Rumanian Buck

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Rumanian Buck one of the many great discoveries at 1Oth annual UMS

:: Rumanian Buck ::
:: Denver Post Underground Music Showcase  ::
:: July 22 - 25 ::

By Brian F. Johnson

With more than 300 artists announced, including headliners Flobots, Machine Gun Blues and These United States, this month’s UMS will take over Denver for four days, and once again transform South Broadway into Denver’s answer to SXSW.

With that many artists, scattered over more than 25 venues (some of which regularly host music, and some of which have never had live music before), the element of discovery is the focus of the attention. Since its inception, the UMS (properly called The Denver Post’s Underground Music Showcase) has sought to do exactly what its name implies — highlight talent that is somewhere just off the radar of the mainstream.

That’s a pretty tall order for a festival put on by the city’s most conservative paper, but each band is hand selected by the Post’s pop music critic Ricardo Baca and the Denver indie club Hi-Dive’s talent buyer Ben Desoto, giving serious street cred to the event — not that it doesn’t have enough already.

Among all of these artists is Aaron Lazar’s newest creation, Rumanian Buck. Somehow, Lazar has become an unofficial welcomer to Denver’s top festivals. In 2008 he played the opening day of the Monolith Festival with his other band, and that band, just last month played the opening party for the Westword Music Showcase. But Rumanian Buck is nothing like that other band which Lazar has fronted for 10 years. “Rumanian Buck is definitely more traditional in that sense. If people throw shit at a Rumanian Buck show, the show’s over. That’s it. I’m not even going to fight about it. I’m just gonna unplug, pull my shit off stage and go away. That’s for The Giraffes, not for this,” Lazar said in a recent interview with The Marquee, less than 12 hours after The Giraffes and their fans destroyed the stage at the Bluebird Theatre, during one of the most fun concerts of the year.

It’s no wonder that Lazar is trying something different after a decade of playing with The Giraffes (not that he’s done with them by any stretch), but it’s almost like Rumanian Buck found him, even though he was the creator all along. The project started quite innocuously when Lazar got a computer and started recording vocal warm-ups that he could use on the road. “I was like, ‘So I hear this computer can record things.’ So I tried that and then I realized I could start playing with those sounds and I was like, ‘Oh, I can record ideas’ and I started recording ideas and it just kept growing and growing and before I knew it I had like 20-something songs,” he said.

Lazar wrote, played all parts, and recorded Rumanian Buck’s Cupcake release in 2008, and at the end of that year he was finally faced with trying to take the songs live. “There’s this weird thing we do in New York called the Punk Rock Pillow Fight, where this guy gets a bunch of old mattresses and sews them together with shoelaces, puts them on the floor and distributes pillows to the crowd. They have this huge pillow fight elimination round and in between rounds bands play. They asked me if my band wanted to play and I was like, ‘Well, I don’t have a band, but yeah, sure,’” Lazar said.

Lazar teamed up with old friend and bass player Mishka Shubaly and he has recently added a new drummer to the group, Maxwell Cohn, “who is really adorable because he’s young and he’s all excited about everything. He also happens to be the most musically trained person in the entire band, he’s the son of Mark Cohn, the guy who wrote “Walking in Memphis,” Lazar said.

He points out that, for his part, as vocalist and guitarist he does his best to get by. “I’m in no way a good guitar player,” he laughed. “But you know, I’m a huge Blues Explosion fan and I’ve always been a big fan of Brian Eno and he’s like the most famous non-musician, musician of all time. So I don’t know exactly what I’m doing but I know it sounds o.k.”

And it certainly does. The music of Rumanian Buck is, at its core, heavy organic percussion (an exercise ball makes up the bass drum and a CD case, the snare). Layered on top of that is an Eastern European gypsy style that Lazar calls Transylvanian slide, or death camp boogey.

That layering is something that Lazar doesn’t get to do with The Giraffes, so he says that he enjoys the building process. “The creativity that happens in The Giraffes happens, for me, in an automatic state. Live shows and writing and stuff like that kind of happens under directives … I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have time to. It just happens. Buck is something that is completely different for me because it starts with one piece and it’s an adding and subtracting process. It’s a lot closer to making art, which is what I went to school for,” he said. “So this is my more sensitive side, or my artistic side.”

:: Rumanian Buck ::

:: Denver Post Underground Music Showcase ::

:: July 22 – 25 ::

Recommended if you Like:

• Gogol Bordello

• The Tricksters

• The Giraffes

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