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2 Sick Monkeys

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.

Basically……small outfit, BIG SOUND!!  

ALL

ALL formed in suburban Los Angeles in 1987 when Milo Aukerman, the lead singer of the Descendents, left to pursue a graduate degree in biochemistry, forcing the band into a hiatus. The remaining members – guitarist Stephen Egerton, bassist Karl Alvarez, and drummer Bill Stevenson – decided to carry on as a band, adopting the title of the Descendents’ last studio album ALL as their official moniker.

Bad Cop / Bad Cop

Bad Cop Bad Cop has done angry. The band’s 2017 full-length, Warriors, was recorded in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. The Los Angeles quartet’s new full-length, The Ride (Fat Wreck Chords, June 19th), shows what happens when you come out the other side of that anger.

“It’s not that I am just stoked or blind to suffering,” says singer-guitarist Jennie Cotterill. “I think anger is a legitimate and understandable reaction to injustice and wrongdoing. It’s just that for myself, I am trying to move past ‘reaction’ into productive ‘response.’”

The message BCBC is sending this time around is less about wagging your finger at others, or giving the middle one to the Man, than it is about self-love and acceptance. As Cotterill puts it, “Love is a more powerful truth than anger.” That positivity fuels many of The Ride’s tracks: “Originators,” “Simple Girl,” “Community,” “I Choose,” “Perpetual Motion Machine,” and “The Mirage” exude confidence, gratitude, and compassion. In 2020, such things qualify as contrarian.

“These are political statements—self-love is a huge fucking statement,” affirms singer-guitarist Stacey Dee. “Self-love means putting a fix on the problems at home before trying to fix everything in the world. It’s asking people to find it in themselves to create the life that they really want to have so they’re not in turmoil, so they’re not in a place of stress and sickness.”

Dee speaks from experience. In 2018 she was hospitalized twice for different ailments, then discovered she had stage one breast cancer at the end of the year. Fortunately it was highly treatable, but the experience was life-altering. Dee captures it with brutal frankness on “Breastless,” whose bright melodies belie the struggle described in the lyrics.

“Certain Kind of Monster” and “Pursuit of Liberty”—both written and sung by bassist Linh Le—are blistering repudiations of the current administration’s treatment of immigrants.

The former is an imagined conversation with an ICE agent, and the latter juxtaposes her family’s immigration to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975 to current events, something she’s never explored musically.

The perspective behind The Ride lends it an undeniable maturity, without losing its power. Recorded throughout much of 2018 and 2019 by Johnny Carey and Fat Mike of production team the D-Composers, the album boasts all of the elements of BCBC’s sound: big guitars, lock-step bass and drums (the latter by powerhouse drummer Myra Gallarza), intricate vocal harmonies, and plenty of attitude.

It’s just that this time, the attitude is encouraging, not raging. Nowhere is that more apparent than lilting album closer “Sing With Me.” Built around acoustic guitar, piano, and Cotterill’s voice, it’s an exhortation to “sing with me / or sing your own song / I don’t mind, just as long as you find / a voice.”

Dee adds, “If people are listening to our songs and they’re going to sing along to them, they’re going to start owning some of those words. And in owning some of those words that gives them some strength and power going forward. That’s really the biggest gift that I could give to anybody.”
“Stronger in every way” aptly describes Bad Cop Bad Cop in 2020. The anger may have taken a back seat on The Ride, but what’s taken its place is even more powerful.

DS Album Review: Pinoles – Just Wanna

Ramonescore: a campy sub-genre of a sub-genre, paying tribute to a legendary band that helped birth that very sub-genre. Bands who participate in the act of Ramones worship typically play light-hearted, upbeat songs about drinking, girls, and drinking because of girls. Some people appreciate Ramonescore for what it is. Others write it off as vacuous, […]

Ramonescore: a campy sub-genre of a sub-genre, paying tribute to a legendary band that helped birth that very sub-genre. Bands who participate in the act of Ramones worship typically play light-hearted, upbeat songs about drinking, girls, and drinking because of girls. Some people appreciate Ramonescore for what it is. Others write it off as vacuous, repetitive pop-punk, played exclusively by guys with Screeching Weasel tattoos. And while I understand those criticisms, you have to be a real stick in the mud to outright hate this shit. It’s fun!

Sure, if you listen to enough of the stuff, you’ll certainly hear a lot of similar (if not exactly the same) chord progressions. And reading through tracklists, you might get overwhelmed by the amount of things these bands do and don’t wanna do. I view all of these idiosyncrasies as a set of strict parameters that must be adhered to when writing songs. It’s easy to write a shitty Ramonescore style pop-punk song (believe me, I’ve heard my fair share), but quite difficult to write good ones when playing by these “rules”.

With their debut album Just Wanna, the Pinoles pass the test. This record delivers everything an old school pop-punk fan could ask for. Nine tracks in 20 minutes, all simple, catchy, and easy to sing along to even after you’ve thrown back a few. Some of my favorite songs are “Padded Walls”, “You Make Me Sick”, “I Don’t Love You Anymore”, “Santa Cruz”, and the title track. These guys don’t fuck around. Just like the Ramones, they get you in and out quick. I appreciate the efficiency.

Like most Ramonescore bands, these Californians wear their influences proudly on the sleeves of their leather jackets. Their frontman uses a Mosrite guitar to deliver a barrage of downstroked bar chords, à la Johnny Ramone. The little “whoa oh-oh-oh” bit on the album’s title track is lifted straight from Screeching Weasel’s “High School Psychopath”. And there are numerous references to classic songs and records sprinkled throughout the lyrics across this entire album. There is no shame in their game, and that’s perfectly fine by me.

Regardless of whether you enjoy this brand of pop-punk, I highly recommend checking out Just Wanna. It’s a very well produced record with fun, no-nonsense songwriting. Listen to the album below, and head over to the Pinoles’ Bandcamp page to download it.

Official Review Score:
4/5 Converse All Stars

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DS Exclusive/Show Gallery: La Armada

Story and Photography by Meredith Goldberg Back on July 25th, La Armada kicked off a mini tour in Chicago at The Burlington in support of its most recent record, Anti-Colonial Vol. 2. I caught up with founding member, and guitarist, Paúl Rivera, after the show to discuss, influences, legacies, and what drives them musically and otherwise.  La […]

Story and Photography by Meredith Goldberg

Back on July 25th, La Armada kicked off a mini tour in Chicago at The Burlington in support of its most recent record, Anti-Colonial Vol. 2. I caught up with founding member, and guitarist, Paúl Rivera, after the show to discuss, influences, legacies, and what drives them musically and otherwise. 

La Armada

La Armada was first formed in 2001 by grade school friends in the Dominican Republic: guitarist Jonathan Salazar, guitarist Paúl Rivera, bassist Mani Marte, and drummer Eric Urrea. Casper Torres has been on vocals for the group for a decade and is from Puerto Rico. “We have been going to play shows in Puerto Rico pretty much since we were 14 or 15 years old, so we all knew each other and grew up as friends,” says guitarist Paúl Rivera.

La Armada

“We discovered punk, hardcore and metal pretty much in the mid 90’s when internet service became available in the Dominican Republic. Metal is more known in the DR, and we enjoyed it but never really identified with the lyrics and imagery.”

Rivera continues, “Punk came more natural because we were feeling a lot of the same discontent they would be singing about, especially because during that time we were on the tail end of a  dictatorship state and on route to a Neo-liberal pseudo dictatorship.” 

Growing up in the DR, the band members were exposed to music at very young ages. “Music is always around in the Caribbean. Our first form of musical love was what was around, merengue, salsa, and Bachata. But once we discovered Spanish punk, American metal, and so on that’s when it became an obsession. “

La Armada

However, that obsession did not cause the band to entirely separate from the music of its native region. Rather, it fused the multiple genres to create its own unique sound. 

“When you are young and on the island you kinda rebel against the music your parents listened to, when you grow up and become an immigrant there is a yearning for it and those are the rhythms we try and incorporate into the heavy genres we participate in.”

La Armada

While La Armada has always had much to say with its music, Rivera notes the group has one strong, recurring theme, “Anti-Colonialism. Which we explain is just not in the historical context of large nations extracting the wealth of the global south. We also lump up what we call “neocolonialism” into this motto, which we define as all external forces that have an influence over masses of people, like news, information, social media, ads, product placements, etc. 

Rivera adds: “A lot of these things are destroying our sense of worth, the environment and each other, but we consume it daily because it’s wrapped up as entertainment. It’s hard to know right now what is more dangerous, the physical or the digital sword.”

La Armada

I also asked Rivera what are some of the bands and sounds most influential, to La Armada. “Musically it’s all over the place. Spanish Punk rock like La Polla, Escuela de Odio, and more. American Hardcore like Bad Brains and Sick of it All, the island music we grew up with like merengue and bachata. Canadian, melodic Punk like Propagandhi, classic metal bands. And on and on.” 

Turning to the way the band operates, Rivera says, “As a band model, we take a lot from the DIY hip hop scene. Limited Merch drops, live sampling, owning your own masters, etc.”

La Armada

From Burlington Bar’s stage, band members spoke repeatedly about pursuing your art and how artists need to really go after it. Rivera expanded on that post-show.

“We’re just at point where we’ve been doing this for so long and are now in our mid and late 30’s that anything other than being the absolute best version of the band wouldn’t be worth it.”

La Armada

He also noted, “As a small, DIY band that literally carves out any traction or momentum against all odds, we have made our peace with just putting the work in and trusting that the rest will take care of itself.”

Rivera explains, “Basically, if we’re going to do something, we are really going to go for it. Otherwise, none of us really have time for hobbies. For example, our album roll out consisted of 6 singles, 5 music videos and different pieces of visual art. All made in collaboration with artists from the Caribbean diaspora across the world. That was a big effort, but that was the only way we were going to do it. All or nothing.”

La Armada

Of course, La Armada found itself affected by the pandemic. Rivera addresses this:

“First off, we were lucky that everyone remained healthy, employed and nobody had immediate family affected by it. However, artistically it was rough. We were used to being on tour for 3 to 4 months out of the year and all of a sudden that was taken away from us. It felt like you lost your identity.”

He continues, “We were also planning on heading back out on some tours that coincided when COVID first hit so, we got left holding a bill for goods we had purchased for tour, which also completely sucked.”

La Armada

Rivera recognizes that despite difficulties, the group members might have been luckier than many others.

“A lot of bands and artists went through the same and much worse situations. Somehow, we made it to the other side and are now able to look at things differently, as in, simply doing the work is the reward.” 

That work includes the new La Armada record. 

“Our new record is Anti-Colonial Vol. 2 – It is the follow up to 2017’s Vol. 1. We wrote it and recorded it during the pandemic in 3 different spurts at the studio because things kept getting canceled because of Covid protocols.”

La Armada

Still, Rivera stresses the importance of remaining positive:

“It was a difficult time to do art, but it was the only way to keep the band going and maintain some sense of inspiration going.”

La Armada

The band has played sporadically thus far in 2022. “This year we had our Chicago release show in February, a weekend in the Midwest in March and now are now touring again in longer spurts.”

The “longer spurts“ began with this particular night at Burlington Bar, where family, friends and fans wished them safe travels and hopes for a good time out on the road. 

La Armada

That road will take them across North America. “We are first doing the eastern US and Canada for 3 weeks during August, then we take a 3-week break and follow that up with 3 more weeks out west for shows with Propagandhi, Tørsö, and headliners of our own.”

La Armada

La Armada is represented by: Thousand Islands Records for Canadian distribution, Lockjaw! Records for UK and EU distribution and our own Mal De Ojo Records for the US and Latin America.

More photos below!

La Armada

La Armada

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DS Festival Review: Slam Dunk Festival (North)

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.

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DS Interview: Jesse and Justin Bivona on The Interrupters’ new album, “In The Wild”

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…

(*all laugh*)

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!”

(*all laugh*)

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?

Jesse: Never.

Justin: No.

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”?

Jesse: Well…

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.

Both: Yeah!

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?

Both: Yeah!

Justin: For sure.

Jesse: Definitely.

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…”

Both: Yeah!

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…

Both: Yeah!

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 was from 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.

Both: Yeah!

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. 

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DS Show Review and Photo Gallery: Camp Cope Live at Union Transfer (2022-07-22)

Camp Cope has long considered Philadelphia to be their home away from home, so when lead singer Georgia Maq greeted the crowd at Union Transfer on Friday night with the exclamation, “It feels so good to be in my favorite city in the entire world!” it wasn’t hard to believe that she was being totally […]

Camp Cope has long considered Philadelphia to be their home away from home, so when lead singer Georgia Maq greeted the crowd at Union Transfer on Friday night with the exclamation, “It feels so good to be in my favorite city in the entire world!” it wasn’t hard to believe that she was being totally sincere.  The Australian group was accepted as one of Philly’s own going back to their debut in the City of Brotherly Love at the old Balcony Bar just about 5 years ago to the day.  Philly’s vibrant and accepting indie/punk scene is extremely female/LGBTQ-centric and Camp Cope has always been considered one of the gang. It’s with this in mind that I am always willing to make the hour and a half drive down the NJ Turnpike from NY to catch them in Philly. 

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since I last saw Camp Cope at The Church (AKA First Unitarian  Church) back in 2019.  With that in mind, the current version of the band which graced the stage at Union Transfer was somewhat different from what we last saw 3 years ago. They released a new album earlier in the year and Running With The Hurricane is somewhat of a departure for the band.  Of course there’s still precocious Georgia and the backbone of the group, Sarah (Thom Thom) Thompson behind the drum kit but for the album, they added a second guitar and for this tour they’ve added Jenny Aslett to the mix.  And then there’s the absence of Kelly-Dawn Helmrich on bass who couldn’t make this trip due to her expecting her firstborn relatively soon.  Kelly’s role as bass player extraordinaire is being filled by UK ex-pat and current Philadelphia denizen, Lou Hanman of All Away Lou (amongst a multitude of other bands).

Having seen their show a couple of days earlier at Webster Hall in NYC, I already knew what would be in store as far as the new lineup was concerned.  Their set started off with an early single, “Keep Growing” which the band would eventually include on a 4 song split they did with the now disbanded Philly group, Cayetana.  With the lyrics:

I’ll keep growing my hair out

It’s not for you

Oh no, it’s not for you

No, it’s not for you

While the song might have been at the time a direct response to a romance gone wrong, it seems that on this tour, Georgia and Camp Cope are doing their own thing, they’re not the same group from 5 years ago and these imminent and obvious changes aren’t for the public but instead for them. They’re growing as a group (both literally and figuratively) because they need to. The need to avoid inertia and stagnation is first and foremost a priority for the group.

Next up was “Jealous” from the new album.  This one started out pretty slow with Georgia singing almost dirge-like over Lou’s rolling bassline riffs. That is until the chorus where Georgia’s vocals  take off. After experiencing vocal issues a couple of years ago and subsequently having surgery to repair the problem, her voice is back better than ever.  With a range much more diverse than before, she is now hitting notes and killing them…killing them in a very good way.

The third song of the evening was another older one, “How To Socialize and Make Friends”, the title track from their incredible sophomore album.  A bouncing rocker and crowd favorite, this one would have the crowd swaying and dancing and singing right along with Maq as she danced and swirled all over the stage in not much more than a t-shirt and sandals, eventually kicking off her shoes saying “shoes…they’re so fucking stupid”.

We then got a stretch of new songs from Hurricane to which the crowd was already quite familiar, singing and dancing throughout.  At some point during this set of new material, Georgia expressed how sorry she and the band were for the “fucked up things your country is putting you through”.  Going on she explained how they were raising money on this tour for reproductive and female rights.  This would be an ongoing topic throughout the evening, not at all surprisingly.

Two of the new songs which stood out during this section of the show were “Caroline” and the album’s first single “Blue”.  On the album, “Caroline” is sung quite slowly but here Georgia took the bouncy, yet subtle bass riff that plays throughout and interpreted the lyrics with that same bounce, picking up the pace of the song, making it much more of a jaunt than what we hear on the album.

As far “Blue” is concerned, they played it pretty straight up relative to the recorded version.  But what struck me was the vocal work on the song.  As I’ve said already, Georgia’s voice is sounding superb on this tour and on this song particularly she gets to show it off glowingly.  Furthermore, we are treated to something we’ve never had before as far as live Camp Cope is concerned, background vocals.  With the addition of Jenny and Lou, the extra vocals only accentuate the power and beauty of Georgia’s pipes.

I guess this might be as good a place as any to mention the unbridled triumph which Lou Hanman is on bass. Kelly’s style of playing bass as almost a lead instrument rather than a rhythm instrument is not at all typical. Matter of factly, off the top of my head, the only other player who does it is Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order fame. Well, Lou has managed to step into the band and absolutely nail it. While I’m not at all surprised she was able to fill Kelly’s role, but the ease and comfort to which she’s accomplished it blows my mind.

Finishing off the evening’s set were two absolute gems. First, was the title track from the new one, “Running With The Hurricane”, a rollicking freewheeling song that reaches anthemic levels as Georgia pranced throughout the stage shouting the title and main lyric.

And to close things out, the band jumped into what might be one of the most scathing FU songs of all time. Part jilted lover breakup song and part I’m so sick of the patriarchal music biz bullshit, the song oozes with male loathing.  And on Friday night Georgia spewed that loathing with an absolute vengeance. The beauty of it all, however, was and is that here was Camp Cope, having just gotten back from a triumphant set at Pitchfork, here was Camp Cope playing Union Transfer in Philly, a steady upward progression from The Balcony Bar to Philly MOCA to The Church and now UT.  

Camp Cope killed it in Philly and continues to kill it almost everywhere they go despite all those naysayers who told them along the way to book a smaller venue.

Swipe through below to see more pictures from the triumphant event!


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Dying Scene Presents – Artists Beyond the Chords: Chris Shary

When art and music collide! “Artists Beyond the Chords” is a Dying Scene series highlighting stories from various visual artists in the scene. Our first installment showcases the work and wisdom of Chris Shary. Chris Shary is one of the hardest working artists, who’s been a hard hitting staple in the punk community for decades. […]

When art and music collide! “Artists Beyond the Chords” is a Dying Scene series highlighting stories from various visual artists in the scene. Our first installment showcases the work and wisdom of Chris Shary.

Chris Shary is one of the hardest working artists, who’s been a hard hitting staple in the punk community for decades. Based out of Stockton, California, Shary is also a dedicated drama teacher, father, husband, and self-proclaimed dork. He truly does it ALL (pun intended). Best known for his depiction of “Milo” (Descenedents), his works have also supported the likes of ALL, The Damned, Devo, Blink-182, The Meatmen, Circle Jerks, 7 Seconds, The Dead Milkmen, Agent Orange, Melvins, The Lillingtons, Chemical People, Masked Intruder, and so many more. His output ranges from album art, concert flyers, t-shirts, specialized merch items, and even action figures. With such an impressive resume, one might think it’s all done for notoriety, but deep down he’s just a huge fan expressing his undying love for music. 

Shary’s artistic journey began when he was first able to hold a crayon and pencil, but really became serious at the tender age of 6. At 17 years old, he started creating pieces for different bands and has been going strong ever since. He often teeters between different portraiture styles such as vibrant pop-art induced color blocking and black and white sketch realism. His current art-weapons-of-choice are pen and ink, mainly sharpies, but he recently started working with acrylic paints again. Consistently creating is key to his process.

“I try and draw every day, but I do a lot of thinking prior to starting commissioned work, or if I am getting ideas together for a band I want to work with. I walk my dog for a half hour every morning right when I wake up and that’s time I devote to thinking of ideas of what I might create,” said Shary.

Another way he searches for ideas is by experiencing live music. Oftentimes you can catch him at some of the biggest shows snapping shots for his latest creations. Not many can rock a phone camera in the photo pit without getting a boot from security, but he has clout, and for good reason. 

“I use the photos as reference when I’m working,” Shary explained, “but it also connects me with bands on a much closer level.”

As far as his true artistic motivation, Shary does not look outside of his own home. Family comes first, and it lives in the heart of each piece he creates. 

“My family is the thing that inspires me the most. My wife Lori is also an amazing artist and she is constantly making incredible pieces and kinda pushes me because of that. My son is also a big fan of the work we do, so I always want to impress him.”

Like a machine, Shary regularly posts new works on his social media accounts. Whether it’s commissioned or perfectly juxtaposed doodles for his own pleasure. Music aside, subjects range from pop culture references, memes, movies, television, and comic books. He never lets himself falter or take long breaks away from art, and strongly believes no creative person should. 

“I think the idea of an artist’s block is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People tend to psych themselves out and then can’t get out of it. It just seems like an easy way to not work. I’m all about making things and hitting headlines. Just keep doing work and there is no need to slow down.” 

For those who want to break into the music art industry, Shary preaches the importance of repetition while remaining open and to your true self. 

“Do the work. Draw everyday and be happy to do it for yourself. No one owes you anything so be happy for whatever happens. It’s not always a quick process so do the work,” he advised. 

When asking Shary what he would like to leave Dying Scene readers with he offered a pure sentiment of kindness. 

“Be nice to each other, and try seeing things from other people’s point of view.”

View and support Chris Shary’s artwork at: 

Chrisshary.bigcartel.com

Instagram

Facebook 

Chris Shary’s Liner Notes

Do you have a favorite concert memory? 
One of my biggest thrills was singing “Bloodstains” with DESCENDENTS in 97. I guess one of my all time favorite shows was one with Kevin Seconds, Steve Soto and Alyson Seconds in an acoustic setting. It was insanely beautiful. 

What bands are you listening to now? 
The Linda Lindas have been an obsession lately. Just saw Bleached and fell for them. Kinda been listening to the Lemonheads a lot lately and always Jawbreaker, and DESCENDENTS of course. Saw HoleHog in Sacramento the other night and they were rad!

What song best describes you as a person? 
The theme from Shaft. At least that’s what I hear in my head a lot.

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No Fun At All cancel tour dates, postpone new album following assault allegations (UPDATE: Festival organizers release statement)

Swedish skate punk band No Fun At All has cancelled all of their upcoming tour dates, and postponed the release of their new album Seventh Wave. The news comes after Sick of it All guitarist Pete Koller alleged that his wife was physically assaulted by NFAA frontman Ingemar Jansson backstage at the Brakrock festival this […]

Swedish skate punk band No Fun At All has cancelled all of their upcoming tour dates, and postponed the release of their new album Seventh Wave. The news comes after Sick of it All guitarist Pete Koller alleged that his wife was physically assaulted by NFAA frontman Ingemar Jansson backstage at the Brakrock festival this past weekend in Belgium.

Koller’s wife Mei-Ling who is a guitar tech for Sick of it All made an Instagram post, stating that the singer “came off stage looking for something during his set, claimed that all my stuff was his, he pushed me when I didn’t move, then he picked me up from behind and we started to fight”.

No Fun At All responded to the allegations with a statement of their own, in which they acknowledge the incident did occur, but that it was due to an “enormous misunderstanding” and that “there were altercations, but in no way as condemnable as those described by the other party”. The band also alleges that when Brakrock staff gave Jansson the opportunity to apologize to Mei-Ling Koller following their set, “she chose to hit him instead”.

One thing both sides agree on is that there were multiple witnesses present. However, no third parties – festival organizers included – have stepped forward to substantiate any of the claims made by either side. We will keep you posted if and when that changes.

No Fun At All was slated to release their seventh studio album through SBÄM Records at some point this year. The record label has stated they are keeping tabs on the situation, and will “make the appropriate decision” when they have all the facts straight.

Update: Organizers of the Brakrock festival have issued a statement regarding the incident on their Facebook page, which you can read below.

Mei-Ling Koller’s statement:

No Fun At All’s statement:

Brakrock festival organizers’ statament:

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