Buke and Gase sounds like it might be another randomly decided label for a Brooklyn indie rock group seeking to break through the thin layer of DIY musicians dusting the borough, but like the band it describes, the phrase is far from arbitrary. Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez (yes, they share a name separated by merely one letter—it doesn't seem to bother them) began making music together after a spell as part of the noise group Hominid, pairing off to make their own music when the post-punk project split. Their extraordinary sound is partially due to the unique instruments the two use—Aron has been an instrument maker for years, opting for a guitar-bass combination in the "gass" instead of relegating himself to only one and Arone's baritone ukulele combination styled as a "buke" was designed to help her bypass carpal tunnel. Regardless, their unique take on instrumentation is only one facet to the band's eclectic, impenetrable sound.
Their second full-length album General Dome came out early in 2013, sweeping up new fans from every corner of the music world, and reassuring old ones that this group would only continue to expand their already-vivid sonic palette. Their discovery of sorts by Aaron & Bryce Dessner, the brothers behind The National, led to several releases through the Dessner brothers' label Brassland, and a level of recognition that they unequivocally deserve. Seriously, when was the last time you heard about a band with brand new instruments in it? It's a breath of fresh air to hear brand new sounds in the over-saturated cell of indie rock. Dyer's piercing, angelic vocal line drives energy through the tracks that are punctuated by equally homemade percussive instruments played by both members. The two are on tour in Australia but took some time to answer questions for P&P readers about their strange instruments, influences and feelings about Brooklyn.
When did it occur to you to take up these unique instruments? What first drove you to it?
Aron - I’ve been an instrument maker for many years so I brought that skill to the project when we started, and the Gase was an instrument I had already developing in a previous band. Messing with new or modified instruments just seems like a good way to come up with unique music, and for us it’s solving the problem of being a two person band by enabling us to play instruments with a wider sonic palette.
Was it always the plan to center the band name around the instruments? Were there other names/ideas in the running before you settled on this?
Aron - No, we were trying to avoid having a band name altogether because we didn’t like the naming process and were unhappy with how contrived a band name can be. It got to the point we needed something so we settled on what was at the time working titles for the instruments. We liked how the name put focus on the process of the band while still being an abstraction. Since then the name has become a bit of a distraction, but we like how it leads people into the workings of the band. The spelling change was obviously for pronunciation and has not been a problem.
We were trying to avoid having a band name altogether because we didn’t like the naming process and were unhappy with how contrived a band name can be. It got to the point we needed something so we settled on what was at the time working titles for the instruments.
Can you talk a little bit about the recording process for this album? Is there anything you'd change about the finished record if you could or do you feel pretty solid about it?
Aron - We were able to rent a nice big room with wooden floors and brick walls for several months and just moved all our equipment and toys in there to write and record with. The process was similar to how we’ve been working from the beginning which is recording improvisations and collaging parts together until we have a piece of music that makes sense, we learn how to play it and then record a performance of it. Towards the end of the General Dome recording session we began trying other writing techniques that made their way onto the Function Falls EP, using the computer as a writing tool. We feel pretty good about the record, but records are never finished, you have to let them go at a certain point. Of course there are many things I would change about it, but that’s what compels us to make another one.
You had at least two tour dates with Deerhoof… were you familiar/did you listen to their music before touring with them? Was there something you learned by being on the road/performing with such a veteran band, even if it was a brief stint?
Aron - Actually we’ve done a few tours with Deerhoof, so we’ve played with them many times, they’re good buddies, and also the best band in every possible way. They are peerless as far as I’m concerned. Amazing musicianship, attitude and presence, we’ve learned so much from them. I first saw them in 2001 and was immediately a huge fan, so it’s been a real honor for us to tour and play with them the past couple years.
If someone is only going to listen to one song off your record, which one do you wish it would be?
Arone - Houdini Crush. It’s a good introduction I think.