Buke and Gase Rebuild Music from the Instrument Up
This article was originally accepted for publication in the Philly Daily News. Due to a non-exclusivity clause, after 10 days, I am able to share it here.
B+G: Being tricky
Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez have long favored a do-it-yourself approach to art. As Buke and Gase, they’re taking the idea one step further, and creating their own instruments.
The name Buke and Gase describes their concoctions: Dyer (she) plays the buke, a custom-built, six string, baritone ukulele, and Sanchez (he) plays the gase, a self-fashioned guitar-bass hybrid. The instruments were invented partially out of necessity—Dyer to combat carpal tunnel syndrome, and Sanchez to achieve greater range in a group where he was the only string player—but since have become integral to their sound.
“The buke gives me a range—lower than a guitar and higher than a guitar,” explains Dyer, who’s also modified her instrument with effects pedals, typically found on an electric guitar or bass. Sanchez adds that the gase allows him to “play bass parts or guitar parts, or play them both at the same time. We’re trying to be like a little orchestra,” he quips.
Buke and Gase offer a much fuller sound than is typical of a duo. Since forming in 2008, the Brooklyn pair has turned heads with complex, visceral brews, which incorporate elements of rock, folk, metal, and punk, and which have generally been deemed unclassifiable by critics. (The band themselves prefer the term “chamber punk.”) On their second and newest LP, General Dome, they marry dark, percussive instrumentation with Dyer’s lilting, jazzy vocals, for a result that feels both ominous and invigorating.
Not surprisingly, the pair boasts a long history of experimentation. Prior to forming Buke and Gase, Dyer worked as a bicycle mechanic, where her love of craftsmanship led to several custom-built bikes. Sanchez performed with and designed instruments for The Blue Man Group, including the Aronophonic, or custom-built cymbal made from multiple metal pieces.
Still, that doesn’t mean perfecting the buke and gase was easy. “I probably built 11 to 12 versions of the gase,” says Sanchez with a laugh, noting that his design is constantly evolving. Dyer’s buke, on the other hand, has seen “just three” iterations. (“The neck snapped on the other two,” she explains).
Presently, the band is touring behind General Dome, and will make a stop at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday, February 1. Adapting their songs for live performance presents its own challenges, the most prodigious being determining how to recreate parts that were recorded separately in the studio at the same time live.
For this purpose, the band has invented more custom apparatuses: the toe-bourine, or a custom-built tambourine that Dyer affixes to her shoe, and a modified kick-drum that Sanchez pounds. Still, they admit that finding the perfect live balance is tough.
“What we’re doing is a very particular sound,” says Sanchez. “Getting that across in a live room sonically is difficult. Performing this material takes a lot of endurance, and attention to detail. It takes a lot of practice.”
Dyer agrees. “I think people who come to see our shows definitely come because they’re curious about what they’re going to see,” she says.
For now, the band is happy touring, but admits they’re eager to get back to the studio and record. And while there are no specific plans to invent more instruments, they say to never discount the possibility.
“I have no doubt that something’s gonna happen,” grins Sanchez. “We’ll have to wait and see what.”