NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Rubblebucket bandleader Alex Toth has a shortened description for his neo-psychedelic, reggae-influenced, fusion dance band.

"We call it 'New, New Wave,'" he said, laughing.

"Actually, we don't typically try to describe our sound," he continued. "Some of us are jazz musicians who got interested in Afro beats. We started out just trying to do something different. It kind of defies a simple description.

"But if you want," he said, joking, sort of, "you can also call us 'Talking Heads-ish.' With horns."

Toth and Rubblebucket will bring their new, new-wave sound to Mass MoCA at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27.

Besides Toth, the band includes lead vocalist Annakalmia Traver (vocals, saxophones, flute); Adam Dotson (trombone, flute, keyboards) and Ian Hersey (guitar, vocals).

Toth and Traver first met at the University of Vermont, where they both were music majors.

"She grew up in Vermont, I grew up in New Jersey," recalled Toth. "We were both into Big Band Jazz. But we both also liked bands from the '60s: Jimi Hendrix and the Jefferson Airplane.

"And we were both sort of obsessed with Beck," he said. "The way he wrote lyrics and arranged songs."

Toth and Traver graduated from Vermont in 2006. They released their first self-produced album, "Rosie's Dream" in 2008 with Dobson and Hersey. The band was called the "Rubblebucket Orchestra."


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Touring in support of that disc, the band built their live chops. In 2009, the band released their self-titled second album. In December of that year, they won a Boston Music Award as Best Live Band of the Year. They shortened their name to just Rubblebucket, which has stuck.

Toth believes the band's early heavy touring schedule has a lot to do with it's strength as a live group.

"There are a lot of really separate crafts involved with being in a band," said Toth. "There is songwriting, and production, and there is actually performing. I believe they are separate things. You can have a band that's great in the studio, but maybe they suck live.

"For many years, the band would be touring all the time," said Toth. "We'd do 140-150 dates a year. I think we got really good as a live band because of that."

The band has now released five full-length CDs and two EPs. Toth said he believes his songwriting has evolved over the years.

"I think I've gotten more disciplined, yeah," he said. "When I started writing, just getting a song out was agonizing.

Rubblebucket performs at Mass MoCA on Saturday, Aug. 27.
Rubblebucket performs at Mass MoCA on Saturday, Aug. 27. (Photo courtesy of Mass MoCA)

"For me, the process isn't actually methodical," he continued. "But in the old days, I used to write a melody, and try to work out all the potential places it could go. And I'd actually play several different versions. It really used to take me forever to complete one song.

"Now," he said, "I trust my instincts more. I write something and I don't stress out about the ending. I write it and I just want to make sure it ends."

The Mass MoCA show is not actually part of a tour, said Toth. Rather, the Brooklyn-based quartet is heading north for one gig.

"It's sort of a one-off," he said. "We're just coming up for that one night to play."

A longer tour, he said, is in the offing this fall.

"We're starting in Nashville in September," he said, "and we'll be out on the road all fall."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.

IF YOU GO ...

What: Rubblebucket in concert

When: 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 27

Where: Mass MoCA, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.

Cost: $25-$40

Information: massmoca.org