Thinking outside the pastry box

From jams in a smoky Berlin basement to a ‘world-wide-touring, three-headed music-making monster,’ Buttering Trio’s simultaneous album releases are far from cookie-cutter.

NOT YOUR average bread and butter: KerenDun (center) with Buttering Trio. (photo credit: BARUCH RAFIC)
NOT YOUR average bread and butter: KerenDun (center) with Buttering Trio.
(photo credit: BARUCH RAFIC)
She brought Pakistani folk melodies to life in the captivating musical tale of a fierce little goat, got extra funky in Gili Yalo’s colorful single “Africa,” idolized the Egyptian vocal goddess Umm Kulthum, one of – if not the – most talented female artists in the Arab world, and most recently, she began a deep love affair with the rich sounds of India, a culture that knows how to celebrate rhythm.
Oh yeah, and she’s also a prominent music producer, casual saxophonist, active member in “this strange, abandoned label called Raw Tapes Records” and lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist in a beat-driven Tel Aviv-based trio seamlessly fusing mellow jazz and hip hop with loop-driven electronic vibes to take fans on a psychedelic journey through time and space.
This is Buttering Trio’s KerenDun (Keren Dunietz), a fiercely driven female powerhouse constantly thinking outside the (pastry) box.
While Keren may have begun her musical story as a “jazz percussionist and a very shy singer” at the ripe age of 13, her melodic world shook when she discovered the home studio.
“I installed a production program on my computer and was amazed by the possibilities.
I could record over myself; this was such an ear-opening experience,” she says, lighting up.
Paired with an introduction to the sparse, syncopated dubstep movement spreading through the United States like melted butter on toast in 2006, Keren quit the Thelma Yellin School of Arts and devoted her days to synthesizers, continually awestruck by the sonic possibilities.
She had the passion and the tools, now all she needed was the trio. This came in the form of high school friend Beno (Beno Hendler) and later on Rejoicer (Yuval Havkin), whom Beno recruited upon visiting his old room at Kicha Studios in South Tel Aviv.
And finally, a change in scenery.
“We were looking for inspiration. We were young and free, so we took off to Berlin for almost a year,” says Dunietz. “We sure got a lot of inspiration from the place – the environment, the weather, being forced to stay mostly indoors for half of the year, which allowed for tons and tons of studio work.”
They did, however, surface from the dark depths of their smoky Berlin basement long enough to settle upon a moniker: “Next door to the studio was an old-school local bakery selling these huge traditional bagels called butter rings. We liked them, so we borrowed the name.”
Food is a common trope in the trio’s repertoire. From the band’s origin story to their debut LP, Toast, featuring the poignant, political song “Falafel” urging everyone to “make falafel not war,” one starts to wonder if perhaps the three gentle souls were just really hungry when writing their tunes.
“It could have been the munchies,” Dunietz jokes. “In all seriousness, we sing about the stuff that we love and our vibe is very much on the simple side of things.
We share many words about love, joy, happiness, and giving.”
This goal of inspiring joy through music is Dunietz’s answer to the political discourse in the country.
“As an artist, I always feel a huge obligation to take a stance, but I’m not a politician, I’m a musician, so I am selective in the way that I achieve this. Instead of writing songs on what not to do, I write lyrics on how I think people should live.”
At 32, she has started to wake up to an unfortunate reality of her segregated upbringing. Suspicious of her lack of Palestinian friends and the selective information channels she was exposed to growing up, she explains that she has chosen to break through these in what she playfully calls her “old age.”
In fact, the multifaceted musician is currently studying Arabic in Jaffa, has switched her news sources and is becoming more politically active, which she claims will be reflected in the trio’s two new albums – another English album and the band’s very first Hebrew album.
With three very accomplished cooks in the production kitchen, Keren, Beno and Rejoicer are constantly working to evolve their sound. So while musically, their new projects share a common goal of longer harmonic adventures, each received very different studio treatment.
“The Hebrew album includes very free and playful sessions, which take place inside Beno’s studio. The English album is also very free, but we took it to outside studios so that we could go there, record, and then not touch the project too much,” she says. “It’s a dangerous game to have access to your song all the time.”
So after so many back-to-back English albums, why Hebrew? Why now? “I think it’s very a natural stage in our development, like every step of our music making. The time has come.”
She is well aware of the daunting task ahead. She believes that the change in language and target audience will be a huge learning opportunity, as “many things that work in English will not work in Hebrew. It’s not an easy task, but a very educational one – like painting a big picture: only once finished can you stand far away, squint a little, and gain perspective. We haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
Upon the recent release of the first single from the Hebrew album, whose softer tones received a lot of local love, guest appearances by drummer Amir Bresler and violinist Yogev Glusman among others, some cool cover art from LA-based Tel Aviv artist Jengo and praise from rapper Snoop Dogg, who called the threesome “dope as f**k,” Buttering Trio is well on their way to a successful double bill.
Break bread with Buttering Trio on April 24 at the Barby, Tel Aviv. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.