Q&A With The Musical Mad Scientists Of Buke & Gase
By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 22, 2012 3:30PM
Aron Sanchez (left) and Arone Dyer (right) of Buke & Gase (photo courtesy of the band)
With two similar-reading (and identical sounding) first names, Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez of Brooklyn's Buke & Gase are no strangers to name-based mixups. Formerly called Buke and Gass (rhymes with bass), the duo has earned praise for its lively, experimental sound and interest in its use of equally lively, experimental instruments the pair frankensteins together. With the recent release of their EP "Function Falls," we caught up with the duo before the start of their fall tour to ask about their new record, the limits of creating a big sound with just two people, and the of course, the all-important modified baritone-ukulele (the "buke") and the guitar-bass hybrid (the "gase").
CHICAGOIST: First of all, you guys changed your name ever so slightly. What was the thinking behind that?
ARON SANCHEZ: To make it more simple. It was kind of annoying to hear it pronounced the wrong way all the time.
C: Another thing you two change up--ongoing, it sounds like--is your instruments. You actually make new instruments out of the ones you've been playing on.
AS: Yeah. The instruments are mostly because we're two people and trying to make a lot of noise. We're trying to do things with two people that you'd normally need a bigger band for--and we're trying to do it live. We don't do any prerecorded stuff, computers, and of that. THat way, we developed our instruments--really, added to our instruments--so they could do more. We're modifying things and creating things from scratch.
But it's always changing--the instruments are always being more refined as we discover what we want to do with them. I think early on, they didn't sound quite the way we wanted them to, but they were working. Over time, we've found the tonality that we're looking for. I wouldn't say they're done, but they're changing. We keep wanting to do different things.
C: Has the sound you wanted to achieve steered how you've modified the instruments more than the instruments have dictated how you sound?
ARONE DYER: Yeah.
AS: It's a two way street. I think we started with an idea and then found out what the possibilities are and what the limitations are. We try to balance back and forth, but it's a constant balance of "oh, we got this new pedal, and look, it can do this! Our instruments now sound this way" We're always discovering different things.
C: Does it feel like you're giving up a certain amount of control in your music because you're working with instruments that have personalities of their own, or rather, their own needs and limitations?
AS: Yes, I'd say that. We're actually quite limited in a way--I'd say as far as my instruments, we're really limited. I can't really be a normal guitar player or a normal bass player.
AS: [To Arone] You don't agree with that?
AD: No I don't agree with that! You're not limited. I mean, in the way that there are things a bass or guitar can do, maybe you don't play the same chords, but--
AS: I can do different things--
AD: You can almost do more than you can do with a regular guitar. It's broader. You can go lower than a guitar and higher than a bass. Hello! (Laughs)
AS: Right. But I can't be as dexterous as either one of those two [instruments] on their own. My instrument is it's own weird contraption.
C: How did you learn to modify your instruments like that? To the level that you've modified them, it doesn't seem like it's an "everyday skill" most musicians have.
AD: As a kid, I just added strings to my guitar. Now, with my bass ukelele, which is where my instrument comes from, I took the basic body of the ukelele and added strings to it, which Aron showed me how to do. Aron?
AS: I've been doing this for a long time, this modifying and making instruments from scratch. I've made instruments for Blue Man Group, so it's a skill I developed over a long time.
C: You're looking to release your second album next year, so what can we expect with this EP now?
AS: We had some ideas brewing and we had just finished the LP. We wanted something else out by now but it got pushed back. Since we were interested in putting something out around this time anyway, that was the impetus behind it. We've been experimenting with some new ways to write songs, so we wanted to explore that with this album.
C: Is this album an experiment on its own, or part of the evolution into the next LP?
AD: I think it's a little of both.
AS: It's an experiment, but it's also maybe a natural progression after the last LP.
C: When it's just the two of you, and you're making so many efforts to create a full band sound, do you ever miss the full band experience? Or rather, what is it that you enjoy so much about keeping the setup small?
AD: I would love to have a full band in the future! The music we've been playing lately would be so much fun to groove to. Right now we're both sitting down when we play, and it would be great to be free.
C: What would you do if you had the free ankle or hand and had someone else picking up some of the musical duties?
AS: If we didn't have to do so many things and think of so many things simultaneously...I don't know--
AD: We're also kind of control freaks!
AS: I do fantasize about "Oh, what if I could just play the bass part? That'd be amazing." I love what we do. It's great. And it's exhausting.
Buke & Gase play two shows tonight, September 22, at Schubas with Deerhoof. 7 p.m. All Ages, 10:30 p.m. 21+, $14