Festival Fast Talk
with Rubblebucket

If Albert Einstien were to eat a rainbow and get beat with drumsticks until he busted open like a piñata, the sound it would make would probably be much like Rubblebucket’s music.

The Brooklyn band has been building a following for their abstract take on pop, with songs that hit you hard with unforgettable choruses and keep you coming back for all the weird extra bits floating around in the background. I got the chance to catch up with the principal songwriter of Rubblebucket, Alex Toth, to talk about the aesthetic of their art and the happy medium of making the abstract palatable.

You guys have an excellent sense of pop while simultaneously having lots of strange quirks. How does merging the abstract with the pop aesthetic play into your music?

That’s everything. That’s the whole thing I’m always messing with, balancing that scale. How far out can I take it without losing people. I try to find new ways of dealing with composition and sound. You can make those wild and imaginative, using it in a distinct way. Maybe people can understand it, and in that way, you’re bringing your audience into your imagination. That’s important for us. If I’m working on a song, and it sounds like a million other things I’ve ever heard, I’m gonna scratch it. I want us to have our own thing. I want our songs to be distinct.

Too cool. One thing that can definitely be said about your live performance is your strong interaction with the crowd. Where did this emphasis on interaction come from?

I started playing the trumpet in 4th grade. Every time I would stand up to perform for an audience, my whole body would freeze up. I would barely be able to breathe, to the point where I couldn’t express anything. And then my junior year in high school, we started having these James Brown dance parties spontaneously outside of my car. I was not afraid to dance and express myself through spontaneity. All of the sudden, I was able to improvise in front of the audience. There was this distinct moment where dancing completely opened me up to confident, emotive self-expression. That’s always been the thing; I want to reach into people’s hearts, pull it out, add cool things to it, and put it back in.

We toured with this band Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt who were great with interacting with people. They had lots of stage crafts and offered to make us something, so that’s where the robots and the light-up vests come from.

I’m still wrapping my head around the idea that I don’t want things to become to much of a spectacle just to be a spectacle, or too gimmicky. I want something that feels immersive.

Another artist that exists in this realm of quasi-pop is New England act Tune-Yards [Merrill Garbus]. I heard you guys did some work with her recently. Could you tell me about that?

Through friends of ours in Brooklyn, we got hooked up with the people from Red Hot. Red Hot is an organization that is [part of the (RED) campaign] who combat AIDS [with the aid of artist contributions]. We were recording a song for them, and Merrill walks in the room and enjoyed it and wanted us to record on her track. So after we finished our track, they starting setting up for the next song, and ?uest love comes in with a whole entourage and tracks drums. The next day, we came in and worked one-on-one with Merril on the horns. That was just a trip. She knew exactly what she wanted, and we’re all big fans.

Yeah, she’s great. Have you checked out Micachu and the Shapes?

Yes! [Mica Levi]’s one of the very best at being weird and accessible. Her debut album Jewellery has always been a favorite. We almost got Matthew Herbert [Jewellery‘s producer] to remix one of our songs but ended up going elsewhere. She’s great, though. We love Micachu, Tune-Yards, Dirty Projectors, a lot of music like that.

You can check out Rubblebucket’s immersive show on a string of dates throughout the remainder of the summer, including a few dates in September with fellow off-center indie pop group Reptar. Be sure to pick up their latest album Omega La La to groove on some future pop that’s not to be missed.

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