Young As Clouds
An Interview with Kalmia Traver of Rubblebucket

Words by Audra Tracy — New York City

I‘m sitting on a stoop outside Santos Party House in downtown New York City, and Kalmia Traver is totally dancing on the sidewalk. Our lively conversation about Talking Heads may have set her into motion, but she has plenty of other reasons to let loose these days.

As the lead vocalist/baritone saxophonist of Rubblebucket, Traver and her band of merry music-makers have been wowing crowds all the way from Joshua Tree to Electric Forest.

Onstage, Rubblebucket radiates a wall to wall euphoria that will work even the most cynical of Williamsburg-ers into a melodic frenzy. Go see this band live, like right now. Seriously.

A day after Rubblebucket officially released their second LP Omega La La, we chatted with indie’s newest It Girl about Brooklyn living, the ‘ultimate song’, and riding the Yes Wave to rock stardom.

Turns out, the band that’s been hailed by Paste, Relix, and CMJ originally started as a side project that Traver and band-mate/boyfriend Alex Toth founded in 2007 while living in Boston. “Alex and I went to the University of Vermont together and studied for four years together, and became a couple there”, she explains. “After we graduated we moved to Boston to play with the band John’s Brown Body – they’re a reggae band, we were in their horn section. And during that time that’s when Alex started having this vision of something to fill in the gaps between touring with that band.”

Nearly four years later, that vision has lead Traver, Toth, and their Rubblebucket recruits to Brooklyn, an urban hub for hungry artists. “Weâ’ve been here for like a year – I like it, but I still feel like it’s a foreign country a lot of the time”, Traver says of her semi-new digs. “I feel like it’s a different universe from the hills of Vermont, and every time I travel back and forth I have mild culture shock. But there’s nothing like it in terms of culture, and socializing and hearing amazing music and getting your mind expanded by the world of art. Sometimes I find myself pushing myself to be here, but I’m always glad I do”, she admits.

“For me, I personally love, to my core, the idea of having a venue for multiple forms of expression, and making Rubblebucket that as much as possible- that’s kind of what I think about all day”
– Kalmia Traver

It was across the bridge at DFA Studios in New York City where Rubblebucket recorded Omega La La, produced by Eric Broucek (LCD Soundsystem, !!!, Holy Ghost) and mastered by Joe Lambert (Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Herbie Hancock). Wildly catchy tracks like ‘Came Out of a Lady’ and ‘Silly Fathers’ feature rich art rock arrangements that mix hollering horns with jumpy guitar riffs and free-spirited lyrics. Walking the line between hipster and hippie, the collision of synths vs. percussion on ‘Breatherz (Young as Clouds)’ create a jam as tight as you’d hear at any Umphrey’s McGee show.

“The way we came across the name (Omega La La) was very random, but it took on a lot of meaning after that”, Traver says of the new album. “We were at the studio where Eric was mixing something; he and Alex and I were sitting around the table eating and talking about album names. And we were like ‘Oh, it should be like, ‘lalalalala’, and as I was typing all our ideas out, I typed ‘LaLa’, but by accident I typed the character for omega. And we were like ‘Haha, Omega La La!”, she laughs. “And then we looked up what omega meant and the more we thought about it, we just thought it was pretty cool.”

“One of the things that omega means is ultimate”, Traver goes on, “so I made the transition like, the ultimate song – ‘LaLa’ meaning song. Our direction has been, from the beginning to until now, very much towards the song form, and away from these sprawling jams where we all improvise. It’s become a lot less improvised and a lot more arranged and song oriented.”

As the media struggles to label Rubblebucket, the eight-piece has been lumped into the category called Yes Wave, along with other undefinable bands like Animal Collective. “I like the way it sounds”, Traver says of the budding genre. “It also means when you are driving down the street and all the lights turn green as you pull up. Bushwick Ave. always has that in Brooklyn, and our drummer (Dave Cole) and guitarist (Ian Hersey) would always try to ride yes waves.”

This summer Rubblebucket will continue on the festival circuit, bringing their Dionysian dance party to Gathering of the Vibes, moe.down, and Bear Creek among others. Along with sharing Omega La La with the world, they also plan to focus on the visual aspect of their art. “We have two videos now, and we also have two in the works”, Traver shares. “For me, I personally love, to my core, the idea of having a venue for multiple forms of expression, and making Rubblebucket that as much as possible- that’s kind of what I think about all day”, she laughs. | Yes Wave