"We thought they were perfect," Burette says, referring to the songs that they brought Castell. "Like 'Wasted,' which used to be a fairly straight-ahead, upbeat song. He didn't think the music matched the lyrics--'too happy,' he said--and he made some suggestions."
"At first, we were like--" Gabrielle makes a face that's pure appalled disbelief. "But we tried it, and it worked; it was right."
Signing with steve was the logical next step after the Billboard piece ran. "We could've recorded another album on our own," Burette says, "but we couldn't promote it."
"On our first album, we couldn't afford posters, or a full-color CD booklet, or Castell," notes Lee. "They pay for stuff, but the trade-off is that you don't just look out for yourself--you have to consider the interests of the label, too."
"Our first album sold about 1,500 copies last year," Burette says, noting the advantages of steve's distribution system. "Shimmer sold four to five hundred copies its first month."
Like Shimmer, Buck Jones' live sound is sort of an anomaly on the local scene. "We don't really sound like many other bands," Burette says. "There are lots of bands that are a lot harder than us, and then there are lots more bands that do the pop stuff and are really sappy."
Their atypical approach works, though, providing a change of flavor that turns out to be welcome at many different kinds of shows; early on they started playing a lot of One Ton Records showcases. They don't sound like many One Ton acts (possibly Doosu, although that is less true today), which tend toward the raucous, like Caulk. "Some of the bands that you might not think would be very compatible with us, their fans have real open minds," Gabrielle notes. "The first time we played with Slow Roosevelt, I thought 'My God, this crowd's gonna eat us alive,' but they were really cool."
Although they've kept a low profile prior to the release of the new album, people and the press are already busy applying labels to the group, and not all of them fit. Gabrielle in particular receives a lot of attention, and many think she fronts the band, even though she and Burette are obviously both lead singers. Putting her in the foreground of the new poster probably won't help. Even though she goes to great lengths to avoid the one-fingered 'do-do-do-do' style favored by so many of her peers, the condescension behind the 'chick bass player' label still rankles.
"I hate it. I've been playing bass for five years," she says, mentioning that her dad was a classical pianist and that she somehow managed to avoid the lessons her sister had to take. "I got a book and a bass, and it was just real easy. A few months later, Burette and I got together and started writing songs, and then we formed Buck Jones. I saw the Smashing Pumpkins open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and [Pumpkins bassist] D'arcy really inspired me. She wasn't really fancy--although to keep up with [former Pumpkins drummer] Jimmy Chamberlain, you had to be pretty good--but she was there. Kim Gordon [of Sonic Youth] is also a big inspiration."
The attention many give the almost-too-adorable-to-be-believed pairing of Gabrielle and Burette--married four years at the end of this October--also wears thin. "Too many times, people pay more attention to that than they do the music," groans Burette. "Nobody talks about Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon as a married couple, or expects Kim to be the lead singer; they just are what they are."
"We had a friend in the audience once who saw us look at each other--" Gabrielle says.
"I probably made a mistake or fucked something up," Burette interjects.
"--and after the show she said, 'When y'all looked at each other on stage, it was just so sweet that I almost cried!'"
"We just laughed," Burette says, shaking his head and laughing again.
The surest test of marital bliss is coming up, when Buck Jones--who have played out of town only sporadically--take to the road in support of Shimmer. Band members already have the essentials in place--disposable jobs that they can drop when required--but steve records has again allowed the band to contemplate action on a higher level. "It's just so hard when you have to book yourself," Lee says. "You do everything yourself, and you take off work so you can drive down to Austin for a Thursday-night show, play to 12 people and make $20--for the band--and then have to drive right back because you don't have anywhere to stay."
"It's nice to have somebody else handle that," Burette says, no doubt realizing that if they play their cards right, Buck Jones--positioned in post-grunge pop at that unlikely intersection of Sonic Youth and pop ambition--should have more and more help in making their music.