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Rubblebucket: How to redefine yourself and stay cool while doing it.

by John Powell
photography by Sue Paquet

“It’s a different planet,” Kalmina Travers says of Brooklyn. “I’ve gotten used to it now. I know to keep my head up when I’m walking late at night.” She pauses. “But when I go back to Vermont I’m aware that the air is heavy with fragrance. The rivers!”

Kal | Rubblebucket

Kal is the lead singer, sax player, and one of the leaders and founding members of Rubblebucket, the somewhat mysterious collective born in Burlington, Vermont, but now fanned out across the Northeast. Still, Burlington would likely consider them a Burlington band, one with staying power and deep roots in the city’s hippie/hipster blend, a passion for worldly culture mixed with love of small community. Recently, Kal and Alex Toth, her partner on many levels, moved from Boston to New York, which is what Kal is talking about when she says, “I haven’t reconciled my need for dense culture and beautiful nature, living and working outside.”

Alex is from New Jersey, and feels much more at home in Brooklyn, although he too holds a strong connection to Burlington, where the two went to the University of Vermont, where they met on the first day of school in a Latin Jazz Combo class. While Kal may be one of the sweetest people you’d ever meet, and always willing to stop and chat with fans, speaking positively and encouraging interactions, she claims Alex is the social one. “He always would get these offers. He started inviting me to be a part of it.” Kal says of how they started playing together.

Within the lush music scene of UVM, Kal and Alex met many musicians and music- affiliated people that have since gone on to integrate themselves into the Northeast music scene. Soon after graduating, Kal and Alex joined John Brown’s Body, trading in experimental music in the form of jazz and even funk for JBB’s progressive reggae sound. Kal added female backing vocals to the band, and the two appeared on the album Amplify. They had time off between tours, however, and wanted to fill the gap with music, “Something fun and danceable.” Four years earlier they had met Craig Meyers, a Burlington resident and musician, at a jam. “We improvised a lot of music,” Kal said, “and it walked right with what Alex was thinking about. He went straight home after that. He spent a month orchestrating music, writing everything down, and a lot of songs from that are on our record.”

The record is Rose’s Dream, a heavily Afrobeat-influenced set of jammy and dense imagination, both lyrically and instrumentally. It didn’t really sound like anything else coming out at the time. They were going by Rubblebucket Orchestra then, and did a brief tour.

“We were going from slackers to being on the road,” Kal laughs of joining John Brown’s Body and then forming Rubblebucket Orchestra, stating, “That is the basis of our knowledge on being a touring band.”


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