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Rubblebucket relies on music education for rock-band success

BY NICK FETTY | FEBRUARY 19, 2009 7:51 AM

Getting a degree in music is often seen as a the pathway to becoming a music teacher. But for Afro-beat/rock band Rubblebucket Orchestra, getting a musical education was key to success as a rock band.

With such a diverse instrumentation, ranging from trombone and bari sax to congas and “goni” — an African instrument similar to a lute — and with influences such as Charles Mingus, Led Zeppelin, and Radiohead, Rubblebucket is slightly reminiscent of New Beat Society, an Iowa City band that disbanded a few years ago.

The nine-person group, based in Boston, will play at the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., on Feb. 22 as part of its first tour outside the Northeast.

“We’ve got the heavy dance vibe and bring in this heavy African element,” Alex Toth said. “And we have a four-piece horn section, and then Kal [Traver] brings this Bjork-esque vocal thing.”

Fans have described Rubblebucket’s sound as a 21st-century Talking Heads meets James Brown.
The majority of the group members majored in music in college. Toth, who has been playing trumpet since he was in fourth grade, studied music at the University of Vermont, as did Rubblebucket’s vocalist/saxophonist Kalmia Traver.

Rubblebucket was born in an impromptu performance during the summer of 2007. While Toth and Traver were at the Burlington Jazz Festival in Vermont, Craig Myers, Rubblebucket’s percussionist, invited the two to play a party with him and a few friends.

“Musically, I think we all love improvisation and playing off of each other,” Traver said. “That’s definitely one bond we all share.”

In the fall of 2007, Rubblebucket began playing gigs. During August 2008, the group headlined the first-ever Liberate Music and Arts Festival in Waitsfield, Vt.

Toth and Traver are former members of John Brown’s Body, a reggae/electronic group from Cambridge, Mass.

Meyers was in Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s band before Gordon started touring with Phish again after the longtime jam band reunited last year. Because Rubblebucket has only been together for approximately a year and a half, it has yet to play with many national acts, though Traver has had the opportunity to share the stage with Matisyahu.

As soon as Rubblebucket finishes its current tour, the members will head to the studio to work on their second album. The ensemble’s first album, Rose’s Dream, came out in 2008. Looking ahead to this summer, the group hopes to play some music festivals, such as the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, Calif.

“We’re submitting for a ton of festivals,” Toth said. “And I think in the next couple months, we’ll start to know what we’re in for.”

Toth said Rubblebucket’s fans include everyone from college kids to hippies.

“We have this wide demographic because the music is really kind of joyous, and it’s unique,” he said. “People of all ages and sorts have responded to us.”


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