Written by Saidy Lopez
The night before I was going see Rubblebucket perform their second sold out show in New York I listened to their new album, Survival Sounds, three times in it’s entirety.
You simply can not attend a Rubblebucket show and be all business. They are a kaleidoscope of sound and animation that must be experienced in the flesh,surrounded by many of their exuberant fans dancing and singing right along.
I had a few moments before the show to catch up with Annakalmia Traver, (lead vocalist, saxaphone player and all around great human being) and ask her a few questions. (Check out Saidy Lopez’s photos of Rubblebucket at Rough Trade here.)
Tell me a little bit about Rubblebucket, how would you describe your music to someone who has been asleep for the past five years?
Annakalmia Traver: I would say, good morning, I hope your body isn’t too atrophied and welcome to 2014. It’s been a crazy year so far, there has been a lot of crazy police brutality,and violence in the Middle East and life seems to be turning up a dust storm of scarier and scarier stuff in our world. But, we all have to keep on living so that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing and trying to fill my days doing what I want to do, which is play music, dance around, meet new people and see the world. I think that we’re a band who loves our job. We’ve all been doing this for about seven years in different formations and this group has been together for five as Rubblebucket. We’ve been through the fire and back together, we’ve grown a lot together and evolved musically.
How did Rubblebucket come together?
AT: I met Alex (Toth) who is the trumpet player and band leader. He wrote the majority of this record, Survival Sounds. We met in college as music students at the University of Vermont. We started dating then and still are, going strong for 10 years. We met all the other guys when we moved to Boston after college and they were also music students. We were touring with a reggae band and we knew we wanted to start our own project and that’s basically all we knew. We knew the type of music we loved and how we wanted to be engaging our audience, which is very engaged, happy, lively and dancing. The music just started from there and seven years later it’s totally turned into a different thing and that’s what you’re going to hear tonight.
If Rubblebucket had musical parents who would they be? Who are your biggest influences?
AT: That is such a great way of asking that question. I really prefer the question musical parents because it so clear to me when you ask that. I can look straight back maybe 20 years and see the Talking Heads doing their thing right in the same city and I hope that it would be true to say that they were doing a similar movement that we are, of breaking boundaries, following their hearts and making music to transport people and not just to be popular and make money.
Your music has several layers, can you tell me a little about the songwriting process?
AT: We all have a really playful improvisatory vibe together when we are just walking down the street or wherever. For me and Alex especially, being the main songwriters a lot of our musical moments happen outside of anywhere, in the moment. Our compositions stem from that spirit of improvisation. For me, I really like to try and get in the playful zone because that’s where the coolest creations come from. These days we’ve really been working on the craft of songwriting and honing lyrics more and more like a beautiful sculpture that you sand in until it becomes something that has meaning. We actually went for a gritty, grimey, loose sound on this record but the intention on the songs is clearer than it has ever been as opposed to in the beginning where we were, “We just want to make music because we’re bored and want to have fun and let’s slap some lyrics on there, they don’t have to mean anything”. Now from all of our experiences we have a lot more to say.
Which song off this album, Survival Sounds, resonates with you the most?
AT: There is a lot on this record that resonates, it’s a very personal record, a lot of the songs came out of our life the past year, which has been an intense year for us and a lot of growth and transformation. I think maybe “On the Ground” has really been emerging as one that makes me feel everytime we play it.
Can you tell me the story behind the Carousel Ride Single, the video and who dreamt up the flower covered alien in the video?
AT: We’re working with this amazing sculpture artist in Atlanta and he built Vashti. He named it Vashti and we used it for the album art because it was hard to find an image and that one came into our field of vision and it suddenly felt like it represented abstractly what we were feeling around the album of growth. It’s earthy and it’s also playful and feminine and we are all those things. We asked Branden Collins if could build one for us to wear because the one on the album cover wasn’t wearable. So he obliged and made us this wearable flower creature. There is no real story behind it. We’ve kind of built a story loosely that Vashti is sun alien from another planet. I don’t know if I even agree with that story. (laughs) It’s a mysterious being.
You are doing an intense 40 day tour, with little room for rest, how do you keep up your energy? What is in your survival kit?
AT: Survival kit is another well-phrased question. I really like that because it is so hard to describe the immensity of going on a tour. I do have a survival kit that involves a hot water boiler and lots and lots of tea and lots of clean underwear, books, markers and things to keep my mind stimulated and the blood flowing. I focus a lot on food and nutrition, that’s just the type of person I am. I definitely have a large bag of my essentials, it’s hard to find some of the things to be healthy on the road and you can’t get them in the middle of the desert in like Nevada or wherever so I usually stock up in Whole Foods and get lots of stuff that will tie me over.
What would you like for people to walk away with when they hear this album and attend your shows?
AT: I think our music is upbeat and this album in particular has a lot more gravitas than our other albums and I think it just reflects what we’ve been through the past year. I don’t think I personally would be interested in spending my life playing music that wasn’t uplifting. I do think that the role of music has been over the years to uplift even if it is dark or sad, that’s definitely arguable, I think my friend Shaun in Perfect Pussy might disagree with me on that. (laughs) No, I don’t think so. They are an uplifting band too. I’m always constantly questioning, a lot of music that I experience in the world brings people together and there are other moments when music delineates lines between cultures and subgroups. It’s almost as if people choose to like a music so that it will set them apart from the rest of society, that whole map is like a wind map it’s constantly changing and I think it’s so fascinating. I have no shame in saying that I want to do music that is uplifting and positive.
After their highly energetic show at Roughtrade I do think their fans walked away feeling incredibly happy and like they were part of something amazing that warm summer night in Brooklyn. Rubblebucket truly engages their audience with their vibrant and magnetic stage performance, beautifully spirited music and they definitely give their fans plenty of fun surprises.