In summer 2015, after finishing a year of intense touring, Rubblebucketâ€™s Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth began the process of bringing their next record to life. As an experiment, Kalmia asked Alex (her longtime romantic partner) to move out while they worked on the album, then accepted the marriage proposal he made during a recording session just a month later. Although Alex soon moved back in, their 11-year relationship ended when the two chose to â€˜consciously uncoupleâ€™ the following springâ€”a decision they honored by ceremoniously giving each other matching triangular daisy tattoos (a nod to the title track from Rubblebucketâ€™s 2010 EP). But despite all the sadness brought on by their breakup, Kalmia and Alex kept on writing and recording together, ultimately creating Rubblebucketâ€™s most transcendent album to date.
Co-produced by Kalmia and Alex, Sun Machine documents the pain of ending their romantic relationship, yet emerges as an unbridled and often-euphoric celebration of their lasting connection. While the breakup inspired much of the album, Sun Machine is deeply informed by several other life-changing occurrences in recent years: Kalmiaâ€™s diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2013 (followed by a round of surgeries and chemo treatments), Alexâ€™s decision to get sober after a long struggle with alcoholism, and the coupleâ€™s three-year-long attempt at maintaining an open relationship. The result is a strange and beautiful paradox: a party album rooted in radical mindfulness, a breakup record imbued with each partnerâ€™s palpable love for the other.
With its airy melodies and lavish textures, dream-logic sensibilities and dancey rhythms, Sun Machine radiates the bright and joyful energy encapsulated in its title. â€œItâ€™s a reference to the sun as this abundant natural resource we all have available to usâ€”but itâ€™s also about the inner sun, the magma in our hearts,â€ says Kalmia. â€œWhen you can access that, youâ€™re able to get through really hard moments, and evolve and develop creatively. I think thatâ€™s the best way to explain how I was able to work through the process of the two of us transforming our relationship in a positive way.â€