cohesive the band god, the more layered and textured the sound became, and the more outside influences began to creep in. While still very much an Interrupters record, In The Wild showcases sounds that include traditional reggae and rock steady and 2-tone and 80s punk rock and ‘50s doo-wop. The album closes with “Alien,” which centers around Aimee’s soaring, heartfelt vocals and is, as Jesse points out, “the first Interrupters song with no guitar on it!”
The seeds of In The Wild were initially sown in the early days of the pandemic shut down two years ago. The very early days. In fact, quite literally, the first day. The band had taken a few weeks off after wrapping a lengthy touring cycle for their 2017 album Fight The Good Fight – an album that continued the band’s launch into a higher stratosphere based in part on the crossover success of the single “She’s Kerosene” – in February, and was planning to return to Tim Armstrong’s studio in early March to begin work on album four. That plan was foiled just as it was beginning. “Day one of us going into the studio,” explains bass player Justin Bivona, “was that day where the NBA was canceling, and Tom Hanks had Covid…” After a few ‘wait and see’ days, recording plans – and, frankly, most of real life – got put on pause indefinitely, and the band retreated to what they affectionately refer to as The Compound; Justin and Jesse live in one house while the twins’ bandmates and, more importantly, older brother and sister-in-law Kevin and Aimee, live in the house next door. The two houses share a driveway and, more importantly, a garage, the latter of which would come in handy in a pandemic shutdown.
After some time spent doing what the rest of us did – binge-watching TV shows and movies, going for walks, and reflecting on their lives-to-date. As Justin tells it, that process “Aimee got to do a lot of looking back on her past and realized there was a lot of stuff she hadn’t written songs about.” And so even though the band had plenty of material they were going to work on in the studio at the beginning of 2020, writing eventually continued.
So, too, did recording, though the band didn’t have to go far. “At some point during (quarantine),” explains Justin, “Kevin was like “we need to do this record at our house, in our garage.” It’s a tiny 10×20 room that we would practice in, but it wasn’t treated, there wasn’t any studio equipment. So we spent maybe a month building things. Me and Jesse with power tools building racks to put gear in and tabletops and stuff. Pretty much “tiny housing” the studio to make every part of it work.”
This created the freedom to work together at their own pace. There’s no need to reserve studio time or book an engineer when you can do it all, effectively, in your collective backyard. That moved Kevin, the elder statesman of the Bivona brothers, officially into the producer’s seat. Tim Armstrong, who both oversees Hellcat Records and executive produced the first three Interrupters records, “told (Kevin) to just grab the reins and take off” says Justin, with Jesse quick to point out that their big brother has “always kinda been the shadow producer of everything in a sense.”
And while it may seem daunting to have your bandmate – and older brother, steering the ship, the timeline and the setting and their relationship made for a smooth, collaborative effort. “If we’re working on something and it’s not working,” explains Jesse, “all four of us can be like ‘well, what if we try this, or what if we try this,’…there are no bad ideas until you try (something and realize it’s bad.” “It was just us as a cohesive band, the four of us, working out songs and writing songs, and it really informed the process,” adds Justin. “It was the best thing we’ve ever done.”
The more that writing and recording continued, the more that the direction of the album revealed itself. “Aimee realized that the record was pretty much her life story,” says Jesse, adding “so the songs that didn’t fit with that theme we pushed aside and focused on the ones that told her story the way she wanted to tell it.” Because the lyrics bare so much of Aimee’s past, the task of recording vocals involved being in the right headspace to tackle some of the memories that were evoked. “Doing on the property,” reveals Justin, “it allowed Aimee the freedom to record vocals whenever she felt emotionally connected enough to a song” to power through it, a freedom that proved vital as it is apparent on first listen that Aimee dug deep lyrically, reflecting on some of the messier parts other upbringing and past relationships and grief and loss and trauma and mental health struggles that she has worked on over the years.
The added time and convenience of the recording process allowed the band to work through multiple versions of songs, in order to make sure that the emotion of the music matched the emotion of the lyrics. “There are a couple songs on this record where they were recorded one way and pretty much done,” explains Justin, “but then it wasn’t just fitting in with the rest of it when we would get back there. I think specifically “Love Never Dies” had a totally different feel, it was more of a rock/reggae Clash-y song. And it was dope, but it wasn’t fitting in with everything.” Jesse elaborates: “(Kevin) said “Jesse, play a one drop” so I played this one drop, and then he said “Justin, play this bass line” (*mimics bassline*). And then he said “okay, watch” and he just started skanking, and then he started singing this melody the way that it is now, and we played that for like four bars and just stopped. We were like “yeah, that’s it! Now we’re on to something!”
The result is one of the more straight-forward reggae songs in the Interrupters’ catalog to date. It also features a guest appearance from The Skints, the UK reggae punk band who recently wrapped a successful run opening a bunch of US shows for The Interrupters and Flogging Molly. The Skints are just one of an impressive handful of guest starts that found their collective way onto In The Wild; Tim Armstrong lends his vocal talents to a track, as per usual, but so too do Rhoda from The Bodysnatchers and Alex and Greg from third-wave ska legends Hepcat. The latter recording session occurred at Armstrong’s studio once the initial Covid waves had subsided and society started to open up again. As Jesse tells it, “it was a magical session to be a part of.” Justin explains “Greg and Alex came in and…we wanted them on the song (“Burdens”), but we didn’t really have the part. We went in with them and showed them the song and within a minute the two of them are sitting there writing the parts and figuring it out together. It was so cool to see because they’re literally our favorite ska band.”
It was yet another moment in a decade-long journey that has found the foursome feeling eternally grateful for the opportunities they’ve been presented; playing with longtime idols like Rancid and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Joan Jett and Green Day, playing legendary venues, getting introduced by RuPaul on the Jimmy Kimmel show (as was the case the night before we spoke). Case-in-point: the three Bivona brothers served as the backing band for The Specials during a fundraiser event in Los Angeles back in February, a mind-blowing moment that got overshadowed by the fact that a mini Operation Ivy reunion brokeout pre-set as Jesse Michaels and Tim Armstrong joined for a cover of the Op Ivy classic “Sound System,” an event that damn near broke the punk rock internet. The gravity of those situations is not lost on the band, by any stretch. “The moment that starts getting old is the moment that you’ve gotta start packing it in and figuring out what 9-to-5 (job) you want,” says Jesse.
Keep scrolling to read our full Q&A with the Bivona twins, Jesse and Justin. Pre-orders for In The Wild are still available here. And check out the full list of upcoming Interrupters tour dates, including their European run and leg 2 of the US dates with Flogging Molly, right here.
(*Editor’s note: The text below has been slightly edited and condensed for content and clarity.*)
JS: First and foremost, congratulations on another successful appearance on Kimmel!
Justin: Thank you!
JS: So this is probably then the second coolest thing you’ve done this week…
Justin: For real though, it is good to see your face!
JS: Is that the third time now on Kimmel?
Jesse: Nope, two! Four years ago we did “She’s Kerosene.”
Justin: Almost four years ago to the day. It was like July 26th.
JS: Man, how time has flown. The Kimmel show seems like it’s a cool one to do because the audience is right there, versus some of the other late-night shows where they’re sitting back and you’re kinda playing to the cameras as much as anything. That seems like a cool one.
Jesse: Yeah, they make it seem like it’s an indoor club show,
Justin: Which is really cool.
Jesse: It’s really cool. And the whole staff and crew there is excellent. They’re very nice. We had a GOOD time yesterday.
JS: And you got to hang with RuPaul, that’s pretty cool!
Justin: He’s super nice too!
Jesse: So nice!
Justin: An old punk rocker and a big ska fan too!
JS: I had no idea!
Jesse: Yeah, he played in a punk band in like the early 80s.
Justin: He loved The Selecter and The Specials.
JS: So then he’s totally going to dig your music, especially the new album!
Justin: He gave us the best soundbite! He just said “It’s time for some ska music, bitches!”
Jesse: We were on stage and just looked at each other like “WHOA!” (*all laugh*)
JS: Does that stuff ever get old? And I know I probably know the answer to that question, and actually I think I’ve asked Kevin and Aimee that sort of stuff before, but playing in massive crowds, playing in places like Fenway Park, playing for RuPaul on the Kimmel show…does that stuff ever get old?
JS: I feel like I knew that was the answer…
Jesse: The moment that starts getting old is the moment that you’ve gotta start packing it in and figuring out what 9-to-5 you want.
JS: When I started doing this Zoom interview thing during the early days of Covid, it was really to sort of check in with people. I was used to doing more phone interviews and then I’d type them up and write a story, but A) the website crashed so there was no publish things anymore for a while, but I liked the idea of actually chatting with people when they were in quarantine and we were in quarantine and you could see each other and stay connected. We’ve been in this weird situation for so long now that music that came out of quarantine is coming out commercially. That’s sort of the long way of getting into In The Wild, which is a really, really, really great album and I know I say that about each one that you guys put out, but the bar just keeps getting raised. So let’s talk about that process. When during lockdown did you realize “well, we’re not going to be out on the road for a while, and we’re not going to be able to go into a studio for a while, so fuck it, let’s do it ourselves”?
Justin: Here’s the thing. We finished the Fight The Good Fight album cycle tour in February of 2020. We ended in the UK with two amazing shows in London. The plan was to finish that and go home. Kev and Aimee were going to start writing for a couple weeks, and then we were going to go into the studio in March. Day, like, one of us going into the studio to record, was that day where like the NBA is canceling and Tom Hanks has Covid.
JS: Right! That’s when we really knew the world was ending!
Justin: Yeah! So we were going to go back in the next day, but everything started getting canceled, so we put the weekend on hold and then the next week on hold, and then the month, and everything just got shelved. So we were sitting at home, and couldn’t really do what our plan was. But it was nice at the same time, because we had just kept rolling for ⅞ years. There was no break. So we finally got to sit back and wait a little bit. We did the live record to give something to the fans during the break, and with that we did the documentary, This Is My Family, and put it all together as like a cohesive concert film. Kinda while we were doing that, we got to reflect on our past and Aimee got to do a lot of looking back on her past and realized there was a lot of stuff she hadn’t written songs about. At some point in the middle of that, Kevin was like “we need to do this record at our house, in our garage.” It’s a tiny 10×20 room that we would practice in, but it wasn’t treated, there wasn’t any studio equipment. So we spent maybe a month building things. Me and Jesse with power tools building racks to put gear in and tabletops and stuff. Pretty much “tiny housing” the studio to make every part of it work. And then they had some songs and we would just get in there the four of us with Kevin producing and work out these songs. It was a fun process because there were no outside distractions, there was no one else we had to worry about, it was just us as a cohesive band, the four of us, working out songs, writing songs, and it kind of really informed the process. It was the best thing we’ve ever done.
JS: So there was stuff written to be recorded back in March of 2020 when you first got off the road?
Jesse: Actually the one day that we did spend at the studio, we were working on the instrumental for “As We Live.” That was the only thing we recorded at Tim’s studio before everything got shut down.
Justin: I think they had “Alien” kind of on the docket, and “The Hard Way” was in there also.
Jesse: Yeah, they had done a few weeks of writing so there was a batch of songs. A lot of those songs got shelved because they didn’t fit the whole record idea. Once Kevin and Aimee started writing a lot, Aimee realized that the record was pretty much her life story. So the songs that didn’t fit with that theme we pushed aside and focused on the ones that told her story the way she wanted to tell it. We’re stoked on how the whole thing came out.
JS: How far into that writing process did the real direction of the album start to take shape, or at least when did she tell you that that was the direction that the album was going to go? And did that involve sit-down conversations…like, I know you’ve been family for a long time but that maybe there’s some shit she was going to sing about that’s a little…
Jesse: No, I think it happened kind of naturally, and it wasn’t until we had like
Both: Eighteen songs
Jesse: …that we were working on that it was like, okay, this batch is all very cohesive. I feel like we’re saying that word a lot? (*all laugh*)
Justin: It was a theme, you know?
Jesse: Yeah, and these other ones, they’re good, but they distract from the message we’re trying to send here and the themes we’re trying to talk about.
Justin: Yeah, once it was like, there’s all these songs (*gestures*) it was easy to look at the board and say, “well, these fourteen (go together).”
Jesse: And there was even a time where we weren’t completely…where we didn’t have like the last three figured out, and we dug up an old one, and once Aimee looked at it, it was like “actually, if I just rewrite these verses, this could fit.” That was “Worst For Me,” which was a sleeper favorite of mine. That song rips.
JS: That song is great, yeah!
Jesse: But it was on the back burner for months! It was just like, we recorded it and then we just forgot about it.
Justin: That was the other great thing about the process. We had so much time just sitting at home that they would finish a song and live with it for six months, then come back to it and say “oh, this song needs a bridge.” Then they would just write a bridge and it would bring the whole thing together. We’ve never really had the opportunity to sit and live with something and then come back to it and fix it. Usually in the studio, it’s like record it, it’s done…
Jesse: Go on tour, it’ll come out when you’re on tour. The most time we’ve ever had off in this band was maybe two months, right before Fight The Good Fight came out. And that wasn’t really time off, that was us preparing for the album cycle and the release and all that. So to be forced to sit on our hands during the pandemic, it helped a lot.
JS: What did you do otherwise to keep creative, musically or otherwise, to keep from getting into those doldrums when it seemed like the world was never going to open up and that sort of thing?
Jesse: You know, that’s a good question. We did what everybody did…binge-watched a lot of TV…
Justin: We did get to a point after the first few months where it was like, “okay, we’ve gotta go outside.”
JS: Touch grass.
Justin: Going to the beach, or going on hikes.
Jesse: Going on bike rides.
Justin: And we had a small quarantine bubble of friends that we trusted to come over, or we’d go over there. But other than that, it was a lot of TV…
Jesse: A lot of movies.
JS: Were you still playing music, even if it wasn’t Interrupters stuff, or did you just like put it away?
Jesse: It was always there. Our back room is always set up so we could always go back there and jam, but there was definitely a time…
Justin: There was definitely a three-month period where I didn’t touch a bass. (*all laugh*)
Jesse: Yeah, I was the same with drums.
JS: Is that the longest you’ve ever gone, since you started playing?
Justin: For sure.
JS: Was it interesting working with…I know you’ve worked with Tim (Armstrong) executive producing before but this is the first one where it was listed that Kevin was the producer of (the album). Does that change the dynamic when not only one of the four of you is producing it, but he’s also your brother and your band member? Does that impact the dynamic in the studio or have you been doing it with each other for so long now that you just know how it works?
Justin: Yeah, exactly. We’ve been doing this our whole life. We’ve always looked to Kevin for answers when we have questions about what we’re doing.
Jesse: He’s always kinda been the kind of shadow producer of everything, in a sense.
Justin: Yeah, so Tim gave him full rein…told him to just grab the reins and take off with it.
Jesse: The other thing about the way we work is we try everyone’s ideas, so we could be in the studio and it wouldn’t be like him saying “no, this is how it’s going to be, we have to do it this way.” If we’re working on something and it’s not working, all four of us can be like “well, what if we try this, or what if we try this.” And he’ll say “okay, let’s try it.” There’s no bad ideas until you try it and realize it’s bad, you know? It was very good. And we have such a great relationship and we’re very good at communicating, so there wasn’t any headbutting. It was very fun and very easy.
Justin: And again, doing it on the property, it allowed Aimee the freedom to record vocals whenever she felt emotionally connected enough to a song to sing the vocals.
JS: Especially on an album like this, that’s crucial.
Justin: Yeah! When you have studio time, you know you’ve got to be in there at 5pm and be there til 11pm.
Jesse: We’ve gotta bang out all these songs
Justin: And you’ve got to record these (specific things). That’s almost like a 9 to 5. This way, it was like, if we went back there and she was like “ah I don’t want to sing that right now, let me sing this one.” And also, if she got her second wind at 2am, she could just hop back there and record.
JS: Do you guys live close enough where it’s like “hey, it’s 2am but we’ve got an idea…”
Justin: We call it The Compound. In California technical terms, it’s a multi-family housing property, there’s one driveway, there’s two houses and a garage that we share, and a backyard. They live in the front house and we live here, so we’re right next to each other.
JS: It’s like being on tour while you’re at home!
Justin: I know, but with that being said, when we come home from tour sometimes, we don’t see each other for a whole week. (*all laugh*)
JS: Obviously it’s still early because this album’s not even out yet, but does that inspire you to kinda work that way going forward, now that you know that you can make an album like that in your little garage studio?
Jesse: Yeah I think so.
Justin: I think so, I mean…
Jesse: We haven’t really started thinking about the next one yet, but it is easy to just naturally fall into that. If we have to do a song for something, we can just hop back there and do it. So when we have something (to work on), it’s like “when do you want to work on that?” “I don’t know, tomorrow?” So we just hop back there and do it.
JS: How did the writing process work? Were there times when all four of you were writing together, or do Kevin and Aimee come up with the stem of the song and then you guys work on your rhythm parts? And does that ever change the direction of a song? Like if they start writing and a song has a certain feel, do they give you the freedom to say “hey, we think there’s a different feel that might go better with this song?” Because there are a lot of different feels on this album, and we’ll talk about that in a few minutes, but…
Justin: They would definitely have…it could be anything from the core idea of the song to an entirely fledged out song already, knowing how it should feel and what it should sound like. But, there are a couple songs on this record where they were recorded one way and pretty much done, but then it wasn’t just fitting in with the rest of it when we would get back there. I think specifically “Love Never Dies” had a totally different feel, it was more of a rock/reggae Clash-y song. And it was dope, but it wasn’t fitting in with everything.
Jesse: It didn’t age well.
Justin: It didn’t age well. So when we got back there with the four of us, we said “What do we do with this?” And Kevin said “what if did it more like a roots thing?”
Jesse: Yeah, he said “Jesse, play a one drop” so I played this one drop, and then he said “Justin, play this bass line” (*mimics bassline*). And then he said “okay, watch” and he just started skanking, and then he started singing this melody the way that it is now, and we played that for like four bars and just stopped. We were like “yeah, that’s it! Now we’re on to something!”
Justin: And then we finished it and we were like “dude, we gotta get The Skints on this one.”
Jesse: We built up this track, sent it to The Skints, and they sent us back a whole bunch of stuff that we kept. They’re fantastic.
JS: I was going to ask if all the guests got recorded in studio with you too. Obviously they didn’t if The Skints recorded their own stuff. People haven’t heard the album yet but obviously, Tim’s on a song because Tim’s gonna be on a song. Rhoda from Bodysnatchers, Alex and Greg from Hepcat, obviously Billy Kottage, the fifth Interrupter. Shoutout to Billy Kottage, the pride of Dover, New Hampshire.
(*Justin adjusts camera, revealing Billy Kottage sitting on the couch in the corner!)
Both: He’s right there!
JS: That’s awesome! I don’t think we’ve ever met in person, but Billy and I are both from the State of New Hampshire, so I always think that’s awesome.
Justin: When he comes out here, he pretty much lives with us.
JS: That’s great. There aren’t many of us in New Hampshire, the scene wasn’t very big, so when someone from the Granite State is cool and does cool things, I love it. So shoutout to Billy Kottage. So yeah, did they all record with you?
Jesse: It was all different. The Skints did it on their own in England, Rhoda recorded her vocals on her own at her place back in England.
Justin: (For) Hepcat, we actually went into Tim’s studio for a day.
Jesse: Which was great!
Justin: Greg and Alex came in and it was just one of the most fun days. That’s the thing, we went in to have them record on the song not knowing…Kevin didn’t really know what to have them do. We wanted them on the song, but he didn’t really have the part or anything. But we went in with them and showed them the song, and within like a minute, the two of them are sitting there going…
Both: “ooooh oooh” (*harmonizing*)
Justin: Like writing the parts, figuring it out together, it was so cool to see because they’re literally our favorite ska band.
Jesse: It was a magical session to be a part of. They were sitting there laughing…
Justin: ..having a good time…
Jesse: …singing all the right notes. It was awesome. We did that at Tim’s studio. Tim also did his vocals at his studio. That was later in the process, where things were a little more comfortable, where we could actually travel to a studio and not worry about everything. And then also, we had a guest vocalist on “Alien.” It’s this guy named Arnold, who is a friend of Tim’s and a friend of Brett Gurewitz’s. When we were working on that song, I think it was Tim’s idea, he was like “Arnold’s voice would sound great on this,” and we were like “let’s give it a shot!” So we had Arnold come in and he sang all those background vocals, and he’s got this emotionally delicate approach to his vocals that just lifted that song to another level.
JS: That song is something else…
Jesse: First Interrupters song with no guitar.
JS: Right! That’s actually a thing I wanted to ask about. There’s so many different directions! Obviously you’ve always played on a lot of different influences, but I feel like with this album, you go deeper into the reggae thing, into the 2-Tone thing, and then “Alien” which is unlike anything else in the Interrupters catalog. What made you take the freedom to just kinda go with that. Is that stuff that’s always kinda been in the arsenal but maybe you didn’t want to go too deep on the first few records, but now that everyone’s along for the ride it’s like, “well, let’s push that.”
Jesse: Maybe a little bit of that, but also, it is more that the songs were telling us how we should play them, so to speak. So the way that that song was written, there was never really another way to approach it. That song went through a lot of different versions – not crazy different versions but it was layered up with heavy guitars at one point…
Justin: It was kind of like The Beatles’ “Oh Darling” at one point, where it was like rocking…
Jesse: There were heavier drums on it at one point. It went through a bunch of stages.
Justin: But the emotion wasn’t there. Aimee fought really hard to bring it back to what it should be.
Jesse: What served the song better.
Justin: And that involved one day just pulling it up and being like “take the guitar off, take that off, take that off”…it got down to literally just the drum beat and the string arrangement.
Jesse: Even cutting a whole outro and just being like “no, the song should end right there.”
Justin: And then also with “My Heart,” which is also kind of a different…
Jesse: That “doo-woppy” 50s feel.
Justin: She had already had the melody and was singing it and I was like “well, it’s gonna be in 3, and it’s gonna have this rock feel.” Even if we tried to make it in 4 as a ska song or a reggae song, it just wasn’t working. So the way those songs were written informed the styles. And at this point, we’ve kind of realized that no matter what style it is, if it’s me and Jesse and Kevin playing and Aimee singing, it’s going to sound like The Interrupters. Us just believing in ourselves and pushing it forward that way really helped the process.
JS: When there’s an album I’m really excited about, I try to ignore a lot of the singles and just listen to the album all the way through because, I don’t know, I’m in my 40s and that’s the way we did it when we were kids, right? So I listened to it all the way through and I took notes and next to “My Heart” I wrote “whoa, an Interrupters doo-wop song.” It’s very much an Interrupters song still, but it’s got that sort of 50s diner, doo-wop vibe to it. Which I think is awesome, and it’s cool to see elements like feature in the mix but still be an Interrupters track.
Justin: Thank you!
Jesse: Yeah, initially that was one where we were like “let’s just play like The Ramones would play in 3.” So it was real heavy, but it didn’t serve the song well.
Justin: So dial back a little bit.
JS: I think people are going to dig that song.
Jesse: I think that’s my favorite song on the album.
Justin: Specifically behind the scenes with that song, Aimee had a service dog named Daisy for 13 years, who passed away in 2018. It was like her little girl, and it was devastating when she passed away. She wrote that song about her, and not even just the first time but the first few times I heard it, I couldn’t keep it together. I’d cry every time.
Jesse: Yeah, because when we worked it out in the studio, we just had the choruses, singing “my heart keeps beating, my heart keeps beating…” so that pretty much informed the drum beat just being a heartbeat. And then a couple weeks later when they updated the Dropbox with the verses and said “listen to this,” me and Justin were both sitting right here in our living room with our earbuds on and we’re both just like crying. Like, oh my god this is so emotional, because we all lived with Daisy, she was fantastic. She was a German shepherd/wolf, and we all still miss her a lot. That was a heavy one.
JS: Have you been able to play a lot of this stuff live yet, or are you waiting until the album is out?
Jesse: On the Flogging Molly tour we just did, we were only doing “Anything Was Better” and “In The Mirror,” and then when we dropped “Jailbird” we started doing that. The plan is to play as much of it as possible.
Justin: We tried a few of them at soundcheck on occasion.
Jesse: Yeah, we’d always screw around at soundcheck and be like “do you guys know ‘Kiss The Ground,’ let’s try that”
Justin: Or “Raised By Wolves”
Jesse: But we’re in rehearsals next week for a few days to work on stuff for the European tour, because that’s when we’ve gotta do longer sets, but the plan is to try to learn the whole record.
JS: I think people are going to dig a lot of it. I was just curious about if you’d throw a curveball song like that at people before they’ve heard the album to see what the response is. Because I feel like “In The Mirror” is one of those songs that the first time you hear it, you go “yup, that one’s a classic. That’s going to get the crowd whipped up.” Do you know when you’re writing a song like that that it’s going to be “the one.” Like “She’s Kerosene” was like that. The very first verse when I first heard it, I remember going “well, that’s gonna be a big hit.”
Jesse: When we’re working on it in the studio, I think we’re so lost in the process that we don’t give songs that sort of focus, like “that’s going to be the single, this is going to be the hit.” But there was a point when we were doing “She’s Kerosene” that we had Mr. Brett come in and he was listening to stuff and he when he heard “Kerosene,” he had his little notepad and he was just like “hit.” And we all just looked at each other like “Whoa! Really?”
Justin: We thought there was so much more work to be done with that song and when he gave it that check of approval, we were like “alright, we don’t have to do much more to it.” That was cool. But then also for this record, when there was like 18 or 20 songs, “In The Mirror” was a standout, at least for me. I was like “I think that one is really good.” Then as it dwindled down, it was like “In The Mirror” and “Raised By Wolves” as the top two. They’re different enough, one’s ska, one’s sort of heavy rock, and you’re just like these two are the shining examples of the record and what we’re trying to sound like.
Jesse: And “In The Mirror,” Kevin and Aimee wrote that song ten years ago. That was one that wasn’t written specifically for this record. But when they were doing the inventory for the record, Aimee was like “we should dig this one up, this is a great one.” I remember when we were trying to work that one out in the room as a four-piece, I feel like it was a more difficult one to get away from the demo version, because I’ve been listening to that song for ten years. There is a demo recording of it – it’s not even a demo, it’s a full fledged-out different version of it. And having that ingrained in your brain and trying to get away from it and being like “alright, how would The Interrupters do this,” that was an interesting process. There was definitely a day where I was like “that song’s not going to make the record, we have so many other songs.” (*all laugh*) Obviously, I was wrong, that song rips.
Justin: But it’s wild too, because they wrote it ten years ago. From that time, that’s when they wrote “Easy On You,” “Gave You Everything,” and then “In The Mirror” was in that batch.
Jesse: “Love Never Dies” was in that batch.
Justin: Yup, “Love Never Dies.” I think now if we’re recording, it’s like “hey what else wasfrom that time period? What else did you write then? Anything else we can dig up?” There was some gold.
JS: It’s interesting to hear that it’s from that time period. As I was driving around this morning for work, I listened to the first album and this one back-to-back, because they come out on the same day; the new one comes out on the 8th anniversary of the first one, so I thought it would be cool to listen to them back-to-back. And, I loved the first album when it came out, but it is startling how far you guys have progressed as a band in eight years.
JS: And so to listen to them back-to-back, obviously you can kinda see how ended up here, but at the same time, you’ve progressed so far. So it’s really interesting that that song, in particular, is from that batch.
Jesse: So, one of our little press points about this record and relating it to the previous records is that the first album is kind of like a first date, where you just talk about surface-level things, nothing too crazy. Second album, you start to let them know a little more about you. Third album, you’re kinda getting into the nitty-gritty. Fourth album, all the baggage is out, the drama is revealed, all the secrets are out. That is kind of where we are with this. And talking about the recording of the first record, we were just trying to keep it simple. We weren’t trying to reinvent anything, we were just trying to be a straight-ahead ska-punk band.
Justin: We did like twenty-four instrumentals in three days. Some of them didn’t have any lyrics or anything, we just got the music done. The ones that didn’t have any lyrics done, they just wrote to the instrumentals. There was no going back to redo parts, it was just like “this is it, we’re done.”
Jesse: And keep it simple. Like, for me on drums, it was like “don’t do any crazy fills, just keep it straight, keep it steady.”
Justin: Which is wild, because some of my basslines, I play so many notes! Why did they let me do that?!? (*all laugh*)
JS: Yeah, but they work, and as somebody who wanted to be a bass player when he grew up, I like that they let you play all the notes! …. Thanks for doing this. This was fun. I talked to Kevin and Aimee for I think the first three records, so it’s nice to talk to you guys. It’s been a while!
Jesse: Yeah we’re being let off the leash a little bit. (*all laugh*)
JS: Well and that’s good, you should be. It’s fun that you guys have your own language with each other, and I know that that’s talked about in other places, like the documentary. So it’s perfect that you guys ended up as a rhythm section, and you end up doing this. Is that why you ended up as a rhythm section?
Jesse: Yeah, kinda. It kinda happened naturally. I don’t remember if we talked about it in the movie, but Kevin started out as a drummer. We had a drum set in the house because our dad was a producer and worked with his friends. So there was a drum set always in the house and Kevin gravitated toward that at an early age. But then, one day our dad came home with a guitar and a bass. So Kevin grabbed the guitar, and I was already dicking around on the drums, so then the only thing left over was the bass. So then naturally it was like “well, this is your instrument, this is your instrument…” And then we would just jam as little kids. There’s some video in that documentary but there’s a LOT more video when we were like 7 years old and Kevin is like 9 of us just trying to play like Green Day songs and Blink 182 songs
Justin: Sublime songs.
Jesse: Yeah, Sublime songs! Whatever we were hearing on the radio is what we were trying to play. The crazy thing is that we’ve come full circle and we know a lot of the people we were trying to emulate and we’re lucky enough to call them friends.
Justin: Some are like family.
Jesse: Yeah, some are like family now. It’s been a crazy, crazy life that we don’t take for granted.
Justin: They always say don’t meet your idols but...
Jesse: …we’ve never had a bad experience when we’ve met our idols.
Justin: I couldn’t tell you one person that I had looked up to that I met and they ruined it for me. Everyone’s been amazing.
JS: You know what, I’ve got to say almost the same thing. The amount of people that I’ve gotten to know through doing this for…well, The Interrupters started in 2011 and I started with Dying Scene in 2011. You’re one of the bands that came out right when I was getting started with this whole thing so it’s been a fun sort of parallel, but there’s only a small, small handful of people where you go “wow, that guy’s kind of a dick.” Everybody else has been super cool and super rad and supportive of each other. Especially those people that we grew up listening to in the late 80s and the 90s. It’s a pretty good, supportive group.
Justin: It is, it is. Even when we just started out, to tour with Rancid was amazing, but then to go on and get Rhoda from The Bodysnatchers, we get Horace and Lynval and Terry from The Specials love us. It’s just insane. To have that mutual respect and to get it back is just…yeah…it’s mind-blowing.
Jesse: We did a charity show back in February where we were backing The Specials. I was the drummer of The Specials for a night. We did the whole set, like twelve songs. Justin played piano, Kev played guitar.
Justin: You saw that thing where we played with Tim and Jesse Michaels and did the Op Ivy song?
JS: Yeah, yeah. That was amazing.
Justin: That was the same event. That one song with Jesse was amazing but it overshadowed the fact that we played in The Specials! (*all laugh*)
Jesse: It was just mind-blowing.
JS: Yes! Everyone kinda lost it with the Jesse thing but yeah, that’s awesome. Just awesome.
Jesse: And just being able to sit in a room for a week with Terry and Horace; Lynval got sick so he couldn’t come out, but just to sit there and run the songs with them was mind-blowing.
JS: I’m glad this stuff keeps happening to you, because you certainly deserve it.
This review is better late than never… don’t blame me, blame Dying Scene for being on “vacation”… Anyway, with MC5 playing down the street, and The Chats, Mean Jeans, and Thick playing a few towns over, I didn’t know what to expect as far as a turnout on this rainy Friday in Pittsburgh. To make things […]
This review is better late than never… don’t blame me, blame Dying Scene for being on “vacation”… Anyway, with MC5 playing down the street, and The Chats, Mean Jeans, and Thick playing a few towns over, I didn’t know what to expect as far as a turnout on this rainy Friday in Pittsburgh. To make things more uncertain, it was my first time at this venue, which didn’t exist before I started a decade of living in NYC and New Jersey. One thing was clear that night: people show up for The Jasons. It helped that the bill was also pretty stacked with pop punk vets, Latecomer, Jerk! (on tour from Las Vegas) and Bottle Rat, whose members have been doing the punk thing for what feels like decades.
Cattivo, in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh wasn’t at all what I expected. I expected a small – medium sized bar venue that might have a stage, or might not. I was way wrong. This is a dual-level venue that had The Jasons show being held downstairs. The room and stage were a decent size and there was a cash bar serving drinks. The room offered plenty of standing room, a lot of space for band merch, and the bathroom was acceptable. Venues like this aren’t uncommon, but it had been a while since I’ve been to one like this. Aside from the shiny curtain in the back of the stage creating the backdrop, there isn’t really anything memorable about this place. You could say the focus is on the bands, which is always a good thing.
The first band up was Bottle Rat. If you’ve been in the Pittsburgh punk scene in the last twenty years you’ve definitely seen these dudes in one band or another. There’s something about Bottle Rat that takes me back ten years or so to what I remember loving about the Pittsburgh punk sound. The best way to describe that Pittsburgh sound and Bottle Rat is an energetic, growly, anthemic, blue collar street punk style. Every song is a toe tapper, some songs are even hand clappers, and there’s just something about these guys that leaves you wanting more. This performance was no exception. You can bet I’ll be seeing these guys a lot in the future and I’ve given their album, All My Friends Are Animals a few spins since the show.
Next was Jerk!, on tour from Las Vegas, NV. I’ve been following this band since I first heard about them through Mom’s Basement Records and was immediately intrigued. Jerk! plays a sort of pop punk / ramonescore hybrid with a drummer that reminds me of Bill Stevenson both in looks and style of playing. Their set was a lot of fun and featured a ton of upbeat and poppy songs. The only album I’ve ever heard from them is “Panic Attack” and they made sure to hit a ton of songs on that album. They also performed their version of the Screeching Weasel song, “Guest List” which is always a crowd pleaser. There’s no telling when Jerk! will be back in the ‘Burgh again, but when they are I’ll be there!
The last opener of the night was Latecomer. I’ve known Zach and Pete since they were in their first band, Shuttlecocks, over a decade ago and I’ve had the pleasure of playing shows with this latest band. These guys have been killing it for years and every time they take the stage, it gets more and more polished. They dish out a brand of catchy as hell sing-along songs that never disappoint and remind me of bands like the Jetty Boys, Dopamines, older Menzingers, and an edgier Green Day. They have a few releases at this point and made sure to play songs from all of them during their set. The crowd started to really fill in around this time and everyone knew their songs and provided plenty of crowd participation. Always a great sign for a band. It was really nice to hear some of my favorite songs like “All My Friends” and “Refrigerator” live again. Latecomer has always been very active, so if you’re in the Pittsburgh area and they’re playing, be sure to check them out!
The headliner for the night were The Jasons from Crystal Lake, NJ! Boy do these dudes have a following. What’s great about them is while they play a ramonescore style pop punk, you’ll see people from all different subgenres of punk coming out to support them! I’ve seen them a few times at this point and the show keeps getting better. Mainly because The Jasons have everything… a uniformed look, between song banter, great stage presence, and a great stage show… oh yeah, the songs are also catchy too. As soon as the first note rang out, the pit opened up, fists went into the air, and the excitement started. The Jasons went on to rip through classics like, “Blood in the Streets”, “Get Fucked”, “I Wanna Be An Asshole”, “Dead Fuck”, and “J.J. Was a Headbanger”. Overall, the set was flawless, right down to the smoke machines being in sync with the music, and after a quick (and forced) encore, the set was over and so was the show.
It had been a minute since I’ve attended a show where I truly dug all the bands on the lineup. It was also nice to see a ton of familiar Pittsburgh faces and I look forward to more of these types of shows to come. Thanks to all the bands, Cattivo, and the promoter Some Die Nameless!
I can confidently say this is the best punk event held in Music City at least since I began calling here home in 2013. Held at the notorious Further Farms just a short drive from downtown, and judging by the fact that event shirts, water and food had all sold out just halfway through the […]
I can confidently say this is the best punk event held in Music City at least since I began calling here home in 2013. Held at the notorious Further Farms just a short drive from downtown, and judging by the fact that event shirts, water and food had all sold out just halfway through the event, expectations were shattered and we had ourselves a party. All eight bands playing completely kicked ass, over 50 vendors set up camp and drew a crowd I would guess numbered well over a thousand people, and Denver-based nonprofit Punk Rock Saves Lives was swabbing people left and right for their bone marrow registry. Beer was drank and fun was had!
Indianapolis native Mike Muse of Amuse kicked things off with a solo acoustic set after the other 2/3 of a Amuse were unable to make it. Nonetheless, the acoustic set was a great precursor for what was to come. To close, the boys in SecondSelf hopped up to join Mike for a much needed and well-timed Skate or Die cover, much to the pleasure of the continuously growing crowd.
SecondSelf has solidified themselves as one of my local favorites over the past several years; they’re a great bunch of dudes that play hard, fast, killer punk rock, what more could you ask for. These dudes have something really cool going, and for Nashville punk rock’s sake, I hope it continues. I’ve caught these guys live more than almost anybody, and Nate’s guitar solos still nearly melt my face off on the regular.
Sugar In The Gas Tank were a somewhat last minute addition to the NPFM, but they offered a nice change of pace with their early 2000s blink 182-esque brand of pop punk. Their catchy riffs and upbeat tempo gave me flashbacks to my younger Warped Tour days and showed me a side of Nashville punk that I hadn’t seen in years, but was glad to have present.
I’ve caught Tank Rats a few times over the years, most recently a few months back opening for the Cryptics. And man do these guys bring some damn energy! The Tank Rats brand of Nashville street punk was on full-display with this awe inspiring performance. From the start of their set on, the atmosphere picked up and our Music City party was in full-swing, thanks in large part to the absolute mayhem that these guys brought to the stage.
Stuck Lucky holds a special place in my heart. They headlined the first punk show I ever attended in Nashville, and from then on, I’ve followed along to any local show these guys are a part of. A masterful blend of ska and punk that I have trouble drawing similarities to, and, like a fine wine, these guys have only gotten better with age.
Their mastery was put on full display during their set, which involved trombonist Will Carter hopping down in the crowd and straddling a stuffed banana mid-song.
Flummox was a great representation of the sheer diversity that the Nashville punk scene encompasses. We had West Coast skate-punk well represented by Secondself, pop-punk by Amuse and SITGT, ska by Stuck Lucky, and oi! by Tank Rats. Flummox was weird, but in all the best ways, and it’s hard to pin them down to any one genre.
Breaux! was the first of two acts that I was especially excited to see for the first time. I don’t know how I had never heard of these guys, but their performance made me reminisce about seeing A Wilhelm Scream in Nashville a few years prior. Lead singer Price Cannon entertained the shit out of the steady crowd that continued to fill the market, and they were an excellent predecessor for the punk rock mastery that was to follow, A Vulture Wake.
Now we’ve reached the main event, the band that I had been dying for years to see ever since I stumbled across Chad Price’s One Week Record in 2018, A Vulture Wake. When I found out about guitarist Dan Wleklinsi’s tenure in early Rise Against, this only added to my anticipation. To put it bluntly, these dudes know how to rock and exceeded everything I had expected.
There’s not too much to be said about this type of performance other than I would recommend these guys to anybody asking for a great punk show to see. Wleklinski can shred the hell out of the guitar, and I was in awe of Chad Price’s vocals for their entire set. If anything, look at that dude’s hair; worth the price of admission in and of itself.
Attached below are any other photos I got from the show (these make up the tiny percentage that did not come out as complete garbage). Feel free to peruse at your own leisure and I hope to have many more of these galleries up in the coming months. Cheers!
Story and Photography by Meredith Goldberg Signals Midwest, from Cleveland, OH, returned to Chicago, supported by Mush, Downhaul, and Into It. Over It. Its performance at Subterranean – aka SubT – was a fun one. The members seemed especially grateful that their friends in Into It, Over It were able to join them. Signals Midwest […]
Its performance at Subterranean – aka SubT – was a fun one. The members seemed especially grateful that their friends in Into It, Over It were able to join them. Signals Midwest lead singer/guitarist Maxwell Stern expressed the sentiment that they should be supporting Into It. Over It instead of the reverse.
Signals Midwest played to what appeared to be an almost capacity crowd in the warm club on a hot night. Said crowd was vastly mellower than most of the shows we cover here in Chicago, with virtually no circle pit, and many fans watched from a second level. Nonetheless, the crowd members were very vocal as they repeatedly shouted their approval.
Signals Midwest performed 7 of the 12 tracks on their new LP “Dent,” which was released in April 2022. The set opener, “I Used To Draw,” was one of those seven. Other “Dent” tracks performed included consecutively “Tommy Takes A Picture,” “Gold In The Grey,” “Sure of It “ and “All Good Things.” The band also performed “Your New Old Apartment,” though without the song’s featured performer, Sincere Engineer. Signals Midwest closed its set with “Alchemy Hour,” from the album, “At This Age” (2016).
Chicago’s own Into It.Over It ripped through its set, performing songs from a cross-section of its albums. These included, among others, “Discretion and Depressing People”, and “Fortunate Friends” from the album Proper; “Spinning Thread”, and “Upstate Blues,” from, Intersections; “Brenham, TX,” and “Augusta GA,” from 12 Towns; and “Heartificial” and 22 Syllables” from 52 Weeks.
The band members also made it absolutely clear their opinions on the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Joe George Shadid, has a sticker on his guitar stating, “Abortion on Demand & Without Apology.” Evan Thomas Weiss echoed the message posted on the band’s Facebook page. Whilst promoting a t-shirt to raise money for abortionfunds.org, Into It. Over It declares, “this band aids and abets abortion. it is our belief that abortion is a human right and we’ll continue to do what we can to fight for the human rights of US citizens.peace and love.”
For the band Downhaul, from Richmond VA, the SubT show marked the furthest from home the group has performed. Gordon Phillips, singer and guitarist for the group said it was during the middle of the tour so they were feeling pretty comfortable with their sets at that point. He did admit they might have been a bit nervous because they usually play venues much smaller than SubT. However, Downhaul received a very warm welcome and Phillips and the rest of his bandmates were very happy to have numerous good friends in the crowd. This group of friends included members of the Atlanta based band Worlds Greatest Dad, who were in the city on a night off from their own tour. They were also accompanied by Signals Midwest’s Max Stern on lap guitar. Up next for Downhaul? The members are finalizing, for release, some new songs they recorded in June and playing Fest for the first time ever. Needless to say, the band is very excited about its future.
Mush, the 5-member group from Chicago and Grand Rapids MI, was the first band to play. The band’s spirited set launched an enjoyable evening in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area of Chicago.
Story and Photos by Meredith Goldberg Noah Corona just needed to find a place to eat within a block or two of his home in the Chicago suburb of Villa Park, IL. It was the first day of the Covid lockdown. Lacking groceries and concerned that driving to get food might lead to him being […]
Story and Photos by Meredith Goldberg
Noah Corona just needed to find a place to eat within a block or two of his home in the Chicago suburb of Villa Park, IL. It was the first day of the Covid lockdown. Lacking groceries and concerned that driving to get food might lead to him being arrested, he walked around the corner from his home and came upon Cemitas Poblanas. The restaurant offered a $9.00 burrito meal, so it instantly became Corona’s daily spot during the pandemic. It also led to friendships with the staff and owners, “Mauro and Jennifer, a couple who had come from NYC in November ‘19 to start their new business. They are both originally from Puebla, Mexico, and spent 18 years in NYC, and worked in restaurants for a lot of that time,” says Corona (whose surname surely caused a few of his friends to tease him in 2020).
Cemitas Poblanas also has a small stage, which planted the seeds in Corona’s mind, of an idea he would work to fruition over the following year. Thus, was born “Punk Rock Tacos,” a monthly Friday nights DIY (do it yourself) event.
Corona’s DIY ethos was inspired by the late Mark “Monk” Hubbard. The visionary Seattleite Hubbard created the famous Burnside Skatepark Project in Portland, OR. Hubbard also founded Grindline, a company which designed over 400 skatepark across the United States and elsewhere. Corona met Hubbard, a DIY inspiration to many across the world, one month prior to Hubbard’s June 2018 death. Hubbard’s band Grindline, named after his company, was playing in Oakland, CA at a skateboarding event, the P-Stone Invitational. Corona says that during Grindline’s set “He [Hubbard] stared so intensely into my soul as he performed 5 ft in front of me.”
It was a life-changing moment for Corona and would lead directly to his passion project: Punk Rock Tacos (PRT). This is the first of many ideas Corona has for PRT. One he hopes to tackle next is building skateboarding bowl behind the restaurant.
The first PRT Sunday edition led to some patrons being disgruntled by the rowdy punk rock music, so these special showcases take place in a small exterior area behind the restaurant.
Looking forward to the Fourth of July this year, Corona organized an event to take place on the Sunday the 3rd. As a nod to Independence Day, the 13-band showcase featured two American flags adorned to the back of an old Army flatbed truck. Said truck, which Corona purchased for the event, also served as the stage.
Although this was a Fourth of July event, it was hardly a day for shouting “Murica” and chanting USA USA USA.
Instead, there was a strong diversity of band and crowd members, more than a few Anti-Fascist and Anti-Nazi patches on clothing, call-outs for change and fighting back by the musicians, Pride t-shirts spotted, in addition to feminist statements made. One singer received roaring applause to his declaration that men who lay hands (violently) on women are trash. In many ways, Punk Rock Tacos Fourth on the Third represented what should be the ideals of this experiment in democracy. Oh, and rocking the pit harder than anyone else in attendance were a four-year-old named Lucas and an Australian cattle dog named Max.
Of course, the main reason for the event wasn’t to focus on the disturbing events of the last several years, and especially the past few months.
For Punk Rock Tacos founder Noah Corona, this was event was not about politics or division. Rather, it was about release and people having an out outlet to express themselves. Corona reflected on the event a day after the Highland Park mass shooting. He has also been shaken by a fatal motorcycle accident just blocks away from the event which Corona informed me occurred “while we were partying.” Per Corona, “Life is too shitty to not have a good time, and if people don’t have their outlets a whole lot more death would be upon us.”
No Dead Heroes’ mission statement is, “We’re here to fuck shit up.” Shit did not actually get fucked up but the band tore through its 30-minute set much to the delight of the attendees. Those in lawn chairs and car seats removed from their vehicles to be used as lawn chairs, as well as those who stood both near and away from the stage. Frank Lombardo propelled the band both in voice and on the drums. Whether it was the heat of the bright afternoon or his physical efforts, Lombardo’s reddened face painted a portrait of punk rock intensity.
Milwaukee’s The Rustix don’t consider themselves a political band according to its social media. However, per a Facebook post from June 25, 2022, “Rustix and the Midwest Hardcore Punx scene stand in solidarity with people that have uteruses. If you don’t, don’t come to our shows, you aren’t welcome.” For the band members some issues transcend politics and The Rustix brought a set that was as tight and strong as that message.
WAYDSB states on its website: “We want to share our perspectives with you, and maybe our music will help you understand and feel what it is we’re expressing.” The band demonstrated this motto during its banger of a set. Drummer Liam Cavanaugh was clad in a (LGBQT+) “Pride” shirt and rainbow tie dye style cap, while guitarist James McFadden wore a t-shirt sporting the name of satirical 2016 U.S. Presidential candidate Deez Nutz.
Quantum, out of Crystal Lake, brought the fun. With a combo multi-bongo and just enough cowbells set up, how could it not? There was Bass player Shawn Belletynee draped in an American flag as a cape, a brand-new song entitled Planet B.S., and blood. Well, blood on the bongos at least. Lead singer Zac Dawson decided it was a good sign and queried “Blood on the bongos, isn’t that a Bob Dylan album?”
Noah Corona’s own band, The Throwaways, elicited loud cheers and clapping for both the music and for his creation of Punk Rock Tacos and this event. It was obvious by his constant smile throughout the day, how grateful Corona was for that appreciation and the joy his hard work has brought him. The Throwaways, as a band, honored his hard work with its rollicking set. Immediately after the set Corona was back on the ground making sure the rest of the evening went off without a hitch.
Ah Shitizen. With all due respect to, and respect is most definitely owed to them, Josh on drums, Elliot on bass, and Jerm on guitar, it is lead singer Claudia Guajardo who steals the most focus at every Shitizen show. With her hyperkinetic energy and charisma, she is the very definition a band’s front person. As is the case at every Shitizen show, Guajardo refused to stick only to the stage. But this being on the back of a truck, she did accept an assist from her boyfriend Adam Kreutzer (lead singer for Kreutzer and the newly joined drummer for Knoxious.) who helped her in and out of the high up flatbed stage. She scaled the truck herself before the set and after, but Kreutzer’s help allowed her the continuity of singing, microphone in hand. It’s a blast to watch Guajardo in frenzied action. The band is also a model of DIY as they finished up making their band shirts and merch themselves the morning of the event.
Metro Chicago’s Real Bad Real Fast was formed in 5 or 6 years ago. They invited friends and family to this event on Facebook with a sentiment presently shared by a good portion of the USA: “Come celebrate Freedom (cough)” adding “At least freedom enough for us to rock your socks off!!” As the gloaming set in, lights were installed on the already too confined stage before knocking off of socks began.
Corona described the event as epic and credited his second in command organizer Matthew “Cactus Matt” Durica and sound engineer Steve Anthony for much of the success of the event and PRT, and told everyone involved that he was “proud of all of us.”
A few days after the event Corona stated, “I am happier than shit right now, and all I can think is, what’s next?”
Florida men are usually in the news for all the wrong reasons. Whether they’re getting high on bath salts and eating a homeless person’s face off, being arrested for drunk driving on a Segway, or stealing a cop car while butt-ass naked, Florida men are always up to something. Their latest venture? Joining forces to […]
Florida men are usually in the news for all the wrong reasons. Whether they’re getting high on bath salts and eating a homeless person’s face off, being arrested for drunk driving on a Segway, or stealing a cop car while butt-ass naked, Florida men are always up to something. Their latest venture? Joining forces to start a band and release a fucking awesome album of loud, fast, snotty, pop-tinged punk rock. One small caveat: these guys aren’t actually from the Sunshine State, they’re Dutchmen. But, as a native Floridian, I accept them as one of my own.
Florida Men (the band) features members of Sun-0-Bathers and Drunktank, among others. Their twelve song debut album clocks in at under 20 minutes, delivering really fun, short bursts of melodic pop-punk, fueled by a barrage of Johnny Ramone style buzzsaw downstrokes. There’s a liberal application of the earwormy “nursery rhyme” style lead guitar parts popularized in the 90’s by The Queers and Screeching Weasel, paired with the frantic pace of bands like DeeCracks, Teenage Bottlerocket, and The Manges.
All of the songs are great, but some of my favorites include “Better Safe than Sober”, “Tiki Bar”, “Greatest of All Time”, and “No Fit”. The subject matter ranges from getting cheated on by your trailer trash girlfriend who has face tattoos and a tramp stamp, to getting drunk at a Tiki bar after nobody came to your band’s show. I must say, for a bunch of Dutchmen, these guys sure know a lot about… Florida stuff.
For old school pop-punk fans, I’d consider this “easy listening”. It’s a quick blast of fun, catchy songs. All the hallmarks of the genre are here, but these guys do “pop-punk by the numbers” way better than a lot of other bands. The singing, playing, and production are all on point. Florida Men made a really, really good album that would serve as the perfect soundtrack to any felonious acts you may want to commit.
It’s a fuckin’ bargain, too! Morning Wood Records is selling the digital version for just two bucks, and the CD can be had for the low price of five freedom dollars. Shipping to the United States (more specifically Florida) is another issue, but it’s still quite reasonable. Buy, buy, buy!!!