Before they could become songwriters, at least in the context
of their latest musical partnership, Aron Sanchez and Arone Dyer had to be inventors.
It all started five or six years ago, when Sanchez found himself
growing tired of the electric bass.
Rather than simply going to Main Drag and picking up one of
the thousands of effects pedals designed to alleviate his particular form of
boredom, the Maine native and former Blue Man Group instrument
designer did as hes done since boyhood: he reached for his screwdriver.
Around the same time, Dyer, a friend and guitarist, began suffering
from constant wrist pain. She figured she needed an instrument with a smaller
necksomething that would have the feel of a guitar and, perhaps as an
added bonus, offer a wider range of sounds.
I consider myself a pretty hands-on kind of girl,
Dyer says from the groups Brooklyn rehearsal space. I'm
a bicycle mechanic, and I like making things.
The Minnesota transplant joined Sanchez in his laboratory,
and last year, after much sawing and soldering, the two emerged as Buke and
Gass, a duo named for the pair of mutant instrumentsone a sort of six-string
bass ukulele, the other a guitar-bass hybridthat resulted from their
Ive always been doing that, building my own instruments,
since I was a kid, says Sanchez, who continues to modify and improve
his gass. I have a hard time playing instruments I dont make.
Buke and Gass is the second collaboration between Sanchez and
Dyer, the first being Hominid, a project they founded in 2002.
This time out, the pair is taking a different approach. Thanks
to their one-of-a-kind instrumentation, the two have fashioned a truly inimitable
sound: a ramshackle brand of pseudo-Americana thrash driven by Sanchezs
apocalyptic kick drum and Dyers rattling bells, the bands only
Last year, the duo released its debut EP, +/-,
a confounding collection of shifty, unpredictable, unclassifiable indie-rock
songs. Some, such as the standout Bundletuck, juxtapose Sanchezs
salty stomping and distorted gass riffs with Dyers almost sugary vocals.
At times, the pluck of Dyers buke recalls vintage country
and bluegrass, and while the singer and multi-instrumentalist was raised on
both genres, she downplays the effect theyve had on her songwriting.
I dont know if its necessarily an influence,
she says. I grew up with a particular kind of music, for sure, but Im
not so sure that influenced the way we play our music now. Like, Im thinking
about Led Zeppelin when we play.
Sanchez claims to know little about American roots musiceither
in its pure form or as interpreted by s British rock gods.
I never grew up listening to even Led Zeppelin,
he says. I think its maybe the instrumentation thats bringing
us into that direction. I never really listened to blues at all.
If Sanchez and Dyer cant say for certain what styles
and artists inform their music, it may have something to do with their on-the-fly
Id say 90 percent is just us improvising, and
we record it, and either a whole song is developed in one improvisation, or
were taking bits and pieces of different days and putting it together,
Sanchez says. Thats why the songs go all over the place.
Early on, Buke and Gass tried adding a drummer, but he left
after the bands initial jam sessions. Once again reduced to a two-piece,
Sanchez and Dyer were forced to double-up on instruments and supply their own
We were like, Well, lets go back to the
way it had been beforehandwhat else can we do? Sanchez
says. How much noise can we make, just the two of us?
The answer to that question, it turns out, is plenty,
and neither musician misses being part of a trio.
Structure- and arranging-wise, and writing-wise, its
pretty fast with two people, Sanchez says. We work well together.
The decision-making processyoure only dealing with one other person.
So thats really nice. Theres something nice in having limited
resources of what we can do. So thats liberating, in a way. Its
really challenging, and it makes it more fun.
As for the groups twisty song structures and apparent
aversion to straightforward melodies, Dyers says she aims to create music that
is both experimental and affecting.
The war between convention and chaos comes in,
she says. I really react to music that I can feel emotionally. Thats
what gets me off, being emotionally attached to a song like that.
Sometimes we get too heady, and we focus on the parts
that would make it less conventional, she adds. And then other
times, we kind of go and let the emotional side take over, and we do something
a little raw.
Sanchez agrees, insisting that the band, labyrinth-like tunes
and Frankenstein equipment notwithstanding, doesnt strive for inaccessibility.
I dont feel like were going out of our
way to be intellectual or complex, he says. Were not intentionally
doing that. I think working with improvisation as our raw materials and kind
of arranging in that way just naturally brings us to that place.
P.S. These guys aren't dating.