Wednesday, December 5th
7pm Doors, 8pm Show
Tickets: $20.00 General Admission Standing at Ticketfly.com, Babeville Box Office (M-F 11a-5p), Terrapin Station, Rust Belt Books or charge by phone at 877.987.6487
In summer 2015, after finishing a year of intense touring, Rubblebucket’s Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth began the process of bringing their next record to life. As an experiment, Kalmia asked Alex (her longtime romantic partner) to move out while they worked on the album, then accepted the marriage proposal he made during a recording session just a month later. Although Alex soon moved back in, their 11-year relationship ended when the two chose to ‘consciously uncouple’ the following spring—a decision they honored by ceremoniously giving each other matching triangular daisy tattoos (a nod to the title track from Rubblebucket’s 2010 EP). But despite all the sadness brought on by their breakup, Kalmia and Alex kept on writing and recording together, ultimately creating Rubblebucket’s most transcendent album to date.
Co-produced by Kalmia and Alex, Sun Machine documents the pain of ending their romantic relationship, yet emerges as an unbridled and often-euphoric celebration of their lasting connection. While the breakup inspired much of the album, Sun Machine is deeply informed by several other life-changing occurrences in recent years: Kalmia’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2013 (followed by a round of surgeries and chemo treatments), Alex’s decision to get sober after a long struggle with alcoholism, and the couple’s three-year-long attempt at maintaining an open relationship. The result is a strange and beautiful paradox: a party album rooted in radical mindfulness, a breakup record imbued with each partner’s palpable love for the other.
With its airy melodies and lavish textures, dream-logic sensibilities and dancey rhythms, Sun Machine radiates the bright and joyful energy encapsulated in its title. “It’s a reference to the sun as this abundant natural resource we all have available to us—but it’s also about the inner sun, the magma in our hearts,” says Kalmia. “When you can access that, you’re able to get through really hard moments, and evolve and develop creatively. I think that’s the best way to explain how I was able to work through the process of the two of us transforming our relationship in a positive way.”
As Rubblebucket’s most fully realized album yet, Sun Machine finds Kalmia and Alex tapping into their creative instincts more freely and directly than ever before. “Kal and I are both jazz musicians, and jazz is very much driven by improvisation—it’s about getting in touch with that inner spontaneity, where you’re channeling ideas rather than thinking them up,” says Alex. “There’s a lot of moments on this album that happened from us being in a trance-like zone, and coming up with weird sounds in the middle of the recording, sometimes by accident.”
The hypnotic opening track to Sun Machine, “What Life Is” unfolds in lyrics that arrived through pure stream-of-consciousness. “I had recently gotten sober, and the only music I could listen to was drone music,” Alex recalls. “I’d put it on and pace around my little studio apartment, and those words just started coming out of me.” With Kalmia delivering a wild sax solo later on in the song, “What Life Is” centers its refrain on a gently unshakable question: How many hours a day are you a broken tape? “We have so many distractions now, with all the crazy things happening in the world and all the devices we get to observe those things through,” says Kalmia in reflecting on “What Life Is.” “There’s so many different and confusing directions for us to get drawn in every day.”
Throughout Sun Machine, Rubblebucket adorn their exploration of love and sexuality and grief and healing with bursts of collage-like experimentation. “Annihilation Song” is woven with ambient tones constructed from a sample of Alex whistling, while the wistful but breezy “Fruity” was built from a beat supplied by Kalmia’s cousin, Ben Swardlick (a member of San Francisco-based electronic duo M Machine). And though it was written in the throes of their breakup, “Lemonade” captures a carefree romanticism (“We used to ride around on rollerblades/You kissed me on the mouth and my pupils dilated”), then magnifies that playful mood by layering in fragments of improvised conversation at the bridge. “Kal and I just hit record and pretended we were in a music venue during the trumpet solo,” Alex explains. “We talked about Kafka and chakras and existential philosophy, and at one point we talked shit about the trumpet player—which is actually me.”
From song to song, Rubblebucket infuse Sun Machine with a sweetness and generosity that speak to the devotion behind their conscious uncoupling, a process Kalmia defines as “signaling to the world that you’re doing everything you can to preserve the relationship.” With Alex describing their breakup as “the single-most significant life event beyond me being born,” both band members hope that Sun Machine encourages others to see the possibility for transformation in painful experiences of all kinds. “When I got cancer and Alex quit drinking, that was the beginning of a huge journey for both of us,” says Kalmia. “So much of that journey has been about giving myself the freedom to exist on my own terms, believing in my ideas instead of self-editing. I think this album represents both of us allowing ourselves that freedom in a totally new way, and hopefully it’ll give people inspiration to be creative in their own lives, and to just soften up a bit too.”
And The Kids
Growing up, often the safest haven to plot your dreams and get a handle on your identity is within the confines of trusted friendships. For the musicians in the critically acclaimed band And The Kids, these bonds have been a life raft.
But as friendships evolve from adolescence to young adulthood, sometimes the lines between friends, lovers and all that comes in between can grow murky. On the Northampton, MA-based band’s latest, Friends Share Lovers (released on Signature Sounds), And The Kids examines blurred boundaries in close-knit relationships.
“The friends we grew up with were troublemakers, lost souls, dropouts, and mother figures,” says And The Kids guitarist and vocalist Hannah Mohan. “The title references the incestuousness of friend groups and how things get messy.”
And The Kids channel existential crises into pop euphoria. With this sleight of hand, the quartet manages to conjure chunky indie rock, blissful new wave, chamber folk, jarring avant-garde, and brawny classic rock. Mohan navigates this expansive creativity with aplomb. Effortlessly she swoops heavenly for high tones, digs deep for swaggering rock n’ roll low tones, and manages to mash up sweet sass with new wave bliss for a vocal feel that masks sage wisdom beneath sweet innocence. In addition to Mohan, And The Kids is Rebecca Lasaponaro on drums, Megan Miller on synthesizers and percussion, and bassist Taliana Katz.
The quartet’s beginnings couldn’t be better scripted: Mohan and Lasaponaro met in band class in seventh grade. A few years later, the duo dropped out of school and found themselves at a learning center that provided them with a free rehearsal space. There they practiced everyday, inspired by such diverse artists as Modest Mouse, Rilo Kiley, The Doors, and The Police, among others.
Those formative moments in friendship and music have been everlasting. In 2012, the fledging duo met Meghan when the three were interns at the Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen, MA, and soon after welcomed her into the band. Recently, Miller has battled visa problems as a Canadian citizen and has been forced out of the United States for five years. To show the strength of their bonds as friends and artists, And The Kids chose to record Friends Share Lovers in Montreal so that Miller could participate. Recently, the trio added bassist Taliana Katz, a close and trusted friend who also attended IMA, to maintain a full sound live in Miller’s forced absence from American touring.
For four years, And The Kids has worked tirelessly to nurture its artistic vision and finesse its live performances. The band has gone from basement shows, open mics, and gigs at pizza joints to becoming an “on the verge” artist. And The Kids has released two EPs, two full-length records, and shared the stage with Rubblebucket, Sallie Ford, Lake Street Dive and Mother Falcon. Recent and upcoming live performance highlights include SXSW and a tour with Ra Ra Riot and PWR BTTM. The band will head out on a headlining tour in June bookended by summer festival dates. Along the way, And The Kids has garnered acclaim from NPR Music, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe, among many others. Indie tastemakers Pitchfork enthuse: “And the Kids are among the Western Mass. indie scene’s brightest creative lights.”
Friends Share Lovers is an epiphanic entry in the band’s catalog as it showcases the group’s roiling emotionality in wider artistic palette settings. This album explores the power of sound sculpting with studio effects like reverb, majestic keyboard passages, and stacks of pillowy vocal harmonies.
Ironically, the songs on Friends Share Lovers began as compact compositions with spare instrumentation. With keyboardist and percussionist Miller stranded in Canada, Mohan and Lasaponaro workshopped their new material as a duo. But, when it came time to record, they chose Canada as a show of solidarity to their bandmate Miller. With Miller on board and their sights set on Canada, they tapped producer Jace Lasek, a member of The Besnard Lakes who has produced albums from Suuns and Land of Talk, and has mixed and recorded for Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown and Patrick Watson. Lasek came on as a co-producer, collaborating with And The Kids and helping the band realize its sonic aesthetic on the album.
Friends Share Lovers bursts forth with the pent-up emotionality of the opening track, aptly titled “Kick Rocks.” Here drum climaxes interlock with hypnotic harmony vocals, building a tension that crashes like a wave cresting, leaving in its wake glassy flowing melodies. The thematic thread of relationships imbues the new wave elegance of “Friends Share Lovers” and “I Can’t Tell What The Time Is Telling Me.” The title track evokes a Smiths-like juxtaposition of balmy musicality set against poetic turmoil as Mohan wrestles with the complexities of a friendship sliding into a romance. The stunning “I Can’t Tell What The Time Is Telling Me” envelops the listener with chiming guitars, oceanic synth textures, and sidesteps into classical melodic motifs. “That track is about getting through tough times with a new partner. It’s about being true to yourself after you’ve fallen in love,” Mohan explains.
Closing the album is the ethereal “Pennies, Rice.” It’s a meditative track that rolls out slowly with measured grace. In some ways, it’s something of a conceptual centerpiece. “This track is about having all the freedom in the world, but the only thing holding you back is your indecisiveness,” Mohan reveals.
Friends Share Lovers is that pivotal release, the follow up to a well-received album from a promising young band. The new album showcases And The Kids’ considerable powers manifesting into a triumphant record that justifies the earlier praise.However, for the members of And The Kids, the impact that matters the most to them is the bonds they make with their audience. To that end, Mohan says: “What’s been most meaningful is realizing what a big influence a small band can have. We see women at the shows who say they want to play music and that we inspired them to do what they love.”
Date(s) - 12/05/2018
341 Delaware Avenue