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MUSIC | Rachel Trachtenburg of Supercute!: "You should break the rules about art"
The leader of Supercute!, the trio opening for Kate Nash on Wednesday at First Avenue, is just 16 years old—but she's a more seasoned tour veteran than the 22-year-old headliner. (Read my interview with Kate Nash here.) Rachel Trachtenburg started her professional musical career in early elementary school, as drummer and singer in the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players.
Her bandmates then were her parents; father Jason plays keyboards and guitars while singing songs about slides rescued from thrift shops and garage sales, displayed on a projector operated by mom Tina. In Supercute!, Rachel Trachtenburg plays with keyboardist June Lei and guitarist Julia Cumming. Lei and Cumming are also teenagers—and all three girls play ukulele. Super cute, right? No, Supercute! Songs from the trio's debut EP can be heard on their MySpace page.
I talked with Rachel Trachtenburg by phone at her New York City home ("I've got it, Dad. Thanks.") just before she headed out on tour.
Tell me about your new band.
It's very new. Our genre is indie bubblegum. It's our own sound—there's nothing like it, really. We play "Misty Mountain Hop" on ukulele.
Is this your first tour together as a band?
This is our first tour. We've been a band since the summer of 2009. We've played lots in New York—comedy venues, shows for kids, shows at regular venues.
How did the opportunity arise to tour with Kate Nash?
The Trachtenburgs went on tour with her two years ago, and we became good friends. We've been e-mailing back and forth as pen pals. I was talking about how I wanted to form an all-girl band, and she said, "I want to be in your band!" Well, that didn't work out because she's a major pop star, but I kept her in the loop and since the band got together I've been sending her photos and music. She came to New York and saw us play, and that was a total dream—it was insane, because June has loved Kate Nash since before she even met me. The tour came together so fast, it's been insanely crazy. It's our dream opening slot.
What have you learned from touring with your parents that will be useful to you on this tour?
Oh my God, it's been insane. I have no clue how many tours the Trachtenburgs have been on. We started playing when I was six years old, and started touring when I was eight. We've been on at least 20 U.S. tours—maybe more, like 30. Then 10 or 15 U.K. tours. I love touring. I get freaked out if I'm in one place for too long. I've learned everything about touring—from dealing with people at venues to sound checks and selling merchandise. Making sure we get paid...all of that. The girls are learning a lot really fast, and it's helping a lot for me to have so much touring experience.
Do you have any particular memories of your last stop at First Ave, two years ago?
I do remember there being a Chipotle nearby, and being happy about that. The stars on the side of the building are cool.
When does the record come out?
We have an EP, and we're waiting for a label. We've made 1,400 CDs to bring on tour, and we hand-made the packaging for every single one of them. We have so much fun merch. We have hair bows we made out of trash. We have hand-painted paper dolls of the girls and me with clothes you can cut out.
I still have my hand-laminated Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players bookmark.
Oh yeah! I remember those!
After all this touring, and an appearance in the New York Times as a style icon, would you say you're a celebrity?
I don't really think about it like that, but somewhat, yeah. I do a lot of political activism, and lately I've been juggling the band with a lot of fashion stuff. Just dealing with all the e-mails is insane. I think it's good when people use being famous to get their message out there, like Sean Penn does. [My bandmates and I] want to do that and get our messages out, even if they're small—like, wear what you want to wear, and you don't need to have drums in your band. Everyone says we need drums, but we don't think we need drums. You should break the rules about art.
©2010 Jay Gabler