Buck 65, Joelle Phuong Minh Le

Tim McCready / Sabine de Moerloose

Think of some dynamic musical duos over the years: Sonny & Cher. Lennon & McCartney.  Eddie Van Halen & David Lee Roth.

Now, imagine what it would have been like if these duos had made music together, but never actually met in person.

That’s exactly what Canadian hip-hop artist Buck 65 (also known as CBC Radio 2 host Rich Terfry) and Brussels-based musician Joëlle Phuong Minh Lê of Greetings From Tuskan have been doing over the past few years. Their international project, Bike For Three, is a musical collaboration between two perfect strangers.

Mutual admirers of each other’s music on MySpace, the pair emailed audio files back and forth over a long period of time, eventually creating Bike For Three’s debut album, More Heart Than Brains, which is an intensely personal work coloured by Terfry’s emotional state at the time.

“I’d just returned to Canada after living in France for a while…I came back because I broke up with a woman I was in a relationship with in Paris. And it was rough. Terrible... I was kind of a wreck,” he explains. “And then I met Joëlle on MySpace as I’m in this really kind of vulnerable moment…we work out this basic idea that she’ll make the music and I’ll write the words to it. “

Terfry relates the next part of the story with a note of awe in his voice.

“This piece of music shows up. And it’s for me. It’s basically a gift that’s been given to me. It’s not something she had lying around, but it was something that she worked on specifically for this thing, for me…it blew anything else that she had ever done completely out of the water. So she was giving me her best. And part of what that meant was that it was, I thought, an incredibly beautiful piece of music. That someone was giving me this gift that was so impressive but so beautiful. Like, I am giving you this beautiful thing. I was kind of floored by that.”

She continued to up the ante and Terfry did his best to keep up.

“(Joëlle) was speaking the language of music and I was replying in English. There’s a line in one of the songs where I said, ‘It’s my job to translate you to a language that’s grotesque.’ Which was me basically commenting on that. You sent me something so elegant and beautiful and I have to try to respond to you with this really clumsy thing, the English language. I just didn’t feel like I could be as elegant as she could.”

It’s an unlikely experiment, but one that seems to be working. The pair (who have decided that they must never meet, even co-writing a song called “Let’s Never Meet”) have already begun work on a second album.

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