Last saturday, we had a conversation with Adam Kubota, one of the bassists of Postmodern Jukebox.
> Postmodern Jukebox is a huge collective. It must be very inspiring to play with all these people. But, isn’t it a bit difficult, sometimes, to deal with all these different personalities and tempers ?
No, it’s not too difficult because everyone is really, really nice, and cares about the music. I star with people that are just very generous, and want to work together and put the best thing on stage. So, when you live with fifteen people on one bus, of course there’s always little problems, but it’s so little. I know it sounds unbelievable but we all get along pretty well.
> It looks like a big family.
Yeah, it is like a big family, definitely. I see some of these people much more than I see my family. Like Casey, I consider to be my brother. If you want to know something, he knows; whatever, we sit down and talk about a subject; movies, politic, or where we are, what we’re doing in Europe. He’s very generous about sharing and he always comes with new ideas, a lot of creative projects and wants to bring in all the different cast members. It’s really helpful.
> If we have understood well, there are like two bands touring at the same time.
Yeah, but it’s not really like bands. It’s a collective, a group of musicians enjoying some traditional music forms like jazz and swing and soul, and other stuffs. And we start to grew up as musicians learning how to play that and getting good at that, but we’re also a lot to play pop music. And performers really love to be on stage and have good time. I think that’s a really really important part of the Postmodern Jukebox; we’re all having fun. You know, it seems it is like “Oh my god, we are such a big production” but no. We are making jokes, and listening to each other. A Postmodern Jukebox’s show is like a big vintage party and not really like a concert, you know.
> That’s great because every show is different from one other because the performers aren’t the same, so the songs. This European tour isn’t the same as the American one.
Sure ! The American tour have just ending last night in Seattle and so, right now, there’s only this PMJ group that’s here. We have a really great run in France. We’ve been here since the end of November and it’s really nice to have this experience with two nights at the Olympia in Paris and everywhere in France. So it’s a cool experience, for me especially. It’s good to have a lot of nice food, and a lot of nice wine ! [laughing] It’s a great country for that.
> You really seem to love food in Postmodern Jukebox because in his PMJ close-up, Casey said how much food inspires him ! [laughing]
That sounds like something Casey would say ! [laughing] He’s a very inspired human being. He’s always inspired by a lot of things and I think food is among one of many things that inspire him. He’s such a funny great guy !
> And you, what are your inspirations ?
I’m inspired by great musicians and great musics, first. But I’m also inspired by people, by my fellow musicians and also the audience. It’s really nice to be connect to the audiences. One day, one girl told me that she starts playing the bass because of me. And for me, it’s really like the biggest and highest honor that someone can give you. I’m really pride of that because when I was young, I’ve just seen the bass somewhere and I thought that was really cool and that’s I want to do. But I’m also a lot inspired by travels. To travel as much I can; see different places with Postmodern Jukebox, meet musicians from all over the world. It’s like a dream, a really good job !
> Is there a country which is really inspiring for you ?
They are all great in a certain way but France is inspirational for me, and I’m not just saying that because I’m talking with two french people ! There’s a love of the culture and love of art and music. Everywhere you go, everything looks beautiful and has like a beautiful classic innocent sensibility. The art museums are just packed with amazing beautiful art. I think french people care about art and I’m totally related to that. Besides that, I just watch a museum and the museum is like really beautiful and everyone is really friendly. I think that’s pretty cool.
> In the new french version of PMJ’s album The Essentials, there are two songs with french artists ; Thomas Dutronc and Madame Monsieur. How do you work with other artists ?
I don’t know the other persons, I just worked with Thomas Dutronc. But for the work, it depends on the artist. I mean, Scott Bradlee usually meets with the artists, and they have almost like a jam session where artists say “I want to sing this song” and Scott says “Ok cool”. Scott can play any song and if he doesn’t know it already, he can figure out in like one minute. And then, they work on that, and maybe they go to another song and they try to figure out what would be the most interesting thing that singer likes to sing and that would really change the meaning of the song. But with Thomas, he really wants this song “Comme Un Manouche Sans Guitare” and it was nice. It was an interesting collaboration because we were actually in Nashville, Tennessee. And we had this famous studio up there, and we were just recording the bass and drums, all the same time. And Thomas said “I bring in a couple of background singers”. So we just put that on that track, and Thomas recorded his vocal and guitar over. And then, we put together videos. Thomas wanted a bit more the original PMJ video vibes. So, there is this video with me, Scott and Dave Tedeschi and we were pretending to play along the track. And we were having fun ! It was something like pretending to play a music that you have already record; it was fun. It was a nice experience and I think you really get a sense of that sort of fun PMJ vibe between us. And then, he played one show with us at the Olympia in Paris and he is a really incredible nice guy. I used to think he was this kind of too very famous people you know, but he is like the coolest guy ever. We had a good performance ! He’d just come from Johnny Hallyday’s funerals before our rehearsal, so he was a bit emotional, but it was really cool.
> PMJ is a lot of fun, but also so much work ! There are so many new videos posted every month, that’s crazy. How do you manage to do so much work ?
Scott has a very strong work ethic; if you’re consistent, you put things out one week. He enjoys putting things out there in the world. He taught me that and I think that’s important. You can’t spend too much time thinking about “oh, maybe it’s not perfect, I don’t know”. You just have to capture the moment the best you can, obviously not if there is a big mistake. But if you catch the moment in a good way, it sounds good. You just play and sometimes it would be like the most complex magical thing, but sometimes you just threw things together. It’s crazy you know, sometimes you spend a lot of time working on arrangement and all this complex part and you think it’s gonna be like this magnum opus and finally someone says “Why are doing that ? Do that !”. In fact, it’s about catching the spirit and if you have good musicians, it’s gonna be a good product usually.
> What is striking in PMJ’s covers is that there often are crazy things like Gunhild Carling playing ten instruments in “Happy” ! Is there a crazy thing you’d like to do in a cover ?
I think I like when something crazy happens that I’m just not excepting. I don’t know what’s gonna happened, or sometimes I can’t believe I’m doing some of these things ! A long time ago, we did the video for the song “Burn” and the saxophone player, Stefan, has a saxophone that shoots fire. I mean it really, really, shoots fire ! So we were inside Scott’s apartment with a fire extinguisher, and it was like I can feel it on my face and I was scared I am gonna lose my hair. It was really distracting but scary. It was a cool experience ! Or there was also Puddles the clown. I didn’t really talk to him before I play with him. He just came on stage; I knew there was a clown but that was really hard to figure out what’s gonna happened. But it was cool. Stuffs like that is always fun; to play with performers it’s an unbelievable situation. And for the rest of your life, you have like a million good stories to tell.
> PMJ is always a kind of surprise.
Yeah, I think it’s part of it. There is a really strong element of performance art in what we do. We put musicians in situations and they have no idea of what’s gonna happened. Everyone is really strong and good and I think it’s really important; we’ve found a way to show the world what really great musicians are, what they can do. This is not really like a record company, it’s not something that attracts labels and that you can put on a pop radio. So, it’s really nice to bring those cool art performances high-level talent at all these people all over the world. It’s really unbelievable to have people in France or Dubai or Singapore.
> Indeed, there are many performers in PMJ, like dancers. You did some covers and medleys with tap-dancers Sarah Reich and Alex MacDonald. How do you rearrange a song with a tap-dancer because it is not a usual instrument ?
It’s, you know, about putting together different rhythms; playing our favorite rhythms, bass lines and songs. Because, what they do, on one level is dance, but on another level is playing drums, playing rhythms. So, it’s always fun. Alex tries to figure out how to make the songs happen together, so he puts some dance moves, and eventually it’s a dance performance as well. It’s really fun to collaborate with somebody like that because he’s thinking of it from a different perspective, and everyone gets better, you know !
> You also did some covers of movie soundtracks, like Harry Potter. Is there a movie inspiring you and that you’d like to cover ?
No. I think the stuff that we do in PMJ, that music wise is usually more like a musical theater stuff. We’ve just done a cover of « Tomorrow » from the musical Annie and it was so cool because we did it on a Motown style. But for me, personally, I’m not a musical theater person. I like Wes Anderson’s movies because they have always a really, really fantastic music. It’s interesting, very eclectic; rock from the 60s, indie music or french music. I like that.
> In a way, Wes Anderson’s style is a bit like PMJ’s one with the mix of modern and vintage style, and the crazy things.
Yes, he’s definitely like remixing different styles. He stylizes things and he can go so deep into aesthetic. I think it’s really cool to remix all these things and put them into a movie. Last time I was in Milan, I went to the Fondazione Prada. And there is a kind of 1960s Milanese cafe. It is so amazing in there, there is a beautiful espresso machine and all the waiters are wearing white shirts, and there are pinball machines. And I was like “this place is so cool”, and then later I learn that Wes Anderson designed it and I was like “Oh cool, that’s why I like it”.
> We’ve got a last question for you. What do you think about this come back of vintage style ?
I think there’s always gonna be a style, like a group of people that wanna like everyone has the thing they like. Just like the people dressed like 20s, or like 40s, like pin-up. I mean, I guess the vintage seems to be more and more popular probably like 6 or 7 years ago, and it still go on. People just really like, I think, when The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann came out; it gets very popular then. Everywhere you see people dressing like a certain period, which is cool. It’s weird to see people dressing like 90s style now, because I am like “90s ? I used to dress like that !” (laugh) So that’s funny, but I’m glad that the 20s, 40s and 50s styles are still in because it means that people still want to dress up and come to a Postmodern Jukebox’s show. Because that what it is in our show; it’s more than just a concert. The fans are dressed up with amazing outfits and they dance. Sometimes tap-dancers come up with our tape-dancers after the show, and they do like a jam together. And it’s so cool to see everyone dressed up, men with crazy mustaches, and women with these big curl things. It’s unbelievable.
> Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Adam !