Buke and Gase: The WL Interview

Purveyors of: Dreamy industrial atmospheric rock
File next to: The Kills, Angel Olsen, Deerhoof
Playing: WL 18 Night 3, Sunday, February 18 @ the Garrison. Get tickets here!

Buke and Gase do it all: from designing and crafting their own unique instruments to creating each sound themselves live onstage. The New York duo, Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, have toured with an enviable list of artists including Lou Reed, Animal Collective, Owen Pallett, and Death Grips. Shannon Roszell talked with Buke and Gase about songwriting, their approach to live performance and favourite touring moments.

I read in your bio that you “perform each sound live.” What’s the motivation here? Did this come as a reaction to electronic music or sampling?

MrAron: Our performance ethic evolved out of an interest in being a two-person band that can more or less cover the frequency spectrum the way a full band can, rhythm and all. We thought it was an interesting challenge to have this somewhat limiting structure (two people, eight limbs) dictating what was musically possible. It wasn’t really a reaction to electronic music, which I love. In fact, our latest material uses loads of samples and electronics, but we like the idea of manual control of those sounds within the performance.
What does your songwriting process look like?

MissArone: We’ve evolved our process into well-tracked and recorded improvisation. I write lyrics loosely based off of the gibberish that occurs during improv, often directly translating the syllables and consonants into semi-coherent prose. Then we mix the hell out of (or into?) it.
How tightly are your songs written and performed? Is there a lot of room for improvisation, is there some sort of structure or?

MissArone: There is no real room for improvisation once we’ve settled on a structure, which makes our performances highly focused and intense. There’s wiggle room for my vocals throughout our latest material and a little room for tempo variation on particular songs, but overall we give a consistent execution of our material.

What brought you two together as artists?

MrAron: Being in Brooklyn at the same time, sharing some friends in common and having similar obsessive work style!

What do you mean by a “self-designed instrument?” What was your first one? Do you have a favourite?

MissArone: I’m not about to say I reinvented the short-scale guitar, but in 2007 I bought a toy baritone-ukulele, stripped its hardware, created/acquired new hardware to accommodate six steel strings, electrified it and called it a “buke” since it didn’t necessarily sound like a guitar, but it no longer sounded like a toy or ukulele. In these same beginning stages of this project I also wore bells on my ankle, and wanted more attack, so I took a bicycle toe-cage, nuts/bolts, tambourine cymbals and bells, slapped that all together and a fan of ours coined the term “toe-bourine” for it. Last week I made a headset microphone that I’ll debut with Buke and Gase at this festival. It’s got its own hair and I love it.

MrAron: My instrument shares design elements of a bass and a guitar, I built it from scratch. I’ve gone through many design iterations of it but basically it has alternating bass and guitar strings with multiple pickups for the different sections, divided into discrete outputs going to various effects processors. I’m also playing an electronic kick pedal that triggers multiple samples and short loops that I control via performance software that I’ve created for this project.

You’ve shared the stage with some pretty incredible artists. Share a couple favourite touring moments or stories with us.

MissArone: There’ve been so many notable moments, it’s hard to narrow it down to favourites, plus there’s inevitably a favourite moment of EVERY tour, but we really enjoyed sharing cake with Battles at the end of our amazing month-long US/UK tour! Their audiences were incredibly engaged and responsive, I thought it was a perfect band-mash-up of musical sensibilities. Also, we recently went on tour with The National in Europe, and they asked me to join them each night for a few songs from their latest album, including the hit “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” which opens with my vocal melody. It was truly an honour to sing for so many of their adoring fans!

What’s next for Buke and Gase? 

MissArone: We’re ramping up to release our next album this year, as well as collaborations with So Percussion, Aleuchatistas, John Niekrasz and a collection of improvisations that we’d recorded last year during our Union Pool residency in Brooklyn. After such a long incubation period we’ve amassed a ton of projects and music we’re eager to empty our sleeves of. I can barely bend my arm. Too much magic.

Is Wavelength Winter Festival your next show?

MissArone: Yes, we’re really looking forward to it! I’ll be proudly adorned in costumes created by my friend, Laleh Khorramian, who is an amazing artist and costume designer. We’re going to carpool with our buddy Fusilier (swoon) who’s also performing that night, and we highly suggest arriving early to catch all the musicians!

— interview by Shannon Roszell