(In case you missed it…this story was first published in the Jan. 9, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
Illuminated with a kaleidoscope effect amidst a black background, Kal Traver danced on top of the roof of her Brooklyn apartment for a new music video. She held a saxophone in her hands.
Her head, at the time, was shaved — a side effect from a recent round of chemotherapy.
Still Traver, the lead singer of the indie pop band Rubblebucket and a Taftsville native, danced with as much vigor as she had even before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in June. The kind of energy that has electrified her band’s fans across the county.
Andrew William Ralph, a former WUHS student, co-directed the video, which was for Rubblebucket’s new EP, Save Charlie.
“She had amazing energy,” Ralph said.
|Kal Traver, a Taftsville native, performs at Troy Memorial Stadium in Ohio.
Photo Provided By Railbird
The video was presented on National Public Radio and featured in New York Magazine. It was also blogged numerous times — all with positive reviews.
Traver was filming the video last September, in between touring and treatments. Last May, Traver had surgery to remove what doctors thought was an ovarian cyst. Instead they discovered a tumor, requiring another surgery and three rounds of 5-hour chemotherapy drips every three weeks.
“The cancer experience has dominated my life the past eight months,” she wrote in an email. “It’s been completely terrifying, and also incredibly illuminating. I think more than anything it’s deeply reinforced for me that I am on the right path making this music as a living.”
Traver’s music has taken her touring across the country. She’s graced the stage of Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2012 and most recently, the New Years’ Eve celebration in Burlington.
The stage and her music, were a sort of medicine, she said.
“The feeling of being on stage, and the palpable love cloud in front of an around me, created by us and the crowd, that’s healing stuff,” she said.
“We’re striving to keep bringing our musical spirits into focus, and anyone who listens to our music can hear how much we’ve evolved stylistically,” Traver said.
Traver got her start in music at Woodstock Elementary School and then Woodstock Union High School, where she played the baritone saxophone in the band.
Rubblebucket began after she met her boyfriend, Alex Toth, who is now the band leader, while attending the University of Vermont. It’s grown to a seven-person band that Traver’s father, Tim, calls “tribal.”
“I think that Kal very much believes that music can be a healing force in society and she uses the creative process of music to give something back. You can really feel that in the shows,” he said.
Traver is slowly gaining more success in the music world, but she keeps her strong Woodstock roots.
Traver credits her friends, fans and music for her strength to fight cancer.
“Music is like a good bonfire, people can’t look away — unless it’s horrible,” she said. “People can’t control their wonder. It opens people up and loosens the muscles, creates new possibilities for conversation, flow and togetherness.”
For her own physical and mental health, she couldn’t stay away from music, even if she was sick.
“For any family, that caused a huge amount of anxiety,” Tim said. “You don’t want your kid to have to go through that whole thing. It makes you stronger, I guess.”
Traver is about to go into the recording studio to work on her new album with Communion Records and producer John Congleton, who also produced albums for St. Vincent, the Swans and Black Angels. It’s different from their other records, which the band did entirely on their own.
Traver is focusing on the positive.
“It could end tomorrow and I’d be bummed, but I’m more grateful just to have had this incredible bright slice of life,” she said.
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