KNITTING FACTORY PRESENTS
The Interrupters, SWMRS, Sharp Shock
An L.A.-based four-piece bound by their rebel spirit and deep love of 2 Tone, The Interrupters make super-high-energy ska-punk that’s equal parts catchy and confrontational. Produced by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, the band’s self-titled debut for Hellcat/Epitaph Records sees frontwoman Aimee Interrupter, guitarist Kevin Bivona, bassist Justin Bivona, and drummer Jesse Bivona spitting out lyrics that take on matters as thorny as martial law and Big Brotherism while churning out bouncing rocksteady rhythms and snarly guitar riffs.
After teaming up with Armstrong—whom Kevin got to know while taking over as touring keyboard player for The Transplants in 2005—The Interrupters wrote and recorded all of their debut in a matter of days. Proof of the band’s fiery chemistry, the result is a frenetic free-for-all that tosses out anthem after anthem, from the album-opening “Take Back the Power” (a purely punk rallying cry) to “Family” (a swinging, scrappy number featuring Armstrong on vocals) to “Easy On You” (a powerful but sweetly melodic ode to “breaking cycles of abuse and learning how to love yourself,” as Aimee explains) to “Last Call” (an all-out party song and homage to “Nite Klub” by The Specials).
Forming The Interrupters in 2012, Aimee and the Bivonas first crossed paths when the brothers’ former band Telacasters shared bills with her on a summer 2009 tour when she was performing solo as Aimee Allen. When it came time to record their debut, the band reached out to Armstrong (a mutual hero of The Interrupters who had also collaborated with Kevin in producing reggae legend Jimmy Cliff’s 2012 album Rebirth). “Working with Tim, nothing ever gets overthought—it’s like lightning in a bottle,” says Kevin, adding that many of the songs on The Interrupters were captured in one take. Aimee also points out that the fast-and-loose approach was key to giving her a vocal performance the raw urgency that the lyrics demanded. “Recording the vocals, the most important thing was to be real and honest and if things weren’t perfect, that was totally okay,” she says, noting that her gravelly-growly delivery owes a lot to “all the times I got my Joan Jett tapes taken away as punishment when I was little kid and sang her songs a capella as revenge.”
Having toured with Rancid in 2013—along with regularly playing with Armstrong as Tim Timebomb and Friends—The Interrupters have built their live act on unstoppable energy and a feeling of easy community that reflects their familial vibe. “There’s usually a dance party going on in the crowd, which we appreciate, since we always have our own dance party happening onstage,” Kevin says. The Interrupters’s shared commitment to “never taking ourselves too seriously” also goes a long way in offsetting the heavy subject matter at the heart of so many of their songs. “Sometimes it sounds gnarly to say what we’re singing about, but we try to play in major keys and a superfast tempo that makes it feel upbeat,” says Kevin in discussing “Liberty,” a track written in response to increased use of surveillance technology in the U.S. “We have a lot of things that we’re outraged about and we need to sing about those things, but we make sure to keep it fun,” adds Aimee. “Sometimes it’s good to be happily outraged.”
There’s never been a punk band like SWMRS. That’s probably because it’s too limiting to label the Oakland quartet, “a punk band.” You might initially detect the caustic broadsides of The Clash and the amphetamine bubblegum of the Ramones. But within the carefully penned lyrics, propulsive energy, and raw honesty, you can hear the echoes of Public Enemy and Frank Ocean, A Tribe Called Quest to Kurt Cobain.
Listen to “Harry Dean,” the first song on their debut album, Drive North. The guitars draw blood, the drums detonate, and lead singer, Cole Becker unleashes a bleak but rowdy sneer.
The song chronicles the evolution from high school square-to-learning to let loose. It’s about the smallness of our place in the universe and the realization that you can do whatever you want. The central influences are the actor Harry Dean Stanton and “Cheap Beer” by FIDLAR—whose lead singer, Zac Carper produced the album.
“When I was younger, I used to write really political songs and was angry all the time,” Cole Becker, 20, says. “I eventually realized that you don’t have to write songs about politics to let people know that you’re thinking”
The band officially formed in early 2015, but their roots stretch back for years—to when Becker, and his childhood friend, Joey Armstrong (drums) began playing music together at 8 years old. They didn’t know how to play their instruments, but they’d seen School of Rock, and tabbed Cole’s brother Max to sing and play bass.
Before graduating high school, they’d already released two full-length albums and a handful of EP’s. They’d toured the world, and shared stages with Pennywise, Rise Against, and Soundgarden.
But SWMRS is a wholly new endeavor. The band recruited their friend Sebastian Mueller to play bass and Max Becker switched to lead guitar. Yet it’s more than just a slightly different formation: they’ve gone deeper, thought harder, learned to play with more power yet greater control.
After seeing them rip up the stage at Burgerama IV, Saint Laurent Paris creative director Hedi Slimane became so enamored with SWMRS that he asked them to walk the runway at his Paris fashion show, and write the soundtrack for his Spring/Summer 2016 presentation. Fueled by 40 oz. bottles of malt liquor, they turned in a 17-minute version of “Like Harry Dean Stanton.” It went over very well.
Their approach is crystallized on the album’s title track, “Drive North,” It’s not a command; it’s a concept. It’s about hometown pride and the desire to create a unique cultural identity. It’s allegorical and subversive, and could be the theme song for the Golden State Warriors the next time they play the Clippers.
Or listen to their first single, “Miley,” which i-D Magazine called, “the most punk tribute to Miley Cyrus ever.”
“Miley does exactly what she wants. It’s really rare to see somebody doing that, Cole Becker says. “She’s a business commodity, but seems to have maintained creative autonomy, which is super punk rock. And she’s standing up for sexual freedom and gender fluidity…that’s important, and something that not a lot of pop stars are doing.”
In 2016, punk rock isn’t just aesthetic. It’s about the ideas. It’s about upending expectations and finding freedom in your own voice. SWMRS have made a timeless but modern coming of age album—one that reminds you that you aren’t the only one trying to beat against the current.
Originally released on the band’s own Uncool Records, Drive North was re-released by Fueled By Ramen in October 2016. The new version of the album includes previously unreleased songs “Palm Trees” and “Lose It"
Have you ever heard the inarguable sound of what materializes when you let fate direct the future? What if that sound was influenced by twenty years of British and American punk cultures colliding? For the members of Sharp Shock, growing up with the bands that defined music with an honesty and passion that can be rarely found in modern times, cleared a very obvious path for what they wanted to do with their own lives. Sometimes in music, the storybook tale of determination, sacrifice and despair can be thrown around hastily. To some, those three things describe a reality that very few can truly understand, and for the members of Sharp Shock, they are only a few attributes that make up their unique story.
Having all played in bands from a young age, the work ethic it takes to move your life around the world just isn’t something that most people possess. Playing in garages to arenas and back again, sleeping on floors and in vans for the better part of the last fifteen years, they found their way to Southern California and were pushed only by that dream so many end up letting slip away.
Singer/Guitarist Davey Warsop (Beat Union, Suedehead) and bass player/vocals Dan Smith (The Dear & Departed) are UK exports. Smith by way of New Zealand and also widely known for his achievement in the tattoo world, they both moved to California in the early 2000’s without knowing each other. Korey Kingston (The Aggrolites/Suedehead), a San Diegan drummer raised on a healthy diet of Reggae, Ska and a West Coast view on that same upbringing, would end up completing this trio perfectly. Despite their different geographical beginnings, they quickly realized they were all very much from the same place. “The timing couldn’t have been better” says Smith. “As the story goes, both myself and Korey reached out to Davey by way of text message, coincidentally within a minute of each other, suggesting we start something. We hadn't even met, so i think Davey saw that as some kind of synchronicity, perhaps too much of a coincidence for him to ignore. Then before we knew it, we were already in the studio recording”.
It was only a matter of time before the hiatus they were all experiencing and this coincidence would essentially bring them together. Musically, it is exactly what you might expect kids schooled early on The Jam and Stiff Little Fingers would sound like. Then, submerse that in the sun drenched beach cities of Southern Californian surf,skate and punk culture and the sounds of The Descendents or early Green Day and you will find Sharp Shock. The way the band formed can only be described as organic and after some time away from playing and being rather disheartened with the machine of the music industry and not knowing where they fit in, they all agreed to take much more of a DIY approach this time. Warsop, having produced and engineered countless records over the years at Hurley studios shortly after moving to the US, was a key piece in the productivity of self producing the debut album. “We tracked the majority of this record live, to keep the performances honest and fun. Like our name suggests, we’re trying to keep everything about this band direct and to the point. From the songwriting being short and snappy, to us being a trio…we don’t want to overcomplicate anything.” says Warsop. Sharp Shock had their first record under their belt within a very short amount of time and it would be no surprise if a second wasn’t too far away. “This feels like it did when i was covering my favorite bands in my garage as a kid. We are doing only what we know…and doing it from the heart” say Smith.
Unlearn Everything will be released via Heart & Skull Records this summer.