With Riot Fest Chicago coming up this weekend (September 13-15 | Buy tickets), the AP editors scoured the massive lineup for some of the budding acts you may want to show up early to catch. Though most of the artists playing the Fest are very familiar favorites, we each were still able to find some new hidden gems for you.
PLAYING RIOT FEST: September 14
If you get to Riot Fest this year and are wondering what stage the Interrupters are playing on, here’s a suggestion: Breathe deep through your nose, follow the scent of burning shoe leather, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a crowd tearing it up to the band’s brisk ska-punk vibe. Really, you would be forgiven if you stumbled upon the Interrupters’ irresistibly bouncy “A Friend Like Me.”
and thought some satellite radio station was rocking old-school Two-Tone sides from 30 years ago. The truth is the SoCal quartet started two years ago when guitarist Kevin Bivona and his brothers Justin (bass) and Jesse (drums) began writing with longtime singer/songwriter Aimee Interrupter (aka Aimee Allen) for a proposed album. The results were so good, they decided to make a go out of being a band. “Oh, we’re heavily influenced by stuff like the Selecter and Madness. None of us had really ever gone that route musically, but when we did, it was so fun. We have a lot of punk-rock influence, too, and that comes out in what we do. We write songs in all kinds of styles and fit them into our sound.”
Rancid’s Tim Armstrong was aware of Kevin’s talents (guitarist/keyboardist/recording engineer/producer) as far back as 2005 when he enlisted him as an auxiliary member of his other band, Transplants, playing keyboards during the band’s stint on the 2005 Warped Tour, and then as a bassist in 2009. Armstrong was more than qualified to produce the Interrupters’ impending debut album, slated for release in the near future. While the album has plenty of high-spirited fun moments, there’s also a serious political side at play with tracks like “Liberty.”
“There’s not a lot of substance in mainstream music,” Kevin says. “It’s really hard to find artists that have a stance on issues. We try not to get too specific with it, but we keep it about fun and not propaganda. It’s not about being anti-government as much as it is [rebelling against] people that want to suppress you and lots of self-empowerment.” But at the end of the Interrupters’ day, songwriting—for whatever intent—remains key.
“I like bands that stand out,” says Kevin, “whether it be their lyrics or their sound. We’re always looking for inspiration. When you sit down to write a song, you have nothing; at the end of it, you have a song. You have to respect anybody that’s doing it, because it is something that comes from nothing. And it’s part of our lives.” —Jason Pettigrew
PLAYING RIOT FEST: Saturday, September 14
When Attack Attack! announced their disbandment in April, they dropped major hints that they would return, but not under the AA! banner. From those ashes rise Nativ, who were hoping Riot Fest would provide the perfect backdrop for their big reveal. But between singer Phil Druyor’s signature vocals and familiar motifs fans had heard in “No Defeat,” which they released under the Attack Attack! name last December, cropping up in the new songs they had snuck up on YouTube, there would be no keeping their identity under wraps for long.
“There were just kids left and right immediately putting things together in a really cohesive way,” says Druyor. “It just got to a point where we had to release something because there was just too much speculation. We didn’t want any of it to be wrong.”
Their disassociation from AA! began with the requests and comments of their fans in the first place, so it makes sense that they (with the help of Facebook switching their page over early) would be the ones to out them. “Fans were saying ‘This isn’t Attack Attack! anymore,’ Druyor recalls. “We’re not too proud to admit that when we sat down and had a conversation about it, we agreed.” Drummer Andrew Wetzel adds, “We listened to the people who had spent all that time listening to us.”
Big reveal or not, Riot Fest still marks Nativ’s first official performance. It is where the band—Druyor, AA! founders Andrew Whiting (guitar) and Wetzel, Tyler Sapp (bass) and former AA! guitar tech Will Honto—will show off material from their upcoming album and begin the journey to establish their new identity. And if witnessing their first performance isn’t incentive enough to show up early, the band have more plans for Saturday. “Since it is our first show and our introduction, we’re probably going to go there early and schedule some sort of hangout to meet the people who want to meet us,” Druyor says.
“I think all of us have that ‘high school band’ feeling right now. It’s exciting work to do,” Druyor adds. “Everyone’s really stoked about what’s around the corner, and it’s a really collective effort.” –Cassie Whitt
PLAYING RIOT FEST: Saturday, September 14
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Three bored teenagers start a punk band. Oh, and they’re brothers. Oh, and they’re from a relatively small hometown with no known music scene to speak of. Oh, and they’re black. Oh, and their dad is their manager. Oh, and the U.K. press is already hyping them up as the Next Big Thing. Welcome to the wild world of Radkey, where writing about the power trio is like playing Rock Cliché Bingo. Only here’s the catch: They’re pretty fucking great.
“We can’t help that we’re brothers, we can’t help that we’re young and we can’t help that we’re black,” says bassist/vocalist Isaiah Radke, 18. “We just want to rock.” And rock they do on their debut EP, Cat & Mouse, delivering five songs cut from the same horror-punk cloth that Danzig himself sewed nearly 30 years ago. (Seriously, take one listen to the fired-up “Out Here In My Head” and you’ll wonder if you found a long-lost Misfits demo.) But Radke says the similarity is unintentional. “We actually don’t draw much influence from Misfits,” he says. “We became fans of theirs after getting compared to them so much. None of our songs are actually Misfits inspired; [vocalist/guitarist] Dee just has a deep voice.”
While Misfits might not have been a primary influence, there’s no doubt they draw on classic ’70s punk for inspiration, thanks to their dad, Matt. The trio were all home schooled, so they had plenty of time to spend with his record collection, Radke explains. But seeing as how their father also serves as their manager, we have to know: What’s the difference between having your dad yell at you and your manager yell at you? Radke laughs. “There’s not much yelling going on, actually,” he says. “But if someone else attempted to yell at us, there would definitely be some trouble.”
The young band have their second EP, Devil Fruit, dropping October 15, and plan on performing a mix of both EPs at their Riot Fest engagement—that is, if they can tear themselves away from watching other bands. When we ask Radke who he’s most excited about seeing, he rattles off a list of nearly a dozen bands, including Rancid, Joan Jett and Peelander-Z. But at the top of the heap? “Blondie,” he confesses. “That’s a big one for me.” —Scott Heisel