Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing new and emerging MP3s from local talent.
Brooklyn duo Buke & Gass play homemade Frankenstein instruments that make beautiful and wild sproinging sounds–Arone Dyer’s “buke” is a modified baritone ukelele; Aron Sanchez’s “gass” is a mutant guitar/bass that he built from scratch. But their Brassland Records debut, Riposte (due Sept 14) isn’t some steampunk novelty–it’s a unique, euphoric, distorto-fucked rock banger, a jarring, Geraldine Fibbers-style alt-chug given a fancy new lilt by erratic prog and African circular rhythms. Dyer and Sanchez both spent time in Brooklyn band Hominid. (Remember Vice Records’ short lived “Seven Inch Lovers” series? Us too.) Years later, they have an almost psychic connection, able to pull off fantastically ornate music with just two people. Recorded in Sanchez’s basement studio this past winter, Riposte manages to recreate the cyclone of activity involved in watching these two mad scientists do their decidedly one-of-a-kind thing. Album opener “Medulla Oblongata” manages to cross some weird world where Thinking Fellers Union 283 and Yeah Yeah Yeahs can play on the same bill.
What is “Medulla Oblongata” about?
Arone Dyer, buke and voice: Hmm…the trials of miscommunication.
Tell me early and abandoned versions of the buke and the gass. Was it a lot of
trial and error to get these two instruments just right?
Aron Sanchez: Oh man, it’s a continuous process. The gass is on its seventh iteration I think. I have a particular sound I’m trying to achieve and I think I’m only about 60 percent there yet. Arone thinks I’m insane. I’m due to build another version when I get some free time. The gass started out as an over-achieving bass, desiring to move up out of the low end. Now it’s starting to find itself somewhere between a bass and a guitar without really being either. The current one has two bass strings and four guitar strings.
Dyer: The buke came about by my desire to have something a bit more fun and playful than a guitar, and also I’d had some form of carpel tunnel in my wrist that was aggravated by a normal sized instrument, so I bought a crappy baritone ukulele that Aron helped me turn into a six-string. It’s basically a smaller guitar with a shorter scale, and it turned out to have a great sound that’s bigger than it looks. I’ve since built a second one, only this time with Aron’s guidance. It’s got a higher quality fretboard, truss-rod, and I embellished it with my personal touch… su-preme.
What were some the earliest instruments you would design?
Sanchez: My dad had a musical instrument design book and I used to try a lot of things in there: thumb pianos, talking drums, flutes, weird stringed instruments, stuff like that. At some point I discovered electronics and then things got more interesting.
Dyer: I had apprenticed with a luthier in Minneapolis when I was 17, where the focus was mainly on repairing stringed instruments, rather than building them from scratch. Otherwise my father introduced me to soldering and electronics as a kid, and I learned a lot disassembling and trying, miserably, to rebuild his tapedecks after he found out.
You played a big metal gass at Bang On A Can. Have you brought that thing on a plane?
Sanchez: A friend of mine welded me a steel body for that one. We recently flew over to Europe for a few shows and security was way more interested in our pedal cases, which I guess look like the guts of a bomb when you take the lid off. Curiously, the gass went through with no problem every time.
Tell about your grooves, what type of non-rock music inspires them?
Sanchez: I grew up studying and listening to classical music and continue to have an ear in that direction. Harpsichord music, Bollywood strings, King Sunny Ade, Autechre. Though we don’t really discuss what’s inspiring us, I think our music is influenced more by the limitations of the instruments and what happens when we improvise.
Dyer: I love to feel physically moved by music. For example, dancing is such a relief because it brings music to the ground, where you can step on it. I like to make music that connects it. If I wasn’t sitting down in this project I’d be running and flailing myself all over the place.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
Dyer: Of course that completely depends on my mood, but perhaps something Aron would agree with me on is Calexico on Union in Columbia Heights. We go there on breaks during our practices or recording and it’s just a solid lunch made by good people. Yum!
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 13, 2010