Performing Arts

Vocal Trash recycles more than songs

“Think ... Before You Throw it Away,” by Kelsey Rae and Steve Linder
“Think ... Before You Throw it Away,” by Kelsey Rae and Steve Linder

Vocal Trash sounds like it could be a term for what happens when a singer has spent too much time partying and yelling and must go on vocal rest. But for the Fort Worth-based band with that name, “trash” is their mission.

Cutting down on it and recycling it, to be more precise.

The group, founded by Kelsey Rae and Steve Linder and featuring five other members, has been performing for more than a dozen years, mainly gigging at corporate events, weddings and festivals, covering well-known popular songs in about 150 performances a year. At the suggestion of Linder, who is also a comedian, they started using trash cans in their performance, a la “Stomp.”

Then, they started caring more about recycling something other than songs. Rae — who has performed in musical theater since she was a child, and was once offered a role on “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the Britney/Justin era — wanted there to be a clearer mission.

“We wanted to educate children about what it means when you throw something away that could be recycled,” Rae says.

Many of the shows Vocal Trash performs, all over the country, are private affairs at schools, as well as at environmental events and Earth Day festivals.

In one of these, you’d typically hear “Think Before You Throw It Away” and their parodies of songs like the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” and Martha and the Vandelas’ “Dancing in the Street” with an environmental message. The latter, for instance, becomes “Cleaning Up the Street.”

The mission has taken them to new places, including as part of environmental initiatives in Romania and Morocco, which had just banned plastic bags nationwide.

This week, after a Saturday performance at the earth-friendly event EcoCoppell in Coppell, they will embark on a two-week trip to Mongolia, performing for officials and at schools and orphanages in and around the capital of Ulaanbaatar.

“I really get involved with the kids; I’m asking them what they’re doing to save the planet,” Rae says. “Every school we’ve ever been to, we get calls from teachers and principals that their students are excited about recycling.”

Next month, they’ll come back to North Texas for private shows at Azle Elementary School and Holiday Heights Elementary in North Richland Hills on the same day, May 19. On June 8, they’ll give their next local public performance at the Shops at Willowbend in Plano before heading to the Midwest for several tour stops.

Vocal Trash’s message doesn’t go deep into environmental issues like climate change or overfishing, but they do want their audience to understand the importance of recycling, composting and the roles trees and plants play in the environment. In 2013, Rae and Linder wrote the children’s book “Think … Before You Throw It Away,” and they have released albums for children and adults.

A typical Vocal Trash show features tap dancing, breakdancing (Rae is the choreographer), comedy, horns, guitars, bass, trash cans, pots, pans and other noise-making contraptions.

The band not only has changed minds regarding the environment — it has changed Rae herself.

“Ten years ago I was not as green-minded as I am today,” she says. “I’ve had to educate myself. … Now it’s a way of life. I haven’t bought a bottled water in three years — sometimes they are provided at the events where we perform, though. It has become a part of my life.”

Vocal Trash at EcoCoppell EarthFest