Say what you will about Sugar Ray, Mark McGrath’s 1990s Top 40 act. But, even on recent nostalgia tours, the group has good taste in opening acts.
That’s the opinion of singer Aimee Allen, who signed on to a 2009 Sugar Ray tour to tout her second, more acoustic solo album “A Little Happiness,” after watching her rockier 2003 debut for Elektra get shelved when the label suddenly folded.
The Telecasters – guitarist Kevin Bivona and his brothers, twins Justin and Jesse Bivona, on bass and drums, respectively – also were on the Sugar Ray bill. Soon, wedding bells would chime for Kevin and Aimee, who went on to form the boisterous ska-punk quartet The Interrupters. Allen also changed her surname – to Interrupter.
It’s an unlikely origin story. But The Interrupters – backing their new self-titled debut in San Francisco this weekend – quietly coalesced on the road with Sugar Ray.
“We just became friends, as people do, on tour,” says Allen/Interrupter. “And when we finished, I hit up Kevin, asking if he wanted to produce my next solo record. But about halfway through working on it, I was like, ‘You know what?’ I don’t want to be a solo artist anymore – let’s start a band!’ Kevin can put it more poetically from here.”
“Hey, I’m no poet,” chuckles Kevin Bivona, talking on speakerphone. “But we were doing Aimee’s solo record, and I brought the twins in to play on it, and everyone got along so well, she decided she wanted us to be a band.”
He had a musical past just as colorful as his wife’s. When they met, he was also working with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, as keyboardist for his side project The Transplants. He also won a Grammy for his engineering on Jimmy Cliff’s Armstrong-produced 2011 comeback album “Rebirth.”
Naturally, Armstrong quickly signed The Interrupters to his personal Hellcat imprint.
Armstrong already had written with Aimee Interrupter for her third album, which was later scrapped, says Bivona, who adds, “But when we told Tim we’d started the band, he said ‘I want to be involved!’ So he offered to produce and co-write with us – everything just happened organically.”
With no Sugar Ray sweetness, the Interruptersrevitalize the old Selecter/Dance Hall Crashers schematic, in political originals like “Can’t Be Trusted” and “Take Back the Power,” plus hyper covers of Berlin’s “The Metro” and Cliff’s reggae classic “Treat the Youth Right.”
One moon-stomping track, “Family,” is a snarling duet between Armstrong and The Interrupters’ equally gruff frontwoman.
“And we are a family, absolutely,” says Bivona. “Tim wrote that song with us, and he’s family, too. He’s like the fifth Interrupter – we don’t ever make a move without talking to him.”
IF YOU GO
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, with The Interrupters
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday