Interviewer: Finch Fulton — All photos: Stephanie Breijo via our Bonnaroo report
In anticipation of their show at the Hamilton this Thursday, Brightest Young Things got a moment with Annakalmia Traver (Kal; lead vocals, tenor and baritone saxophones) of the high-energy, exciting young band Rubblebucket.
BYT: So you’re heading to the studio between your show in Madison and the show in D.C. at the Hamilton on the 20th. What are y’all working on?
Kal: Well we’ve got a bunch of new songs and we’ve actually been working on recording and kind of chipping away at it this whole year since January. We’re really hoping and attempting to capture [the energy] and make a beautiful studio recording by putting in the time. We met this guy, Ryan, at SXSW who works at this studio in Seattle called Bear Creek and they’ve produced Ra Ra Riot and the studio is simply beautiful. We got to stop by there on the last tour. It’s just out there in the woods, it’s a huge barn with tons of beautiful live rooms and great gear. So that spurred the idea of recording there. We decided to do a little EP. We’re actually flying out there tomorrow for a week. Hopefully five or six songs, see what comes out of it. We’ve got more on deck but we’re just going to try this out. Maybe an EP and release a few singles to hopefully put out a full album by next year.
It looks like you’ve spread out your tour to do about three shows at a time then take some time off. Will y’all just be recording throughout the summer?
Well we only have these dates booked right now, but we’ve got a bit more writing and rehearsing to do to get the music together. We instinctually tend to write the music then get it to a certain state of completion, Alex and I, about 80 percent, then we bring it to the band and they flesh it out on the road. So we’ll probably be doing more of that then we’ll see what happens for the following shows. We’ve got a bit tour set for the fall, co-headlining with this band called Reptar from Athens, GA. Really awesome band that’s got a lot of similar style and pace as us. So, we’re excited.
So are we going to get to hear any new stuff at The Hamilton?
Yeah! At this point we’ve got I think three or four of the new tunes that we’ve been playing on a nightly basis, just exploring more and more. But yeah, we’ll be bringing those to D.C. for sure.
Most importantly, when you’re touring is there room in the van for the giant robot puppets or do they have to sit at home for only special occasions?
Yeah, they come with us. Always. They’re the last thing that goes in the trailer every night.
So you’ve noted in other interviews that the name Rubblebucket comes from a sort of catchall tool for stone masons.
Yeah, well I think it sort of developed from basically our first experience playing together. Alex (Toth; trumpet, band leader) and I were invited down to this jam session in Vermont at this art opening and Craig Myers (n’goni, woodblocks, percussion) was there and the energy of that night of Rubblebucket…it was a lot of improvising and a lot of people were dancing and screaming and were like ‘more! more!’ and we were like whoa because we were totally making it up. Alex went back with the recording and transcribed it. About five of the improvisations we played were turned into songs that were on our first record. We thought Rubblebucket was fun and ultimately never changed it because it was just a special moment that we all had and so we just never changed it.
The name and the performance were pretty much simultaneous. Craig was the one who said it was like a Rubblebucket - the band itself was just a derivation of who was in town at the time. Very spontaneous, creative and superfun. Stemming from that moment the band came into existence.
Yeah it really accurately describes all the different influences and all the different sounds. Why’d you drop the “Orchestra” from the original name “Rubblebucket Orchestra?”
Well, we came out with our second album, which we sort of consider our first because it was our biggest true effort to make a recording, and we spent a lot of time on it. It was our self-titled album and we were just feeling like the ‘orchestra’ was too long, and such a mouthful and a little bit inhibiting in this way. You know, having to live up to this title of orchestra when we were feeling a little bit more experimental and pop and we didn’t know it yet but we wanted to have that freedom to keep exploring. So we released our album under the name ‘Rubblebucket’ and took it from there.
So, you’re heading to Madison Wisconsin after performing at Bonnaroo before you come to DC. How was Bonnaroo?
It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We had four sets, sorry my voice is really tired after it. We worked really hard and it was a wonderful couple of days. We had four sets in two days and we also played the horns (me, Alex and Adam) for Foster the People on one song during one of their sets… so that was such a rush in front of 50,000 people.
Oh yeah? What song was it?
Houdini (ed. you can see them clearly around the 2:20 mark). Yeah, they’ve got horns a lot in that song and whenever they can they get some horns in whatever town they’re in. It was us and the sax player from Fitz and the Tantrums. It was such a rush, that one track.
Was there one set for you at Bonnaroo that stood out for you?
All of our Rubblebucket sets were really great. The first set was on a Thursday, you know, the first Thursday of the festival and we had like a thousand people, which I was not expecting…I wasn’t expecting to have that many people on the first day. It kind of blew my mind. And yeah, I guess there weren’t that many options at that moment…and so people came to ours and we just rocked it.
Then Friday was like this stream of running all around, getting carted around on golf carts going from stage to stage doing little shows. And then the last one was one of the best sets we’ve ever played…but unfortunately it happened to be during Radiohead…
Yeah, thats funny, I saw that y’all listed Radiohead as one of your favorite bands and biggest influences.
Totally, yeah. We’re such huge Radiohead fans and we love their music so much. So it was very ironic that the first time we come to Bonnaroo they put us during Radiohead. We were all pretty bummed about it to be honest before the show. We expected to have no one at our show, but thats just because we love Radiohead so much, but actually a lot of people came and it ended up being so high energy and we ended up, all three of the horns ended up crowd surfing at one point, and we had our friend sousaphone player John Altieri from the band Red Baraat. I feel like we made the most of our little bit of time at Bonnaroo.
So did you get to enjoy Bonnaroo or were you running around doing professional things the whole time?
Pretty much running around but Thursday night I did get to get to see a few things. And I saw the Alabama Shakes set which was really awesome and Friday night I saw Little Dragon, which was like one of my favorite bands, so that was special. Then I saw Phantogram and late night I got to go free into the night. I saw Flying Lotus and danced my butt off, which was very remarkably awesome. (Ed. For a summary of these shows, check out Stephanie and Andy’s Bonnaroo review).
Do you have anything else going on we should take note of?
We’re really excited about almost a month ago now the horns recorded on a track for the Red Hot Music track of a Fela Kuti cover and we collaborated with tUnE-yArDs and ?uestlove. It’s a really, really awesome track covering the song “Lady” – the lyrics are reimagined and fit to the current mood.
Great, looking forward to seeing your show.