Sego, Alexander F
628 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA, 94117
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
My experience with Rubblebucket goes way back – to the summer of 1987, when I was born and first met lead singer and baritone saxist Kalmia Traver, then four. Kalmia was already well on her way to being a multi-instrument prodigy (penny whistle, recorder, alphabet burping), and I was already drowning in the ginormous shadow that she cast just by breathing. When she put our brother in a dress, blonde wig and heels, let me put on his lipstick, then forced his elastic micro-limbs into a diva pose, I knew she was a natural performer.
Kalmia met Alex Toth (band leader, trumpeter, guy, brother-from-another-mother, Jersey)in a latin jazz combo in Burlington, VT. I’m assuming she also dressed him in drag,because he liked her and they became friends, painting the town with their loud horn playing. In 2006, they moved to Boston, where they did respectable things for money. Kalmia nude modeled for art classes, and Alex was hustling marching band gigs at $50 a pop, for which he was required to wear a black shirt and march around for six hours at a time OR NO PAY NO WATER NO DINNER. It was like that scene in Oliver Twist.Naturally, out of this hot, tarry, magical, broke-ass time, Rubblebucket emerged like a huge, slippery, post-afrobeat baby. Alex had met trombonist Adam Dotson at one of these marching gigs, and the three began composing and playing the first songs in Rubblebucket’s repertoire. Soon, they were joined by three more friends – guitarist Ian Hersey, drummer Dave Cole, and 15-seater van Puppy – and started taking the Rubblebucket show on the road.
The first time I heard Rubblebucket perform live, two things happened: I realized this was the coolest thing on earth, like the lovechild of a unicorn and the Tom Tom Club, and I asked them if I could sell their merchandise at shows. You know what they say – those who can't do, sell merch. Night after night, standing behind that table of CDs, thongs and beer cozies, while Rubblebucket transformed the crowd from a skeptical wall of people into one big, happy, silly, jiving, open-hearted mass was an unforgettable experience.Their music does that – it just does. You can’t know it until you see it. And everyone who sees it, knows it. Like Paste, who said it best: “music that will make anyone with a pulse dance.” (I’ll annotate this by extending it to you pulse-less readers. You, zombie. I know you’re out there.) The Rubblebucket condition has spread, melting cares in its way. It barges in like an escaped rhino and triggers everyone, everywhere, to let loose and feel. Arm-crossing be damned!
I’ve been to many Rubblebucket shows. But it wasn’t until I was mid-crowd in NYC’s
Bowery Ballroom and heard a guy in front of me say to his friend “the singer looks so hot tonight” (but? Gross? That’s my sister?) that I knew Rubblebucket had made it. The experts will tell you that, actually, this was when they released their 2011 album Omega La La, with its headlining tracks “Came Out of Lady” and “Silly Fathers,” and reached a whole new, larger audience. Or, when they flew out to LA to play on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and got free pizza and Alex almost puked backstage. Or, when their song “Cameout of a Lady” appeared in the movie Drinking Buddies, and I was suddenly one giant leap closer to meeting Anna Kendrick (that’s when I knew I had made it). Or, when their green rooms started stocking guacamole. Or, when their 2012 and 2013 EPs Oversaturated and Save Charlie introduced fans to the next and the next evolution of Rubblebucket, and more and more people fell in love. Now, much to my drool and dire impatience, the band is hovering on the knife’s edge of their next highly anticipate dalbum release, Survival Sounds (Communion Records, Aug. 2014). Prepare yourself, universe.
Rubblebucket is many things and nothing at all; it’s a mindset, a legend, a feeling, a mystery; a mischievous, playful, boundary-smashing blast of sound that you can sit still and wonder at, or turn off your mind and move wildly to. Or both at the same time. As Kalmia said, when she handed me one of her now-famous peanut butter, cheddar cheese, cabbage, honey tacos, “This is the weirdest, most delicious thing you will ever taste.” And if you won’t take it on my authority, take it on the authority of a small, but reputable publication called Rolling Stone, reporting from Bonnaroo: “Rubblebucket revved up likean indie-rock Miami Sound Machine, dancers, horns and all.” And if you won’t take it on Rolling Stone’s authority, cleave to the words of guitarist Ian: “Our music is like being at a raging party, but in the center of it, there’s this beautiful painting that you’re staring at, trying to wrap your mind around.” Or the words of our dad, Tim Traver: “Kids these days.”
Sego is rhythm distilled and pure. The Los Angeles-by-way-of-Provo duo of Spencer Petersen and Thomas Carroll churn out percolating and pummeling beats that coalesce into persistent, spastic grooves that are just as jittery as they are danceable. Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Around, their debut album (out March 4, 2015 in North America and May 6 in UK/Europe), introduces them as a band turned inside out, the rhythm section taking lead, while the guitars and keyboards add jaded, jagged texture. It's the sound of postmillennial city life
chronicled by two millennials from rural Utah: '80s kids updating those sounds to the '10s and in the process rendering the familiar fresh and unfamiliar.
Spencer and Tom operate out of what they call the Cube, a warehouse in
downtown L.A. that's part industrial-park facility, part urban hippie commune. "It's in this weird industrial wasteland downtown," says Spencer. "We share a perimeter with the UPS trucking yard and a cement factory." They are upstairs in
the loft with a few other bands as roommates; downstairs is for storing gear, rehearsing, recording, and hosting the occasional concert or party.
The Cube is the locus for a small community of like-minded musicians. "Everybody's on the same page here," says Spencer. "We're all trying to
accomplish similar things, so we're all contributing to each other's projects and
helping each other out. If you need art direction or a second opinion on a riff or whatever, someone's always got your back." But it also breeds some friendly competition, motivating each musician to do his or her best work.
It was here in the Cube that Spencer wrote and recorded most of the tracks on Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Around and the previously released EPs Long Long Way From the Fringe (Dine Alone) and Wicket Youth (Kitsune). He locked himself up in the studio and painstakingly assembled the recordings,
often starting with drum tracks and slowing building songs up from there. "When
you start with drums, the beat naturally becomes a little more wonky, because there is all that space you have to fill. That makes it much more interesting to me. Whereas if there are all these vocals and guitars and whatever, the drumbeat is
going to get in the way if you get too complicated."
The rhythms that propel these songs are more than just dance tracks, but
something closer to musical manifestations of Spencer's own skewed sense of
alienation and skewed sense of self.
"I started writing songs with the intent of having someone else sing them, mostly just snippets in a notebook," says Spencer, who has always played a sideman role in previous projects. "But other singers weren't panning out, so I
guess it was up to me. This is my first attempt as a singer, which is a whole different scene. I was surprised by how personal it is in both the writing and the
performing. I'm not Springsteening it and writing about these characters. It's my
That life provides some rich material. Even as Spencer and Tom have moved far away from their home state–settling in Southern California, working with famed French label Kitsuné, and signing with Toronto-based Dine Alone Records–Utah continues to define them as musicians. As a kid in a small town called Springville, Tom took to the drums as though keeping time was the family business. His grandfather is a Civil War re-enactor who plays in a fife-and-drum corps, and his father, uncles, and brothers all pound the skins in various projects.
Growing up in Mapleton, a town of about 8,000 in the north-central end of the state, Spencer's interest in rock music started early. "My buddy and I had this
pact in fifth grade. Since we were both going to be in a rock band one day, we figured one of us should join the school band to learn drums and the other should join the orchestra and play bass. We flipped a coin, and he got drums." Spencer
studied symphonic bass throughout high school and college, yet his interests remained much broader; in addition to avant-garde composers like Bartók and Schoenberg, he was fascinated by what he calls "rough-edged non-guitarists"
like Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes and Bernard Sumner of New Order.
The pair cut their teeth in Provo's lively DIY indie-rock scene, playing together in a breakout act called Elizabethan Report (later known as Eyes Lips
Eyes). "I pump the Provo music scenewherever I go," says Spencer. "There are so many crazy bands that came out of there. It was so influential for both of us."
After their band relocated to Los Angeles, signed to a label, recorded a debut, and then unceremoniously disbanded before seeing it released, Spencer and Tom stuck around the Golden State and kept making music together. The name Sego seemed fitting for their new project, as it refers to both the Utah state flower and to the short-lived Sego Music and Art Festival, "a crazy little showcase for the scene in Provo. You anchor yourself in that kind of identity. Maybe I'm sentimental, but I feel like that festival has a lot of significance for me."
Spencer and Tom divide their time between Los Angeles and Utah, tracking parts of Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Around in the Provo basement of their producer, Nate Pyfer. That sense of displacement adds crackle
to the album's rhythms and riffs as well as emotional heft to Spencer's candid lyrics. "There's a certain amount of exploration in these songs, a sense of finding your own way," he says, by way of explaining the Sego ethos. "You end up places you never thought you'd find."
New York-based songwriter and performer Alex Toth teamed up with Steve Marion (Delicate Steve) to co-produce the album which features Kimbra, Shaun Sutkus (Perfect Pussy), Noah Rubin (Skaters), Max Almario (Celestial Shore) and Brian Betancourt (Here We Go Magic).