Buke and Gase
Published Feb 07, 2013The buke and gase are the instruments, and Buke and Gase make the music. Here are the basics: the duo epitomize Brooklyn, NY's DIY tendencies by building their own gear (the buke is a baritone ukulele, while the gase is a guitar, plus bass), and the results shout for themselves. It's the grind'n'swarm of a bustling building site being bombarded by noise bombs and hard rock artillery. The pivotal fact of General Dome is that Buke and Gase make music of such absurdly catchy dimensions that it's almost avant-garde.
You recorded the album in a space called the Basilica. Walk us through it.
Aron Sanchez: It's a big 19th Century factory building. And it has this cathedral basilica-like architectural quality to it. There's a big main room and there are other rooms off to the side of it. You can have dance performance there, film, music; they use it as a sound stage sometimes. We were using a small space to the side that was previously a gallery space.
You've moved upstate to Hudson, NY, but you were in Brooklyn when the band started. How was that?
Arone Dyer: I lived in Brooklyn for 12 years and I haven't seen everything, you know? There's always something new. The city doesn't have any rhythm; it's just constantly churning. It's like a big perpetual motion clock, but the time doesn't tick at a regular beat. It's... ahhh; it's hard to explain. It's an interesting place.
Your music embodies exactly what you've just described. It has a rhythm that's extremely propulsive, even if, at times, it seems directionless.
Arone Dyer: Yeah, right. I think we may have been influenced by Brooklyn; we both lived there, so of course it's part of our realities. But there are all sorts of other stuff that goes into that too. But yeah, sure, I'll agree with you [laughs.].
I think you stand out from the formless Williamsburg DIY thing because you embody a DIY aesthetic rather than exploiting its social potential.
Arone Dyer: I appreciate that. It's definitely... it's just how we live. Sometimes it's hard to talk about it, 'cause it's just how it is. It's been a part of both of our lives in their entirety; it's just how we roll.
Aron, I know you're highly technically minded and spent several years making instruments for the Blue Man Group. What kind of household did you grow up in to enable all that?
Aron Sanchez: I always had tools around the house. I just got into working with my hands very early on, in all forms. My dad's a painter and my mom's a dancer, so I just took on the music thing and went in that direction. But working with my hands has always been a huge thing, for me.
How did you maintain the curiosity you nurtured as a kid, where most people's fade away with age?
Aron Sanchez: I don't see any other option in life. This is my life; I guess I'm still that kid. There's nothing more that I love to do. I'm only going to do the things I love and making music, building things with my hands, that's what I love to do.
Was it always the same for you, Arone?
Arone Dyer: No, I mean, I had a really working class family. My dad, he grew up on a farm and his work was with computers. He was bringing all this interesting technology home and he would teach me how to take electronics apart and put them back together. He'd just let me ruin his electrical equipment, but all in the name of experimentation, which was a lot of fun. And then my mom was a teacher — well, they were both kind of teachers, but my mom worked as a teacher. Oh, and my dad's a musician. My first guitar was from him, when I was nine or something. But I grew up in a small town in Minnesota, so in my teen years I was a very isolated individual [cackles gloriously]. But, you know, shit, I was an artist — whatever!
I know in previous interviews you've played down the band's DIY nature, presumably because it seems totally natural to you, but I'm wondering whether beyond the necessity, if there's also a kernel of defiance in your aesthetic?
Arone Dyer: Yeah, I think so. I don't know. A lot of my growing up had a lot to do with figuring out how to have enough money and listening to how important it is to make money and this, that and the other. But it wasn't an easy thing, so it was also how to survive with not making money. My mom taught me how to make clothes and my dad taught me how to fix electrical stuff and how to change tires and oil on a car, just regular day-to-day lessons.
Arone, I know you've been interviewed for a few The New York Times, in relation to your bike repair work.
Arone Dyer: Yeah, there was one about female mechanics, and then a long time ago, I think in 2003, there was an article about Kryptonite locks and how you can break into Kryptonite locks with a Bic pen. I think people have a fascination with women getting dirty [laughs].
Do you think that's where it comes from?
Arone Dyer: I think maybe it's cultural, yeah. I went to Ghana, too. I was there to try to get women involved in learning about bikes. And, culturally, women are not supported in that kind of work there. It was interesting to see the difference in cultures.
Do you had aspirations outside of bicycles and music?
Arone Dyer: Outside of "bicycles" and "music" [laughs]? Not really, no. Not aspirations. I was a carpenter and cabinetmaker, and I wrote articles for a magazine at one point. I didn't go to college and decided it was more valuable to get jobs in many different skilled labours than go to school, which sometimes I regret, because I feel like I'm not book-smart and can't debate things very well. But I can argue the shit out of you!
In terms of instruments, I know the two of you play the buke, gass and toe-bourine. Am I missing anything?
Arone Dyer: Well, we have an enhanced kick drum, this thing called the TC Helicon; it can harmonise with my vocals live. And then I started using a loop pedal to make a drone kind of sound. And on one song, we used an iPod Touch, just to make a drone sound.
What does the instrument-making aspect of Buke & Gase say about you?
Aron Sanchez: That we're geeks? It's a way to make us do something unique. Making instruments is not an end in itself; it's to achieve a particular kind of musical end. It's bringing us to a place where we wouldn't be able to get to if we were in a normal four-piece band; it's bringing us to a new place. I've been in a lot of more traditional, limiting bands. In some ways, it's a lot easier to do that, but I feel like there are new avenues to take. I want to be able to push the boundaries and come up with some new-sounding music and new ways of creating music. In a way, being in a more traditional setting puts you back into a mould that's already very well worn. [In this setup], it's less tempting to be complacent, because the instruments are hard to play and limiting and challenging, and often we have less control. In the process of improvising, I feel like the music isn't really coming from me — from my ego. It's coming out of this framework that we've created. I like that; it doesn't seem so personal.
The other day I read one of those click-through aphorisms you find online, effectively saying that freedom is the enemy of creativity. Do you agree?
Aron Sanchez: I do. We've set up the limitations and we're constantly trying to perfect what were doing. In the future, I think we will completely change; we're still exploring this set of rules that we've come up with for ourselves. If you have too many options, you think less creatively. If you're being held back in some way, you're forced to come up with a way to get to this point that you want to get to and you might have to take some alternate route that is unorthodox and in that process you come up with new things. The limitations we impose say a lot about us.
Bearing in mind the improvisational nature of your process, do you have trouble making your music coherent?
Arone Dyer: Absolutely! It's such an intense process. We come up with stuff by improvising, so we do this super-raw recording of just fucking around, playing music, and sometimes it's a goldmine and other times not. And when we hit something that really resonates with us, we work on it and try to take it to its fullest potential, either by enhancing or mixing it with another improvisation. And the process becomes really intense when we're working on transitions between these already-interesting parts.
Aron, do you have any input on the lyrical side of things?
Aron Sanchez: Lyrically, Arone is in charge. Words will just come out. Most of the time its gibberish and she will have to pull whatever the meaning is out of it. She also has journals and dream books. My input takes the form of critique.
Tell us about your journals, Arone. Are they publishable?
Arone Dyer: No! Are you kidding me? That's my personal pool, if you will. I have some pretty wild dreams sometimes and sometimes they're coherent and other times not. And they're always very colourful; I'll be as descriptive as I can. I definitely used the journals a little bit more often on the previous album, Riposte. This time there was more babbling when we were improvising. A lot of the lyrics came out of deciphering this complete bullshit babbling.
Are you hoping to be subconsciously guided to something deeply meaningful or are you happy for it to be borderline nonsense?
Arone Dyer: Oh, both. For me, I want it to be something I can feel and stand behind, because that feels powerful and I don't want to sing something half-assed — ever. There's a subconscious desire for it to be really intense; it's never very literal at all.
Is yelling about stuff an effective stress outlet?
Arone Dyer: Yeah, definitely. It's something that I did as a kid; it's definitely an outlet and I became very used to doing it. It feels really good.
In what sense, and to what extent, do you feel emotional when you play? Have you ever cried in the midst of creating and performing?
Arone Dyer: Um [nervous laugh]. Oh God, I feel like if I say, "yes" I'm going to be super-cheesy. It's happened on occasion, if I let myself go that far, which I don't need to. But there have been a couple of times in the past — definitely not recently — where you just let yourself get to that point. It's not like I'm breaking out crying, it's just like, "Oh, yeah, this is actually kind of poignant to what's happening in my life right now," so I feel it.
You put so much into making instruments and improvising, but end up with this concise, almost-pop music. To what extent do you think inspiration is dependent on work ethic?
Arone Dyer: I think work ethic is extremely important, especially for Aron and I. We have to work every day — and we do. We get together every goddam day. And sometimes it's a struggle and sometimes it's just so rewarding. If you do something consistency, obviously you get more quantity, but also the quality — you can see when you're coming out with shit; it's obvious. And when you're coming out with something good, you know it. Whereas if we hadn't moved upstate and worked so much, I think we would've fizzled out.
At what point did you and Aron have a romantic relationship?
Arone Dyer: During our previous band, Hominid, a long time ago. I don't want to talk about it though [laughs].
Okay. You don't have to answer this, then: is it easier to work together having moved that out of the way?
Arone Dyer: Everybody is different. For us, it's great. We've known each other for a long time and we got to know each other in a particular way before and that helps where we're at now. He's like my big brother, in a lot of ways. Sometimes he's annoying, and I'm sure he'd say I can be just as annoying as a little sister. We get along; it's good.