By Katy Savage
Special To The Standard
Kal Traver’s band, Rubblebucket, has been called “on the verge” by music mags. On July 18, they were featured on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. The band is about to set off on a 12-city tour as a co-headliner. But as much as she enjoys traveling coast to coast, Traver looks forward to the day that she can return to her Vermont roots — to the state that inspired her music.
“Music will always be a part of my life,” said Traver, but, “I miss the trees.”
Annakalmia “Kal” Traver, is the lead vocalist and song composer of indie rock band Rubblebucket. But she’s also a 2001 graduate of Woodstock High School — and a seventh generation Vermonter, according to her mother, Delia Clark.
“Vermont has very much shaped who she is,” Clark said. “So much of what she loves comes from the earth, access to the green and the sounds. We joke and say she has a fairy spirit.”
Traver, a Taftsville native, was voted most musical in Woodstock High School, where she began playing alto saxophone in the high school band. Traver credits her high school teachers for her creativity.
“I don’t know what it is about Vermont, but the school system really values art and music. All through high school, my big focus was always on art and music,” Traver said.
Inspired by newfound freedom, Traver wrote and performed “Dog with the Window Down,” the song for Woodstock High School’s Class of 2001, which encouraged a worry-free future for the graduates.
“Kal was always famous for writing really fun, clever songs. I remember when she was 16 she went on a trip to the Galapagos and she wrote a rap about it. Everyone always made her perform it because it was so good,” said Traver’s younger sister, Mollie Traver.
Music and writing seem to be in Traver’s blood. Traver is the oldest of three siblings — she also has a brother, Toben Traver. Toben and Mollie are Woodstock High School graduates as well.
“Kal always had such a good musical ear. She could just sit down and make stuff up. I was always jealous of her. It was kind of magical,” Mollie said.
Thanksgiving offers a time for 30 family members to come together and sing songs or perform music. A song is sung before each meal at the Traver household.
“We sing before every dinner. We sing a grace,” Mollie said.
Kal’s dad, Tim Traver, plays the accordian and fiddle in his contra band, Old Sam Peabody.
Like her father, Traver is interested in drawing the communal element between the audience and the band, she said.
“When we play in front of an audience, we’re all in this together. Maybe we’ll forget a note, but that’s OK because (the band and the audience) are going to have a great time together,” Traver said.
Performing is nothing new to the Travers.
“We always went places as a family and brought our instruments,” Tim said. “You meet peple that way and people really enjoy it and we really enjoy it. We have all the ingredients for the kind of music I like. Toben and Mollie play the fiddle, Kali can play the flute and I play the accordian.
“We’ve probably been across the country four times. We always bring our instruments, which usually gets us into trouble. We’re too loud.”
Traver’s band is starting to make a lot of noise, too. Rubblebucket is currently on tour and the band’s new album, Live in Chicago, is scheduled for release Sept. 11.
Clark — a contra dance caller — said despite Rubblebucket’s success, they are far from being diva-ish.
“They call themselves the DIY band,” Clark said. “(Kal) has sewn a lot of the props and outfits they use for their music videos. She also does the album artwork.”
For Rubblebucket’s performances, Traver ditches the jeans and t-shirts worn by the typical Vermonter, and upgrades to bright tights and heavy makeup inspired by Lady Gaga and Beyonce.
“I’ve had a lot of fun picking out the craziest tights in New York I can find,” said Traver. “I like dipping my toes into fashion.”
Along with her family, part of Traver’s inspiration for Rubblebucket began when she met boyfriend Alex Toth while studying music at the University of Vermont.
“I remember being in a jazz class with (Kal). I remember in that moment thinking ‘man this girl really needs to perform music.’ I really encouraged her to practice her instrument. And she started to go for it,” Alex said.
“We call them Jan and Stan Berenstain,” Clark said. “They have an amazingly strong musical connection that’s hard to understand on the outside.”
As band leaders, Traver and Toth work together to compose most of their music.
“We were just buddies for the first couple years (of college) but then we started dating,” Traver said. “He’s my life partner. There are times when I think, oh, I need to find a day job; but Alex really wants it. Music is his career and that’s that.”
The year after graduating college, Traver and Toth started the jazz project, Alex and the Ladybirds, and performed all around Vermont — including the Woodstock Inn, said Traver.
They later played in the reggae band, John Brown’s Body in Boston before experimenting with the sounds of Rubblebucket.
“(Our music) is really danceable and rhythmic. People see that we’re invested,” Traver said.