The approaches are infinite, and for any given performer, it's important to be developing different approaches to get into different stuff. For me, I have that kind of band where I'm really expressing this intense, hyperkinetic, almost angry part of myself that I find pretty easily accessible. And there are other moods where it's just this hypnotic zone, especially when I pick up percussion or where I'm playing the tom. I have a tom-tom now at every show. There are a few songs when I'm doing that, and I just focus on breathing and focus on the rhythm section and the waves that are moving and just letting that come through, so as to lock in with the rhythm section.
I remember talking to Bill Frisell and Kaki King about how music was the one place where they get out everything they need to get out without hurting anybody. I think Frisell was saying, "It's the one place I get to be really aggressive." I guess you were kind of touching on that, where you really get to get rid of these demons you have. Instead of coming out and going to a bar and punching somebody, you express it through your trumpet.
Yeah, there are even moments where because of the environment it's perfectly fine for me to scream at the top of my lungs. And if you put that in the context of a quiet room, I'm completely insane and violent. But onstage it's perfectly acceptable at certain moments to be just like [SCREAMS!!!] and stomping around. It's pretty cool that I can do that. Sometimes, it's allowing for me some really dark stuff, stuff that kind of just pops in. It's like screaming it away. It is pretty awesome and spiritual to have that, and for people, too, that it might potentially be helpful for them. Obviously, no one would pay to see Alex fucking kicking and screaming. It's just part of the show though. And the writing stuff is really… to get away from the business end of stuff and to be thinking about music. I think that's definitely even more rewarding to use that on a nightly basis, just to work on musical ideas and to get to put that out there. It's really awesome. It's really fun.
Conversation with Kalmia Traver
Alex and I talked quite a bit about the contrast between Rose's Dream and Rubblebucket, and I threw out some of my ideas about what I thought, but I'm curious about how you feel about it.
It seems like Rose's Dream was so long ago and thinking back on it… we're really so different of a group of people. I think that it's more of rock and an edgier sound and definitely less afrobeat-ish than we've ever been before. I really like the sound we got on it. I think we're all really, really proud of the noises and sounds that came out of it, like with putting distortion on different parts. And we worked really hard on the drum sound to make them sound kind of gritty. Or not gritty, but gritty for us. Is that what you found?
Yeah. Well, there were a couple things I found. And again, I've been seeing you play live so I've been seeing the evolution happen anyway, but in terms of the recording, I used the word expansive. I think in terms of composition you're covering a lot more ground. And also lyrically -- I think this translates to the music as well -- there's a little bit more depth there. And I could be kind of off here, but just from knowing you and Alex, it sounds like you're capturing the struggle of being in a band. Rose's Dream kind of has that innocence and that afrobeat energy, and this sounds like, OK, things are real, and the music is still very honest and great, but we've been dealing with a lot of stuff. So, here's how the sound has evolved. That's what I got from it, and that seemed like a natural progression.
Yeah, that's totally a natural progression; it's so true. I've written little poems and stuff all throughout my life, but with Rose's Dream -- publishing a body of work as lyrics -- I think a lot of it came from improvisation. And my general thing that I've been thinking about for so long before I'd written much of anything was just saving the planet and making the world a better place, and I think that I might have purged that. Although the song "There Was a Time" isn't about that as much, but it's about, for me, going back to a time when humans were closer to nature and to the spirit world and how maybe that time will happen again, but right now it's not here and we're out of touch with it. I think that's maybe the only direct time that I'm talking about that, but it's always on my mind. And even the new stuff that we've been working on since we recorded Rubblebucket is definitely a lot more personal for me I think.
So has that been difficult, or is it just that you feel like you're at that level where it's either you have the confidence to express that or the need to express that? What do you think it is?
I think what you said, a natural progression, is pretty accurate. Just with not having really expressed much in words before, and so the first thing that came out of my mind was all this built up stuff that I was thinking about. Like the song "Rubblebucket" was about how we have to make the earth a better place, and then a lot of these new songs are going a little more internal, and thinking, "OK, now that I've said that, which I've been wanting to say for so long, what else am I thinking about?" I'm thinking about all these things that we're going through. It's definitely just a natural expulsion. [laughs]
Right on, right on. How do you feel about what's happening onstage?
I love being onstage with this band so much. It feels more alive now than it's been since we had the fresh feeling of being a new band and figuring stuff out. I mean, we just got off this tour and I felt really alive onstage every single night, and I'm excited to see where that goes. Personally, this whole thing has been a really big journey for me because I started out just doing stuff at UVM, just being a jazz-focused singer, not moving around, to now where I feel like it's my duty as well as my desire to jump around as much as I can and be much more of a diva. [laughs]
And it's been a progression, and it's definitely been uncomfortable at times, a lot of times actually. [laughs] But then every once in a while I find myself looking down at my feet and being like, Hey, yeah, this is great! And I've been getting a little bit of good feedback here and there from my friends, like, "Hey, Kal, you look really comfortable up there," and it's true. I am getting a lot more comfortable.
Yeah, I was talking about that with Alex, about how I keep hearing more comfort and confidence in your singing. But that's also in your energy onstage, too. It's nice to see you guys just going for it. What was it like to get to that point where you feel comfortable enough to let the inhibitions go and be free onstage? Did you have a particular time when you felt like you got that breakthrough?
It's been sort of a circular thing because towards the beginning I would have some shows where I was completely self-aware the entire time, thinking, I look like such a dork right now. And then other shows where, say, we'd be playing Burlington and there'd be hundreds of people there and I'd just get so into it and forget about everything and just dance like crazy, and then it'd go back and there'd be harder times. So, it's sort of just a thing of consistency, and now I feel like I can sort of snap it on and let go of my fears. A lot of that comes from this solid group, too. I'm just feeling more comfortable with them and feeling like I'm really proud of them and proud of the whole group, so I'm excited to just let myself spurt out more.