Rubblebucket is the free-spirited creative outlet of seven eclectic musicians bonded together by a vision to explore territories on the great frontier of songwriting. Originally hailing from Vermont, the band has recently forged its identity in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, unifying diverse elements (saxophones, trumpets, guitars, synthesizers, bass, drums, and vocals) with a delicate touch. Though they've experienced a whirlwind of highs and lows over the last couple years, their commitment to one another never seems to waver. Currently in the midst of recording its latest, full-length LP for Ben Lovett's Communion label, Rubblebucket recently opened their studio sessions to discuss the LP as part of our new "Indie Hot Stove" series. Here, we catch up with some of the most compelling artists currently enjoying the bounties of the off-season to get an idea of what the somewhat-near future might sound like.
Famed producer John Congelton — whose past credits include St. Vincent, Modest Mouse, and The Roots — is engineering, mixing, and producing the latest LP signaling great prospects for this next batch of material from the band. Describing Congelton's involvement in pushing the members to step outside its comfort zone, vocalist/saxophonist Kalmia Traver described the writing process as, "a constant battle everyday...he's really encouraging us to let go. I think we're really unleashing our rock and roll beasts."
Falling somewhere between new wave, indie, rock & roll, pop, and disco, Rubblebucket are a hard band to categorize. "This has always been a joke in our band," laughed Traver. "We never set out on a path with a genre in mind. We were all really inspired by afrobeat when we first started but that quickly morphed into a venue for songwriting. I think now we have pretty squarely morphed into an indie/dance band."
That hard-to-put-your-finger-on quality recently caught the ear of Mumford and Sons' Ben Lovett, whose Communion label has spawned other Baeble favs like Bear's Den, Ben Howard, and Daughter, to name a few. Co-leader Alex Toth praised Lovett's interest in helping to shape the sound of the new record. "Ben has been amazing," he told us. "He doesn't want to change us or dumb us down but he's always pushing for better. Even down to songwriting techniques...he was very encouraging with the production stuff but he was like, 'Hey, now, I want you to go write a song per day.' It forces you to commit to all of these lyrics and melodies. I did about 25 songs and seven of them are the bulk of the album, and Ben pushed me to do that."
Having seven musicians presents a fair share of democratic challenges for any band. Traver told us there have been times where, "it's a real struggle to find and incorporate everybody's voice." With Congelton at the helm, Lovett's guidance, and their own camaraderie pushing them along, the new material is as collaborative as ever. "We have definitely found ways to work more as a group than ever before," Traver told us. "I think that's the point of any collaboration is to keep that alive. As soon as it dies, it's no longer a collaboration."
There have been other challenges on the path to the new album as well; the biggest being Traver's diagnosis with ovarian cancer last summer. In an obvious dark place, she recognized the critical component of holding on to her art in order to save her life. She described her decision to continue writing and recording: "For me, I knew as long as I was physically able to keep this arch of our performing and recording career on track, I really really really wanted to. It's not like I didn't want to pay attention to the cancer, I thought that music and this amazing wonderful career I have, this band, and all of our fans would be so helpful in healing me and curing me."
Toth, who shares a romantic relationship with Traver, also spoke of the difficulties of seeing his significant other battle through such a threatening disease. "For me, in this period where there is just a lot of intense things happening...it was extremely cathartic for me to write these songs. It was sort of a healing process and I hope these songs can do for people what music is supposed to do for people."
On behalf of Baeble, we're grateful that Traver battled through her original diagnosis to find better health, channeling her energy so she and Toth could shape a new album. Have a look at our hang with Rubblebucket to hear more about the band's future. We're excited to see what the band conjures up before the release of its LP.