Buke and Gase: The (Latest) WL Interview

Purveyors of: Electro-infused homemade post-punk anthems

File next to: Deerhoof , The National

Playing: Wavelength Monthly Music Series, Saturday March 30, 2019 @ Monarch Tavern. Get your tickets here!

Buke and Gase, Hudson, New York’s nifty avant-pop duo and ingenious instrument builders, are back in Toronto to kick off the Wavelength Monthly Music Series for 2019. Derek Westerholm took a deep dive with Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez to discuss their songwriting process.

You have increasingly shifted away from an analogue palette to delve further into a heavily synthesized mode of working. You are well known for inventing your own instruments and sounds, and have continued to do this in the digital world. How has this affected your approach and relationship to what you do?

AS: Getting more digital was a natural progression for us because we were trying to push the analogue palette to places it wouldn’t naturally go, we wanted to break through that limitation. And, as is our M.O., we were trying to perform a larger sound with just two people. Turning to electronics helped us to surpass the capabilities of our four limbs, it allowed us to add more percussive elements and textures we couldn’t play in the past. It’s also fun. 

The rhythms and timing in your music are as unconventional as the instruments you invent and sonic choices you make. Does this come naturally or is it deliberate? Are there inspirations you draw from regarding rhythm, song-structure and aesthetic, or is it intuitive?

AD: Inspirations? Nothing specific. Definitely intuitive. We improvise, so whatever rhythms and timing that you consider unconventional are likely our personal-indecisions-in-the-moment-turned-stubborn-grasping-onto something we may or may not have planned. Wrong Side, for example, is one of the more difficult songs to perform even though there’s a sense of consistency in the rhythm and timing, but if you watch how Aron performs the percussive and bass parts to this song it’s a total mindsmash. He’s such a badass!

You have been creating music together for many years as a duo. How have you found your creative and personal interactions have evolved over the years? What are your favourite shared experiences? What are the biggest challenges you have faced as collaborators sharing your ideas and lives together in a creative and touring capacity?

AS: That’s a big question, It’s been a long time and our personal lives have changed a lot along the way. I’d say our approach to making music together hasn’t changed all that much. We still get in a room together and improvise and make decisions, argue and obsess until we don’t know what we’re doing sometimes, it can get crazy. We’re perfectionists and workaholics and sometimes we can lose sight of things, it’s something we’re working on. Certainly the best part about making music together is the improvising we do to create material and performing a good show for a room full of humans.

In the interim between your previous release, 2013’s “General Dome”, and 2019’s “Scholars” you had recorded an album that you decided to shelve. You mentioned in one interview that you found you didn’t like the result and felt ultimately that it was too contrived. How did you feel at the time you were making it? What is the tipping point that turns an idea to which you are committed, into one that you are willing to abandon?

AD: It felt rushed. The pressure to immediately release new material in order to “stay fresh” in what was developing into the current media format was intense and chaotic. We were keeping ourselves fresh, running back into the studio after each tour to create. We had incredible musical moments happening during improv on such a regular basis that it seemed we were doing the right thing; chasing after sonic gold like money in the wind, catching and strategically folding the bills into origami towers. Without reflecting on the destruction, we kept knocking those towers down attempting to make them taller. It was like building a castle with fancy space-age materials that we weren’t able to fasten using the tools we thought we’d mastered. Or, for another metaphor, creating a meal with strikingly exotic ingredients but no clue how to put them together to make the food enticing, or edible. We went to the deep end trying to please ourselves and each other, fighting over what decisions to keep and which to ditch, ultimately exhausting ourselves of the entire process and destroying nearly all of the material we’d collected. Neither of us talked about it. It was as though our once beautiful collaborative elephant was now bludgeoned and gory on the studio ceiling and neither of us wanted to lift our heads to examine it. But we both knew. The queasy feeling of fear and loss told us something wasn’t right. We’d spent the last week before the deadline mastering, remixing and remastering, losing sleep and becoming apathetic to our decisions, all up to the morning of the hand-in date. I don’t remember who called who, but I remember our conversation went something like this: “hey.””morning.”(long pause)”are you ready for this?””no.””me neither.”We didn’t want to give up, but moving forward felt worse. Inaction is an enemy.

Most of your work is the product of improvisation and reacting to chance elements. You have similarly described your lyrics as the product of sounded out vowels and consonants in your initial composing phase. Some of your lyrics have presented themselves to you, surprised you, taken shape on their own, and come packaged with their own unintended themes. When you arrive at the final draft of your lyrics, do you feel happy with them? Is lyrical content important to you, or are they incidental adornments to the music you create?

AD: Lyrical content is incredibly important to me (MissArone) although sometimes I let my logic brain take the backseat in order to let the incidental melodic adornments shine. On “No Land”, the theme laid itself out as the chorus naturally flowed during improv, “No land, no food, no family” which has a very specific image and message to me. So the rest of the verse’s original jibberish was easier to harden into a supporting lead up to the chorus.

“Fate won’t bend to your crown – You think you can true true truly suffer like the million unmentioned dare elsewhere out of your sight? Your life is fair today, but since you’re royal you’re left to dream, while couples drown and rejoin, while they descend to knee.” I’m pleased with these lyrics. They gracefully make sense and have a very understandable message that I stand behind. Is the message as obvious to you or am I assuming its simplicity?

Then there’s “Eternity” which lyrically flows in and out of social commentary and personal tragedy, linking the real deaths of two prominent musicians to an imaginary millisecond tire spin-out on a wet cobblestone road in the UK. There was no actual accident like this, that I’m aware of, but, to me, it felt like the deaths of these artists were so close in time and poignancy they might has well have died in a cab together, and all I can picture is endless rain, weightlessness, adrenaline-slowed-time focusing my attention on the glitter of city lights through an eternally tire-splashed puddle in mid air, pre-collision. 

“Gotta call a cab, it’s raining rock stars, nearly dropping in pairs, wiper blade batting stiff” Whether the lyrics give you a sense of that scene or not – I don’t control, but hopefully they’ll stir a similarly wet and tragic image for you. I don’t consider myself a literal lyricist, but I try because I see how much more popular ($$!) that type of writing is. I can only ascertain that’s because it’s easier to feel like you get it as the listener (and why repetition is so pervasive) which is ultimately very satisfying – But I don’t think this project has ever been about simplistic primal discourse, for me it’s been a process of uncovering the fatty folds of my brain. What’s me really doing in there? For me, getting the lyrics right is when they give scenic direction but allow room for the listener’s imagination.

Where to next? (Band-wise, music-wise, outside collaboration-wise,
Aron and Arone-wise.) 

We don’t know! We have so much unreleased material we need to do something with and new ideas maybe even for a totally different project… we’ll see!