Aimee Interrupter Allen
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Running Towards Something: The Interrupters’ Aimee Allen

The songs of the Interrupters’ Aimee Allen reveal a moment, mood, or secret deep in her life and for which she is finally finding the right words.

In the Wild
The Interrupters
5 August 2022

In music, Aimee Allen confides her hopes, her dreams, and her fears, her special talent exposing the emotional undercurrents that bind them all together. As the lead vocalist of the electrifying ska-punk band the Interrupters, she calls herself “Aimee Interrupter” on stage. Although she left the city of Missoula more than 20 years ago, it holds special significance in her development, for it served as the background on which she painted the palette of her future self – and, to some degree, it still contours the bristly, restless force of her songwriting.  

Music Mends the Wounds

Born in Missoula, Montana, in 1979, age eight was a pivotal year in the sensitive growth of Aimee Allen, a compulsively creative awakening of an endlessly lean childhood she describes as “hard” and “difficult”.  

“We moved around a lot,” says Allen. “There was divorce. And I ended up in a foster home. I was feeling very depressed, sad, and lonely, so I started to write songs at eight. My first song was to my mom for her birthday. I had no money, but I wanted to give her a gift. That made me want to write songs as gifts to all of the people that I loved, and I started to write something like prayers as an outlet, calling out for help, seeing, asking, am I the only one who feels this way? Am I the only one was has this kind of pain?” 

At times an almost overwhelming wonder had taken hold of her, her mind carried away by her growing passion for dreams. Words and music allowed her to assert herself, and all her loneliness and flight from reality were summed up in those pair of intentions. 

“Music started as therapy, a way to get the pain out. Listening to music comforted me; I’d write poetry and songs and play a little piano and guitar. For me, poetry and melody had my heart.”

Around that time, she started listening deeply to punk rock singer and guitarist Joan Jett. 

“She was so cool to me then and is so cool to me now,” says Allen. “She gave voice to my inner childhood rage and angst and how I felt and seemed so empowered. I was very afraid as a little girl. She taught me through her music and voice that I don’t need to be afraid. And I hope that I can be that for some other little girl out there, that she hears me, and that she too can find her voice, and can find hope, and that she won’t be afraid to be herself.” 

As a teenager, Allen waited tables at the Mustard Seed and worked at Casa Pablo’s. The defunct Jay’s Upstairs, a steamy, full-of-character bar that was never short on raucous music or intriguing acts, factors into Allen’s story most prominently. 

“I’d always go to shows at Jay’s Upstairs,” says Allen. “I even played a show there and did a lot of open mics, including the bar that was connected to Casa Pablo’s, and I was a deejay at the University (of Montana) radio station. Jay’s was a part of my daily life for a while. … so many bands came through town, and a ton of punk rockers. It felt like such a community.”

As much as she tried to make peace with her life, there was also something urging or goading her to keep on keepin’ on. She wanted to run away from everything – the grey clouds, the dismal winters, the restrictions of geography – but she wanted to run towards something too. And she did.

Running Towards Something

The story of Allen’s trip to California and subsequent punk rock success is worth a book in itself, the first chapter rooted in her seeking, her hunger, and her wanting to be someone else. Someone with a new perspective and new address, and a new personality. Someone making her own little groove. 

“I had saved two thousand dollars from working at the Mustard Seed and had a full tank of gas and was ready to go,” says Allen. 

Determined to pursue her dream of making music, her blood nearly sang with energy when she headed west to meet up with a band she’d met while hanging at Jay’s Upstairs. As it turned out, she only stayed with them for about a week; they weren’t close enough to the heart of Los Angeles. 

“I left their house even though I’d never been to L.A.,” says Allen. “I had seen the movies with the Hollywood sign, and that’s what I did. I parked by the sign. I was in the place where I needed to be, but I didn’t know anybody.”

In a half-dream state, she called a friend, a bartender at Jay’s Upstairs, who’d mentioned that he had been an extra on Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It, and she asked him if he could put her in touch with someone in the city who might be able to help her get established with housing.   

“I said, do you know somebody who might have a room available to rent?” recalls Allen. “He called them and then he called me back on a pay phone, and he said they’d had a room available for rent. Believe it or not, the address was the exact street I was parked on. I could see the house from the pay phone.”

After securing the rental, Allen found a job, and hooked up with various musicians in the city, where she met record executive Randy Jackson. Within three years of arriving in Los Angeles, she ended up with a record deal on the opposite coast.  

In 2011, Allen formed the ska-punk band the Interrupters with brothers Kevin, Justin, and Jesse Bivona, sons of a recording engineer and grandsons of a big band orchestra sensation. Allen later married Kevin Bivona. 

“Our band was on tour. I met Aimee when she was playing a solo record. I didn’t know her or her music at the time,” says Kevin Bivona. “We were playing in a field in Central California, and I watched her set and heard her voice and was blown away. It was love at first sight. We talked every night and connected on a songwriting level. I soon realized that I couldn’t ever go a day in my life without this person. We clicked and formed the Interrupters within a year.”

Her Name in Neon

Aimee Allen relies on inspiration, which is to say that she depends on feelings so deeply embedded in her personality that she is naturally able to direct them. Energized, fiery, and intensely spirited, she has achieved a quality of emotional and factual candor in her vocals. Her songs reveal a moment, a mood, or a secret that lay deep in Allen’s life and for which she is finally finding the right words. 

“I try and find the truth of the situation and my authentic truth,” says Allen. “If I do my job, someone will connect with it, be comforted, feel less alone, and know that they are not the only one out there who experiences that same truth.  To feel what you are saying and mean it – that’s the heart of singing. If you are connecting, the vocal technique and technicalities come second to that. Connect. Be in the moment.” 

The Interrupters continue to gather force as they move along, propelled by Allen’s instinct to sing with the psyche and pour a lifetime into a moment on stage. Indeed, she is an example of music as a work of love, as an attempt to break down the walls that divide one person from another, and also, in its own fashion, a celebration of small-town life in the lost days of adolescence and innocence. 

In April of this year, Allen hosted a slew of family members at her show at The Wilma in Missoula, Montana, a proud cluster who will arrive from various points of the state of Montana and beyond, including her mother, Frances Preston, and her grandmother, Frances Price, who is 102 years old.  

“My grandmother, when she was about 75, 80, and when I was new to music, always said, ‘I want to live long enough to see your name in lights.”