R.B. Korbet’s rich and varied musical career reads like a road map of the vintage New York underground world, cutting her teeth in the early 1980s in such legendary underground bands as Even Worse and Missing Foundation in a scene that gave rise to the likes of The Beastie Boys and Bad Brains, then moving on to stints in bands such as garage rock legends Pussy Galore and John S Hall’s avant-garde collective King Missile.
And while R.B. has usually been seen behind a drum kit or a six-string, she now slings bass guitar in the much-loved The Carvels NYC, offering a pert, kinetic anchor to the band that offers a musical blender of garage, pop, punk and the girl group sound – and that’s only backed up by R.B.’s harmony vocals to lead singer Lynne Von Pang’s powerhouse belting. R.B. plays like a wind-up toy whose coil is about to burst, but still provides low harbor exquisitely.
“I’ve never considered myself a bass player until fairly recently,” Korbet tells Know Your Bass Player. “I have a weird playing style. I don’t play at the bottom of the neck near the lower bridge but right up front at the pickup. I think it helps give me that really punchy sound – it’s not intentional, it’s just where I feel comfortable for some reason.”
Musician Korbet’s career on the four-string took flight during her stint working with Jon Spencer in Pussy Galore: “Jon had very distinct ideas about the material and I rarely played a bar chord, let alone a lead. So I began thinking about being more percussive, my attack, and have the few notes I did play have real meaning.”
Korbet abandoned music entirely for more than a decade while studying in England on the way to earning her doctorate degree in contemporary British history. Her rebirth as a bassist largely sprung from her recent collaborations with the East Village’s revered bard Hall.
Korbet played drums in an early incarnation of King Missile in the 1980s, but a series of reunion shows featuring Hall and Korbet gave her a whole new perspective while switching to the four-string. “King Missile is always led by John’s words and the music would take shape around that,” she said. “It got me to think very differently about music and songwriting, and it forced me to listen more and consider the dynamics of the finished project as a whole.”
Korbet’s bass of choice in The Carvels NYC is a 1996 Korean-made Fender Squire jazz bass, saying, “I love it! The scale is perfect for me, and the neck is beautiful. It never goes out of tune and I change the strings about every two years!” And she keeps things simple, given her penchant for getting lost in the moment and leaping around the stage. “I’m constantly in danger of knocking things over, so I’ll go clean and boom-y before I stick a pedal on the stage for me to kill myself on.” For added sonic emphasis, Korbet employs a heavy triangular nylon pick to make her sound.
While The Carvels NYC have been recording and touring as one of the city’s biggest “on the rise” bands, Korbet reflects on her rock ‘n roll life. “I’ve learned a lot about human nature, the good the bad and the ugly. I am greatly thankful for the other musicians I’ve worked with and the people I’ve met through the scene, even the shitty ones. Because everything and everyone you encounter in life is a lesson.”