An Interview with Postmodern Jukebox’s Adam Kubota
Following their sold-out 2015 Australia/NZ tour and following the demand of their passionate New Zealand fan base, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox are back in New Zealand this week for a 7 date national tour kicking off in Christchurch tonight and finishing up in Auckland on the 5th September.
Over the past few years, Postmodern Jukebox have combined an ever growing collective of performers (with over 70 rotating cast members!) and they have amassed almost 500 million YouTube views and over 2 million subscribers. Chances are, if you have been on YouTube in the last couple of years, you have seen one of their epic vintage covers of modern Pop, Hip-Hop and Alternative classics.
I was lucky to have a chat with Adam Kubota, Bassist and long-time Postmodern Jukebox collaborator ahead of their show in Christchurch at the Isaac Theatre Royal.
C: How did your involvement with Postmodern Jukebox first come about?
AK: My involvement is that I go back a really long way with Scott Bradlee, hes an old friend of mine. We both attended a music conservatory together back in the US somewhere back in the early 2000’s.
C:You guys have been so busy at the moment, having just wrapped up a 75 city European tour, now you have 7 shows in New Zealand starting tonight and then on to Australia for another 9 shows, then heading back to the states for another 45 shows; how do you cope with spending so much time on the road?
AK: It’s that brilliant you know, that we have all those places? You know it takes a certain personality to be able to do that. I enjoy the distinction of being able to say I have done the most Postmodern Jukebox shows of just about any cast member.
But yeah, it’s because I enjoy travelling and enjoy meeting new people and for me it’s always really exciting when I get to roll into a new town or city that I’ve never been to before and there are people that know who I am and know who the band is, and that’s a weird feeling but also a fantastic feeling.
For example, we went to this place today in Christchurch, a fancy vintage cocktail bar and they make amazing cocktails there, and we walk in and they are already playing Postmodern Jukebox, and the guy is just really excited that we are there, and he’s saying that he just likes to create this really vintage vibe in his cocktail bar and that Postmodern Jukebox is sort of the best way to immerse into this cool vintage world.
C: I think that’s totally true, in New Zealand as I’m sure you know, there is a massive vintage community and following, and the amount of times you rock up to an event and there is some PMJ playing and it eases people into it I suppose.
AK: You know, it just sets the mood and it’s fun, and they hear songs that they know and that are relevant to them. Then there’s this transformational element to where in their head they register ‘oh there’s some jazz playing’, but then once they hear the lyrics like “All about that Bass” or something like that, then it sort of blows their mind, especially if they are already into the vintage world.
It sort of just becomes perfect and special to them, and I like that you know, when people haven’t heard it before and you just see the expression on their face change and they just get really happy and into it.
C: You touched on it before, saying that you have performed more shows than most other cast members in the group, with such a large number of revolving band members and contributors, what would say would be the largest challenge with that?
AK: The biggest challenge is having everybody learn the arrangements. I mean its one thing to do a video and collaborate with Scott, and have it go viral, but when you tour and have all these people perform together, then you have to learn much more of the repertoire and everyone is very generous, in not only do they do their solos, but they also do background vocals for everybody else so you have to learn all of the parts.
But we have just been really fortunate that everyone is accommodating and giving, and really ready to work and put it together.
For example, this tour that we are doing, is a little bit like our wedding tour with something old and something new, and so we have some of our old school, very first viral stars like, Robyn Adele Anderson is on the show, Cristina Gatti as well as some other people that came along a bit later like Casey Abrams and LaVance Colley and then doing her first tour with us is this amazing singer Melinda Doolittle who was a finalist on American Idol and she is a real force of nature.
It’s great to see from my involvement over the years with this project and see it grow and come to that, where we have kept on all our early and fantastic performers and we can add on some new parts so we can really do justice to where we’ve come from and the people that got us here, but then we can also keep it exciting for fans.
I mean this is a completely different cast from when we were here last time we came to New Zealand, with the exception of me, hahaha. I’m sort of the only common link, me and our tour manager
C: Going into the recording and reworking of the tracks, what is the process behind that? Does Scott decide what songs are covered or is that a decision that is made collaboratively amongst the cast?
AK: There is a bunch of different factors, like if there is a singer that we want to work with that has some ideas, and if it’s a song that they just completely rip it up on, I think Scott really wants to showcase that.
So it’s a bit of a collaboration between the singers that Scott wants to work with, and then it’s also like Scott being like, well this song is hot and I think we want to do that because people will be excited to hear it and want to share it.
So there’s definitely an element of that, but then there is also that transformational element, if that makes sense, it’s like what song would totally blow your mind if you heard it in a weird vintage way.
I think you experience that with like a Nicki Minaj song or a Kesha song you’re just like Woah! Like if you do a Big Band version of like a Nicki Minaj song, like her lyrics are pretty out there, so you’re not expecting to hear a Big Band version
C: What would be your favourite tracks to play live out of your repertoire?
AK: I’d say that I have two that I enjoy, one is pretty intuitive and that’s “All About That Bass” and that’s mostly because I get to collaborate with Casey Abrams on that and he’s just such a great musician and we get to do a four hands bass solo.
So in other words there are two people playing one bass, with one person soloing and the other person is playing an accompaniment and its cool. It was Casey’s idea, and you don’t see too many people doing that much on stage, and we always change it and start messing with each other and pushing each other to the next level, and people respond to that and just love that song and it has a good swing to it.
And the other one that I really like is the great arrangement Scott did for “Bad Blood’ and that’s one we do with Aubrey Logan, and the level of talent that she is like a volcano of talent. She is just a crazy good singer, trombone player and has so much stage presence and so much range in her voice.
But then with Scott’s arrangement, it’s very reminiscent of this Duke Ellington song called “Rockin’ in Rhythm’, which I played in college when I was learning to play jazz. And it’s just a cool arrangement, and it makes me think of that great Duke Ellington song that I like a lot, in other words, it just swings, and I just love it when music swings.
C: So you are in the middle of this massive tour, heading back to the States after Australia and New Zealand, what are the future plans for Postmodern Jukebox?
AK: There’s a bunch of things in the works. Keep working with more performers, to keep moving with the vintage movement. I think that’s what we enjoy, is that we have created this situation where we have become this immersive vintage experience, sort of like The Rat Pack, sort of New Year’s Eve party.
And to see shows where people are just fully dressed up in fantastic vintage outfits, like full pin up costume and dyed hot pink hair, and the guys are wearing suits and there is this intense Lindy Hopping and tap dancing and all this stuff going on. And then it’s to just continue creating more immersive experiences and to be inspired and to inspire this movement.
I mean our videos are starting to transform a little bit and we are continuing to find new singers that just bring something fantastic. So it’s to continue on that path. With the US tour that we have coming up, it’s going to be a little bit different, we are going to have a higher production and we are upping the game on our touring show and playing venues like Radio City, so the trajectory is really fantastic, its upwards, and to heighten that vintage vibe is what we are excited about.
You can check out the full interview by listening to it below:
Interview originally published on the Miss Charlotte Cake website