When a writer calls a band “unique,” it usually just stems from laziness. But when it comes to the unpredictable and inventive duo of Buke & Gase, “unique” is a truly apt descriptor. The band crafts magnetic music built on the explosive, delicate and textural sounds of homemade instruments, the buke and gase. Frontwoman Arone Dyer plays buke, a self-modified six-string baritone ukulele while providing vocals. Aron Sanchez plays a gase, a guitar-bass hybrid of his own creation: An acoustic body with both guitar and bass strings with separate outputs for each with their own respective effects and amplifiers. On their new record General Dome, the New York-based group once again combined unexpected instrumentation with selective percussion and soaring, swirling vocals for some downright mesmerizing and, yes, unique music. Arone Dyer stopped by Turntable.fm to play some tunes and chat about life as a musician, why Buke & Gase don’t like talking about their songs, and why Metallica should take up the buke.
Melissa Locker started playing “Kenya Dig It?” by The Ruby Suns
BUKE & GASE: Hi hey hello
STEREOGUM: Good morning. Is it just us or are we waiting on someone else?
BUKE & GASE: It’s just us today… this is Arone fyi. The girl.
STEREOGUM: That was my next question! Okay, well since it’s just us, shall we get started?
BUKE & GASE: I suppose I should put some music in queue
STEREOGUM: Oh yes that helps
BUKE & GASE started playing “Idegbani” by Zeal Onyia & His Music
BUKE & GASE: Ummm, maybe?
STEREOGUM: You can add more songs as we go if necessary. Or just play two 11 minute tracks.
BUKE & GASE: Ha! Too many different things I like to just play two songs. Well at any rate. I’m on it.
STEREOGUM: Some day I will do one of these and just play one Sigur Ros track the whole time. So Buke and Gase have a new album coming out realllllly soon, right? [It’s out now! -Ed.]
BUKE & GASE: Correct, new album. It’s happening.
STEREOGUM: Did you invent any new instruments for the album?
BUKE & GASE: We worked out some kinks on the buke, Ended up using a metal version made by a friend and Aron’s gase is a whole other bag of beans
STEREOGUM: Oh really?
BUKE & GASE: This is perhaps his 9th, now, and he went through 2 or 3 versions during the recording process.
STEREOGUM: So the gase is basically still in beta?
BUKE & GASE: A lot to do with the pickups, as well as we made new amps, changed the speaker cabs several times. But yes, the gase is in beta perpetuity
Melissa Locker started playing “I Have Known Love” by Silver Apples
STEREOGUM: What lead you guys to making your own instruments? The Silver Apples, of course, made their own instruments
BUKE & GASE: It’s something Aron’s done since childhood, I got into working on guitars at 17, but didn’t dive into making other things til I started working with him in 2000.
STEREOGUM: Is the gase the invention you’re most proud of? Or the buke?
BUKE & GASE: I’m sure Aron would say he’s very proud of the gase, it’s his brainchild, he’d also say it’s not finished.
STEREOGUM: So how do you go about crafting a new instrument?
BUKE & GASE started playing “SchnAAk – My Robot Garden” by Discorporate Records
BUKE & GASE: I had only really worked on a few amplifiers, soldering/wiring/fitting pieces together, and on the earlier bukes I had removed the fret board and replaced it with a nicer hardwood fretboard… made new tail pieces/bridges/nuts. Lots of filing and soldering. And glue.
STEREOGUM: At this point do you prefer playing bukes to more traditional instruments?
Melissa Locker started playing “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers
BUKE & GASE:A buke is, in the most basic description, a small guitar. It has 6 strings, it’s just got a shorter scale than guitars. I enjoy playing it because it’s fun. And at this point I don’t HAVE a normal guitar to play. These instruments we use are definitely fun to play, they inspire us to play things we wouldn’t otherwise think of on a normal instrument. The gase is a different animal than the buke, as well. I like to think of the buke as a toy rather than some highly technological fanciness, too ,which just leads me to play it in a way that’s fun. The word of the day is FUN.
STEREOGUM: Wow! Do you think if, like, Coldplay or Metallica played a buke or a gase their songwriting style would change?
BUKE & GASE: Absolutely.
BUKE & GASE started playing “Mere Mehboob Mein Kya Nahin (From “Mere Mehboob”) – Asha Bho” by Asha Bhosle
BUKE & GASE: I do think their songwriting would change. Some instruments are just asking to be played a particular way. I’d like to hear a harmonic played like a trumpet, or vice versa, or a harpsichord
STEREOGUM: That takes a minute to process, but it would be interesting to hear.
BUKE & GASE: You just play differently on a harpsichord than you do on a piano… do you play an instrument?
STEREOGUM: I played violin extremely badly and piano. When you guys are writing a song, do you think about instrumentation first? As in, “I’d like to use this instrument in this way” or do you write lyrics and then incorporate instruments?
Melissa Locker started playing “Oar” by Optiganally Yours
BUKE & GASE: It’s different every time, to an extent anyway as we’ve already got these instruments that we work with specifically in this project, however, we usually start out by improvising, sometimes I sing complete nonsensical blabbering along with playing, and if we like what comes out of the improv then I’ll try to decipher the babbling. Some times we use an improv that doesn’t have vocals, and I’ll write a melody to it afterwards. We avoid preconception, to a degree, as well. Try to keep it as raw and free as possible until we get to the point where we’re fitting pieces together, and that’s when our perfectionism comes in. Things get tricky.
STEREOGUM: How long did it take to come up with the songs on the forthcoming album?
BUKE & GASE started playing “Our Angel’s Ululu” by Deerhoof
BUKE & GASE: It took us around 6 months to complete the album, from writing to finishing.
STEREOGUM: Oh that’s not bad considering you just called yourself perfectionists
Melissa Locker started playing “Octavio” by Viva Voce
BUKE & GASE: What, Turntable didn’t like Deerhoof?!
STEREOGUM: I heard the whole song! And who doesn’t like Deerhoof? Everyone likes Deerhoof.
BUKE & GASE: Hehe Indeed.My computer must have issues.
STEREOGUM: Sometimes the tracks that are uploaded are a bit glitchy. Like, I always want to play I Hate Milk by Air Miami, but it won’t play all the way through for some reason. You toured with Deerhoof, right?
BUKE & GASE: I was trying to get Shellac on here, but looks like Touch&Go doesn’t want that to happen. Yes! We toured with Deerhoof! Loved it! Great music, great people, hope to do that again.
STEREOGUM: Your bands seem like a natural fit. Do you have tour plans for the new album?
BUKE & GASE: Exactly so. We’re preparing for a tour coming up at the end of the month through the states, then to Australia…
BUKE & GASE started playing “Vancouver” by Jeff Buckley
STEREOGUM: How long will you be gone?
BUKE & GASE: Three weeks in the US, 2 weeks in Australia, then we’ll have 3 weeks before heading to EU again.
i’m looking for someone to sublet my apartment upstate, know anyone?! Feal cheap!
STEREOGUM: Not off the top of my head. But I always wonder how bands manage to tour so much and still pay rent
BUKE & GASE: Not easy.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a day job? Or have you managed to make music your work?
Melissa Locker started playing “Marquee Moon” by Television
BUKE & GASE: Since moving out of the city I’ve been able to scrape by without a regular job, but I still pick up the occasional freelance work. Right now I’m working for Aron on a Blue Man project, which he does freelance work for more regularly.
STEREOGUM: As in the Blue Man Group?
BUKE & GASE: Yes
STEREOGUM: Sounds paint-y. Tell me about the new album
BUKE & GASE started playing “Sports spootnicks” by Lizzy Mercier Descloux
BUKE & GASE: Hrm. I hope you’ll listen to it.
STEREOGUM: I did listen to it, I was just curious about your thoughts on it.
BUKE & GASE: Oh well I love the songs, but I’d rather not explain why, because it would be like putting an expectation in your head. It’s complicated, but I prefer to refrain from explaining anything about it.
BUKE & GASE: Hehe. Sorry
STEREOGUM: So there’s no over-arching story about the album?
BUKE & GASE: No, Aron and I make music that we thoroughly enjoy performing, and that’s what it’s about. I guess. There are stories to each of the songs, but there again, I wouldn’t want to give you an expectation.
STEREOGUM: Then I guess we will all have to listen and come up with our own ideas and opinions
BUKE & GASE: Hope that’s not too much of a drag…
STEREOGUM: Nope! It’s a challenge.
BUKE & GASE: Do you feel like most musicians are eager to explain their music?
Melissa Locker started playing “Sad Dream” by Sky Ferreira
STEREOGUM: I think a lot of musicians have a story they are trying to tell and want to give context before people listen. But not all. YOU ARE NOT ALONE
BUKE & GASE: HHAA good I was worried. Laughter happens on this end
STEREOGUM: Okay, well thanks for chatting!
BUKE & GASE: This has been fun! I’m gonna go cut pvc with Aron now
STEREOGUM: Have fun with that!
02/15 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
02/16 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
02/18 – San Francisco, CA @ Café Du Nord
02/19 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
02/20 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah