Rubber Band Gun
Kevin Basko released more albums in 2019 than most artists do in their entire career. The New Jersey indie rocker released handfuls of records in the first seven years under the moniker Rubber Band Gun--not to mention producing, engineering, and performing with everyone from Eric Slick to the Lemon Twigs. But when Basko’s friend and collaborator Jonathan Rado of Foxygen quipped that he should release 25 albums in a single year, the Rubber Band Gun 25 sprang to life. And at the heart of that diverse collection of records is Cashes Out due 11.2.2021 via Earth Libraries, a record that not only stands as the first vinyl release for the project, but also showcases the dazzling and dizzying heights that Rubber Band Gun psych-tinged bedroom rock can reach.
As many of the albums in Basko’s big year carried unified themes, Cashes Out was written with the express idea that it would be Basko’s big leap into the conventionality of the music business. That said, rather than streamline or simplify for that pop approach, the record retains the multiplicity of ideas and tones that run through the Rubber Band Gun catalog. After opening with introspective piano, “My Time” erupts in a spray of ‘70s neon and the album never looks back.
That step out of time is particularly fitting, as holing up in his home studio of Historic New Jersey has meant that Basko’s music lives in its own context rather than any particular scene or trend. “I’m more of a fish out of water, but I’m creating my own scene that is without a true geographical home base,” he explains. “In some way, that makes me very Jersey-ish because I’m not giving up despite a lack of acceptance into a certain culture.”
A big part of that new scene comes from Basko’s close partnership with Rado. The pair’s seamless connection dates back to Basko’s time at Berklee College of Music, when he took a bus to New York City to see a Diane Coffee show. “We met that night and hit it off quickly. A few months later he asked me to join Foxygen,” Basko says. “He’s the only producer I’ve ever had for a Rubber Band Gun release, and I trust his ears endlessly.” In fact, in addition to producing and engineering Cashes Out, Rado helped round out arrangements on percussion and electronics.
Basko opened his laboratory up to further collaborators for the album, working closely with brothers Mike and Brian D’Addario, Sam France, and Jackie Cohen, as well as co-writing lyrics for the first time with bassist Johnny Costa. As a musician known for prolifically releasing material after locking himself away in his home studio, this more collaborative approach opened up Basko’s process. “It’s a pleasure to work with so many friends, and I learned a lot from watching them and hearing their feedback,” Basko says.
The rough-hewn and homey five-part harmonies on album highlight “Be Together”, a Bowie-indebted take that alternates between tonky stomping and lush, swaying calls out for something more. The chugging square-wave stutter of “Like That” further showcases that renewed energy, Cohen’s falsetto swimming laps through Basko’s burnished synth wave pool. Closer “Catches A Trout”, meanwhile, finds Basko and Rado threading guitar, synths, and sequencers through each other in fluorescent knots, a fittingly bright and untamed ending to an album that gleefully refuses the rules that it even set itself.
“This album was an attempt at making a Rubber Band Gun modern pop album, but we used all kinds of equipment used for making more sample-based music and then ran that stuff back to the tape machine in new ways,” Basko says. “It was all recorded out of the box and some of the sounds we got on this record were completely new to my discography.”
The larger Earth Libraries community bolsters Rubber Band Gun as well, as Basko has produced a variety of albums released by the label. And while the many musicians that have come through his Historic New Jersey studio have each unlocked new depths to their own sound, Rubber Band Gun remains an idiosyncratic and unique world.
“The community is a big part of what drew me to Earth Libraries,” he says. “It was nice to know that someone in the industry saw the real potential in these records I was proud to work on. They’re not overly focused on what’s ‘popular’ or relevant. They like good songs and that’s all I care about.” And as evidenced both by the timeless pop wonderland of Cashes Out and the diverse strength of Basko’s songwriting prowess, it’s clear that those same values inspire the seemingly endless well of beaming indie pop that is Rubber Band Gun.
“Just days before graduating, Kevin Basko was on his way to the Berklee School of Music’s job fair. He came looking for a teaching job, and left as the new touring guitar player for Foxygen.”
“On Friday, October 30, Former Foxygen Member Kevin Basko came out with a new album, Adventure Violence, Scary Images. A sonic painting of Kevin’s life during the quarantine, this LP is your perfect lockdown soundtrack.”
“As expected, the new Rubber Band Gun album Adventure Violence, Scary Images affirms that Kevin Basko is one of the most prolific talents working today.”
“I wrote and recorded the song a few months into lockdown, and I call it the quintessential pandemic song: half-assed and disjointed, it’s a real Home Alone 4. It’s like if Tom Cruise fell and skinned his knee during that slide in Risky Business. It’s like Footloose but with Kevin James running through a warehouse instead of Bacon.”
“Kevin Basko has been a lot of things. He’s been a touring guitarist for popular band Foxygen (fronted by Sam France and Jonathan Rado), has been a member of a funk-pop group called Ripe, and has been a music student in Boston.”