[I have two windows open: in one, my questions for Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez of Buke & Gase. In the other window, I have the Creation Kit, and I’m building a castle for Skyrim. I’m determined not to use fan-made resources, crafting purely from what shipped with the game. I tell myself it looks more authentic that way, but that’s untrue. It’s because by setting myself limits, blocked creatively into a corner, I have to think my way out. I have to snap those little lego-blocks together in ever more inventive ways, which pushes and stretches me. I can’t rely on things built by other people to let me coast along: either I imagine it, or it doesn’t exist.]
There’s no such thing as a buke. Arone Dyer invented it out of an old baritone ukelele and bits of whatever else they had lying around – I think it had bits of old car in it at some point – because they imagined it and wanted it to exist. Arone needed something lighter than a guitar, but I’m baffled by the ukelele: it’s just not something I associate with indie rock.
Aron: Actually there are a lot more ukeleles in indie rock than Gase’s. We don’t necessarily like ukeleles at all – we wanted to make a small experimental electric guitar and made one from parts of a ukelele. It is now a Buke.
The gass is a guitar-bass hybrid, similarly concocted by Aron Sanchez because he just didn’t want to be just another bass player. Hence, Buke and Gass – or Buke & Gase, as they call themselves for obvious reasons. Just the two of them, with just the two instruments plus their voices and whatever percussion they can strap to their feet. They make a hell of a racket for such a tiny band, but it’s a glorious noise. It’s indie rock, stretched and pushed until it makes something new. Descriptions are amusingly inept – they’re not “folk metal” or “chamber punk”, but I’ll give them “asymmetric congruencies of melodic discordance”. They pretty much sound like this.
Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez were introduced by a mutual friend.
Aron: Arone was on a swing, I was carrying sheet rock.
Arone: We were inside, it was bright, like the sun was hanging out with us.
They’d met after Dyer moved to New York City from Minneapolis in 2000, where she joined the noise rock crew Hominid. Sanchez played with another act called Proton Proton before joining Hominid, and he and Dyer became more than bandmates. Then they split up.
I married my former bandmate, but I quit the band as soon as we got together: I couldn’t imagine the fallout from a break-up – the awkwardness, the arguments – it just all seemed too claustrophobic to me. Curious, I ask how their ex-lover status affected their working relationship.
Aron: Not a topic.
Does he mean that it didn’t cause problems, or that it’s none of my damn business? Probably both.
What, aside from each other, have you taken from your old bands Hominid and Proton Proton to put in Buke & Gase?
Aron: The Gase began development in Proton Proton. In Hominid we learned how and how not to work together.
Arone took three years out from her music to race and fix bikes. She still works as a mechanic, which strikes me as an unusual occupation for someone in a busy band. I picture physical exhaustion and long hours, and ask how that fits in with being in Buke & Gase.
Arone: I don’t want to kill anyone, so I have to pay attention to the brakes.
Another answer that could be taken either way. All I know of Aron’s dayjob is that he worked with the Blue Man Group. What was it like being blue?
Aron: I have never been blue, actually: I used to be in the production side of the company. I still build instruments for them when requested.
I’ve never been too kind to Buke & Gase in the past. It didn’t help that my first exposure was the spit-take-inducing Revel In Contempt, which made me think they were the greatest new band on the planet … and then heard an album that to me sounded like half a dozen more versions of Revel In Contempt. That’s not because Riposte was a boring or samey album – most bands don’t even have one song that good in them, let alone an album-full – but it was the same sensation I got the fourth time I saw Cirque du Soleil: once you’ve ooohed-and-ahhed after the most astonishing aerial stuntwork in the world, they have to try so much harder to impress that it’s almost impossible for them to do so. You become immune to the spectacle with frightening speed. That first impression is so breathtaking that you want that feeling again – that sense that you didn’t even know it was achievable – and simply doing it again or even doing it better is just not going to get that reaction.
Because you expect it.
General Dome is less like being ambushed in broad daylight and more like being glomped. You know exactly what it is and where it’s going, but that doesn’t stop it surprising you because it is pushing further in all directions. Arone’s voice darts around the scale like a butterfly and the abrupt changes in time signature are as dizzying as its flight, but it’s poppy, too. The choruses are infectious. If it was hard to describe Riposte, then General Dome is even more genre-defying, landing on all points on the noise-rock-indie-rock-math-rock spectrum. I wonder how much they planned that out before they started to write it.
Aron: The only plan was to create more music using the limitations and challenges of our instruments. Most of the compositional elements come from improvisation, we mostly follow where the song tells us to go, and hopefully we are getting better at it.
Is that Autotune I hear?
Aron: We are using a vocal processor to add melodies and harmonies. We use it in a creative way rather than a corrective one. We use the same technology to add harmonic layers to the Gase and Buke as well.
[Still with my level-editor window open, I’m surveying my fairytale castle. It looks beautiful, I admit that much, but it doesn’t quite look right. Why, really, have I imposed those limits on myself? I think I’ve done as much as I can, and it does look good, but if I unshackled myself, I could do better. Because I could take all that I’ve learnt through imposing those constraints and apply it to the new resources and make something better still. Better, perhaps, than anyone has seen before. Instead of just plopping them down in the usual places, I can bend them in new directions and make something that will stop you in your tracks and mutter “wow”.]
Buke & Gase are going to take their self-imposed shackles off, too.
What would you like to achieve with the next recording?
Aron: Perhaps getting more help with production, exploring new sounds.
Arone: Maybe change the name and the instruments, and therefore change the set of self-induced limitations to continue to be creatively inspired by all things fun.
Who’s on your MP3 player?
Aron: Extra Life, The Knife, Arvo Part and 437 other artists.
Arone: Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Shellac, De La Soul, and most of what Aron’s got.
If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you spend it on?
Arone: This and a season’s pass to the nearest track
and maybe a little house.
Shame they’re not game-elves: I’d have just the thing.