You’ve likely heard the saying about how one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, but another person’s music? A decade ago, before the green movement became popular, a band was so desperate for an original sound that they experimented with trash. Today, the troupe, now called Vocal Trash, is spreading a message about recycling and the environment to tens of thousands of children and adults across the country, using items commonly found in the garbage as instruments.
“It started out as us trying to do something unique that other people weren’t doing,” said lead performer and co-founder Kelsey Rae.
They first tried industrial items such as metal cans, plastic barrels, and water bottles. They soon found the sounds so sweet they committed to going full filth, creating guitars from a mix of recyclable bits, including a gas can. One of their drums is, you guessed it, a reconfigured compost drum. All of the band’s instruments are made from recycled materials. Rae calls it “upcycling,” which is the improved and sustained use of material destined for the landfill.
Vocal Trash is gaining popularity, performing at venues nationwide from Madison Square Garden in New York to Las Vegas and many city and state fairs across the west. They’ve become one of the more original, low-budget traveling shows in the country.
“Over the last few years we have created it into what it is now, which is basically a variety show, something you’d see on Broadway, but it definitely has a green theme to it,” Rae said. “We’re a group with a message.”
Vocal Trash reels the audience in with an eclectic high-energy act, featuring comedy, pop, rock, swing, big band, classic oldies and hip-hop dancing. Throughout the show, Rae and her band-mates go into the crowd with their microphones to deliver “educainment,” by sharing everyday tips and suggestions on recycling.
“People don’t know that if you keep the plastic bottle cap on a bottle and throw it on the recycling bin it’s still unrecyclable,” Rae said.” They throw it in the landfill because they can’t recycle it with the cap on. There’s not another group out there that’s promoting recycling through song.”
Through repetition, Rae believes recycling habits can be changed. She should know. She wasn’t always a recycler. Despite living in an environmentally-conscious population stronghold, Seattle, Rae’s inspiration for the new band wasn’t based on any political or social beliefs. But those soon changed.
“I started researching,” Rae said of the band’s beginnings.” I wasn’t a huge green activist but I really started learning about the crisis we had and started getting passionate about it. It started out with, ‘let’s add in something to teach the kids. It didn’t start with a life changing moment, but it definitely changed my life.”
Now Rae and Vocal Trash are trying to change others. While the recycling message has been around for decades in the public school systems and publicly financed ad campaigns, Rae and her band believe their presentation will actually make that message stick.
“We’ve found that through music and dance people are paying more attention to recycling, up cycling and re-using. It takes extra effort for them to initially remember, “oh yeah, take the caps off the bottle,” but it’s easy once you do it.”
The group is currently scheduled to tour Texas in April, including a two-hour show on Earth Day on April 22, and they will perform in front of 20,000 kids this year.
“It’s an impressionable number,” Rae said. “Hopefully it will turn into them telling their parents about us and on and on.”
For more information about Vocal Trash, visit its website at vocaltrash.net.