Interview: Buke And Gase

Buke and Gase picture from Facebook

[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.

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First impressions: Buke And Gase – General Dome


I keep putting this off because I want to do it justice and I’m worried about saying the wrong things. I don’t want to overegg it – oversell it – but I do want you to hear it because you really need General Dome.

General Dome isn’t this year’s Screamadelica, but it is this year’s King of Limbs: that album that leaves you with a satisfied smile on your face feeling like all is right with the world. I’m more relieved than thrilled because I was so worried that Buke And Gase would let me down. I’d built them up as so frustratingly close to true brilliance but who had only given glimpses of their staggering potential. General Dome is how they start to realise it: to combine infectious melodies, depth and innovation in one iridescent, shimmering package.

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Top 50 songs of 2012: 10 to 1


10. Buke & Gase – Misshaping Introduction

Buke & Gase have more potential than any act I’ve heard all year. Their last album was startling, if not quite classic; their next should dispel all doubts.

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New Buke and Gase EP available to pre-order

I gave Buke and Gase quite a hard time in my many posts about them because I’ve always found them frustrating: so obviously gifted and unique and refreshing, and so obviously capable of more. The good news is that, courtesy of new EP Function Falls, it looks like we’re going to get it. The four-track download will be released on 11 September, but you can hear the first song right away. (Those who pre-order can download one track in advance.)  Continue reading

“Radiohead is because it’s like this total triumph of short people”

We’ve been having fun with Googlism, a website that filters descriptions from Google to tell you what Google “thinks” of you. For example:

princess stomper is normally represented as a small pink bunny
princess stomper is a former magazine contributor and music researcher
princess stomper is making way too many assumptions in this article  Continue reading

What are record labels good for, anyway?

Written for Collapse Board

For about as long as record labels have been signing artists, there’s been a conflict between label and band; commerce and conscience.

Labels, so we’re told, are greedy exploitative bastards trying to line their pockets with the blood and sweat of the unwary musician. Labels will force you to abandon your creative dreams and dance to their puppet-strings. Labels will explain that they’re providing a service, investing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars and incalculable resources of connections and expertise. After all, since the 70s, bands have been perfectly able to press and distribute their own music, so why sign to a label at all?

The obvious answer would be that it demonstrates that someone else has had enough confidence in your band to invest in it. It’s one thing to have someone say, “I like your band”, but when someone says, “I like your band enough to bet $x on your future success”, it says something else entirely. Especially if that person has the type of reputation where their investment is a signal to others that your band is worth paying attention to. After all, once a label signs two or more good acts, it’s common for fans to look through the rest of the roster to see what else they might enjoy. Critics will be sent other similar bands on the label’s books in addition to the album they asked for. The advantage for the band is the benefit of association.

Where the relationship between artist and label breaks down is usually when the band feels that they’re not getting enough of a service for the money they’re effectively paying the label. In a traditional indie deal, the label might take 50%, but in return pay for all recording costs, handle all publicity and distribution and promotion, and offer an advance (loan) to cover touring costs. If your record is a huge success, this can leave you both happy, but if the record fails to recoup its cost the band can frequently end up owing the label money. Add to that the digital era where the download-to-purchase ratio is a thousand-to-one, and the musical climate is one in which budgets are tight and generosity is scarce. It’s no longer unusual for a label to expect the band to pay for their own mastering or even advertising costs, which would lead the artist to question, “If I’m paying for all this, then what the hell are you doing?”

Collapse Board invited three labels – Brassland, New York’s rising stars whose acts include The National and Buke & Gass; Armalyte Industries, home to K-Nitrate and Haloblack; and tenzenmen, the “Australasian DIY specialists” hosting 8 Eye Spy and Ourself Beside Me – to justify themselves before the court of you. Let’s start by asking them why on earth they ever thought setting up a record label would be a good idea … Continue reading

PIAS labels spreadsheet

Sean at Drowned In Sound has helpfully uploaded a spreadsheet listing the labels and some of the bands whose stock has been destroyed in the PIAS warehouse fire.

Among those on the list are Sufjan Stevens, whose Asthmatic Kitty label was affected, and Buke and Gass, whose label Brassland tweeted earlier about their loss. So, if you’re looking for a way to help out, purchasing a CD or MP3 off that list would be a good place to start.



Here is a recommended list of releases on the affected labels, with an A-Z list with purchase links here, and you can keep up with developments via the #labellove hashtag on Twitter.