words by Erin Wolf
Large pop ensembles are an oddity, not, in current pop music, so Brooklyn eight-piece Rubblebucket has a little bit of fighting to do amongst like-sized groups. And they certainly do it with their unabashed penchant for funk and a bit of noodling, earning them that cock-eyed ‘jam band?’ attribution, but these jammers are more lively than most and don’t intend to let their audiences slide into zone-out land. Consequence of Sound remarks of the single from the band’s latest album (see video above) ““Came Out a Lady” may be the best track of the bunch, vocalist Kalmia Traver sounding like the long-lost sister of Shapes and Sizes’ Caila Thompson-Hannant on the verses, forging a unique identity combined with the horn section and synth squiggles.” Rubblebucket learned their ‘squiggles’ at the University of Vermont and trumpet player Alex Toth tells WMSE of that and their current tour which lands them at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom this Sunday.
Rubblebucket was formed over a couple of you meeting at music school – was the band inspired from seeing each other play and listen to each other’s compositions while attending classes?
In a way, yes. Kalmia and I played in University of Vermont ensembles like “Latin Jazz Combo” together, haha. I first recognized what a special gift for melody she had there and I encouraged her to work hard at her craft. She sort of melted me. We had an improvisatory instrumental-ish group together outside of UVM. I remember her playing me a new song at her apartment called “Lamp” that has affected my harmonic and writing sensibilities ever since.
What gets written first when composing? The brass parts? They dominate your music, but not overbearingly so – they just seem extremely integral to what you do.
Sometimes when I’m practicing trumpet or fooling around on it really fun parts come out that end up being the bassline, guitar part, vocal melody etc. For “Came out of a Lady” the first thing I wrote was indeed the actual brass hook. Sometimes, especially recently, brass arrangements are more of an afterthought like ‘How can I fit horns into this song in a cool new way that makes the song better?” A lot of my songs have come from the keyboard parts initially. With keys you can setup rhythm and harmony at the same time in pretty complete way.
What was it like to score such great press from playing CMJ Fest in 2009, one of your first big performances?
It was really nice. The impact of the SPIN Magazine highlight and Boston Music Award were huge in taking us to a new level and possibly continuing as a band. It’s not easy to sustain eight or nine people on the road, so every bit helps!
What’s new and good?
Working on new music to hopefully record this winter…’out to release a new music video for the song “Down In the Yards” that our drummer Dave Cole and our friend Yuan Liu put together. It’s really exciting stuff replete with graveyards, conservatory dancers, projection and t***. Also, we’re working on a couple David Bowie covers to unveil on the road. Basically, this tour is super fun and exciting. We love playing our music for and meeting new people every night. It’s like having a big make-out session with each city we play across the U.S.