Brooklyn art-pop darlings Rubblebucket formed at the University of Vermont when Kalmia Traver’s enchanting vocals, flute and saxophone met Alex Toth’s trumpet and Afro-beat percussion.
March 26 | 7:30 p.m. | The Saint | Reno, Nev.
As a raucous horns-meets-psychedelic-dance-beat, eight-piece combo, they toured steadily for more than a decade releasing three critically acclaimed albums along the way. Now stripped down to six players, Rubblebucket is back on the road for a coast to coast tour in support of their 2018 release “Sun Machine.” They will perform along with Virginia lo-fi Americana project, Twain.
“We found that working together in the studio was fun after we had taken space and established our separate lives. Then, all of a sudden, there were songs flooding in about the whole experience.” –Kalmia Traver
Three years ago, Travers and Roth were already halfway through recording the album when they decided to call it quits on a 15-year relationship.
“We had to figure out if we could ever collaborate again,” says Travers from her Bushwick flat in New York City. “I really wanted to make sure the transition be a positive one. We found that working together in the studio was fun after we had taken space and established our separate lives. Then, all of a sudden, there were songs flooding in about the whole experience.”
The resulting album breaks new ground in the exploration of human relationships through modern new wave while touching on auras, assumptions, habits, masturbation, forgiveness and the potential for change.
“It’s about our creative life together,” says Travers. “ [The breakup] brought up a lot of reckoning. It was a leaf that needed to fall from the tree. It helped us to flesh out our spiritual tool box. We’ve been on a big path of healing.”
Travers is a cancer survivor and Roth is now sober thanks at least in part to Alcoholics Anonymous and Buddhist meditation.
“I always wanted to say something with my art that reflected my deeper morals,” says Travers. “But how do you keep it political and artful? Going through this transition peacefully is sort of like activism that could possibly be inspiring to others. We’re doing important work on a deeper spiritual level.”
In spite of the necessary challenges of concluding a long-term romance, the couple has managed to become stronger as individuals while keeping the band together and making some of their best art.
“Is conflict a necessary part of the deeper reality of nature?” asks Travers. “It’s not necessary, but it can be used. For myself, I’ve been seeking a way to honor and encourage my creativity while being healthy at the same time, eating right, getting proper rest and exercise and addressing my addictive tendencies. We have all these role models of amazing artists who are deeply tortured. I didn’t feel like I needed to be suffering to make art.”
Aside from keeping Rubblebucket majestically afloat, Travers has been leading an all-female indie group called Kalbells. For his part, Toth has created a beautifully moving, eponymous solo project.
“It’s like Rubblebucket is a door opening wider and wider to express ourselves authentically,” says Travers. “Nothing good will come of faking it and that’s the weirdest, most beautiful part — just being my own vulnerable self is really important for making art. I figured capturing my most subtle, inner message seems to be a good starting point.”
Back in Brooklyn after a string of Kalbells concerts, Travers has some downtime before the upcoming Rubblebucket tour.
“Even touring sober and holistically, I’m ready to sleep for a week straight,” she says from the green room of run’s final show at NYC’s Music Hall of Williamsburg.
While their new projects are taking off, neither artist is ready to close the door on Rubblebucket yet.
“We’ve got some really fun adventures lined up,” says Travers. “After that, I’m so excited to write. I find I have a hard time writing in scattered down time. I’m most successful when I cut out a big chunk of time and hole myself in the studio.”
As far as relationship advice, she says: “It’s all about figuring out where you can go and where you can’t go, how to create boundaries and respect them. We’re taking something that isn’t working and making it work. | thesaintreno.com