BEHIND THE BUILD:
Frank Brothers Guitar Company
While taking in photos of stunningly beautiful guitars in various states of completion on the Frank Brothers website, we also learned of the Frank Brothers' rich musical heritage. Jim Frank, their father, was an award-winning recording engineer whose credits include work with Peter Gabriel and Alice Cooper. Their grandfather, Philip Frank, was a critically acclaimed, virtuosic violinist. At this point, our interest was piqued and we knew we needed to delve deeper. Who are these guys, and how do we get our hands on these guitars?
Company founders Tim, Nick, and Jon Frank were kind enough to chat with us recently about the Frank Bothers Guitar Company and their stunning Signature Model guitar.
To start, I'd like to thank you guys for taking the time to chat with TME! Based on our initial phone calls, I learned that the three of you, while still young guys, have been building guitars for a while and that your family has a rich musical history. Can you tell us a bit about the origins of the company and what drove the decision to start a guitar company, especially in an era where guitar isn't as dominant (in pop music) as it used to be?
Jon: We started the company in 2013, but you could say it goes back to growing up in a very musical family, listening to our grandfather perform, and hanging out at the recording studio with our dad. I think this helped us understand that certain elements need to come together to create exceptional music.
Nick: Tim and I started getting into guitar repair in high school, initially to service our own instruments, and then to do set-ups and minor repair work for friends. We built our first guitar mostly in a small shed behind the old fire hall on the Toronto Island where we had access to a bandsaw, and nobody could hear us sawing and routing all night.
Jon: I could tell this was what they wanted to dedicate their careers to. They not only had a ton of passion for it, but I could see how much skill they had. So, along with our friend and mentor, Warren Spitz, we decided to start building Frank Brothers Guitar Company.
Tim: Fast forward a few years and now we have a 2600 sq/ft shop in downtown Toronto where we produce guitars that we believe are unique, beautiful, and exceptionally crafted.
Nick: People will always find new ways to create music, but the guitar is such an incredibly versatile and expressive instrument I think it will continue to have a prominent role in popular music. After all, it is still the most popular instrument in the world.
One thing that is striking to me about your company is that you produce one model, your "Signature Model" guitar. It seems like a very bold, focused, and confident way to enter a crowded boutique guitar market that's typically filled with companies making a variety of models - the phrase "making a statement" comes to mind. Was this the intent all along, to make only one style of guitar, or did this path emerge somewhat by surprise? Were you concerned about putting all your eggs in one basket, as the expression goes?
Jon: We wanted to make one flagship model that represented our brand and this was a very deliberate decision from the beginning. Our idea was to do one thing, and do it really, really well.
Nick: We put all our energy into this one model, from design to execution, which has led to what we feel is an exceptional instrument with some very unique and original elements. Once you sit down with it, you start to really get a sense of how dynamic and complex this guitar is. There really is more than meets the eye.
"It was a very collaborative process and an evolution of even the subtlest components of the guitar over the period of a year or two."
When I first saw the guitars, I was immediately reminded of elements of vintage Teisco guitars, Les Pauls, and late 60s ES-335s - yet - your guitars look completely fresh and unique. How did you guys arrive at this design? Was the idea to meld various elements of guitars that you love, or were you trying to offer something new to players and your influences just naturally surfaced?
Nick: From the beginning our design concept was to make something that was unique, but familiar. We were trying to offer guitar players something they could connect with but be surprised by.
Tim: We were definitely inspired by the catalogue guitars as well as the venerable instruments from the golden era of electric guitars, but we didn't use any one guitar as a template or purposely draw elements from specific guitars. We started fresh with French curves, pencil, drafting paper, and a concept.
Nick:…and an eraser.
Tim: Yeah, there was definitely some back and forth. It was a very collaborative process and an evolution of even the subtlest components of the guitar over the period of a year or two.
Jon: Over the past three years, we've been able to get Frank Brothers instruments into the hands of a lot of players and we are constantly hearing them describe their impression of our guitar in a way that really captures the original design goals.
Nick: So people are getting it and we think that is the sign of successful design.
One thing I think we have to touch on, as I find it incredibly interesting, is the Frank Brothers Guitar Co. branding. From the moment we checked out your site until the day the guitars arrived in the shop - more on that in a second - it was clear that a lot of thought, effort, and skill had not only been put into the guitars themselves, but also into the story behind the guitars. There's a strong sense of family pride and that you guys love working together, especially given who your father and grandfather were. What aspect(s) of your instruments do you feel their influence most shows itself?
Tim: We grew up hearing stories about how our grandfather and his brother collaborated musically. They recorded an album together that was engineered by our father. We still listen to that record all the time and it's a fitting benchmark to what we want to accomplish ourselves. Creating something timeless and lasting.
Jon: So perhaps that is why we are just as meticulous about the quality of our instruments as we are about the way we present them to the world, because we see that as key to creating something timeless and lasting. Every part of our business is like this. From the layout and tidiness of our shop to the delivery of our instruments to the customer.
Back to the day we unboxed the guitars at the shop. We were all pretty knocked out by the amount of attention you put into what could be considered the most mundane, even forgettable, aspect of delivering a guitar to a customer - the shipping boxes and case candy that accompany each guitar. The boxes themselves are not only beautiful, but the text you include inside them is also very personal. It reminded us of marketing trendsetters like Apple - meaning, you guys create a wonderful experience for a customer before they've even opened the case or laid hands on the guitar. You sense that there is something very special inside, and also that you've entered into "the family", so to speak. Where does that come from and why do you feel this is important to do? I'd never seen anything like it in the guitar industry.
Tim: We are guitar players ourselves, so we know the process of buying a guitar is exciting and fun, and we wanted to build on that. We wanted to make the mundane part of that experience an exceptional one instead.
Jon: It was also important for us to ensure the guitars arrive safely and in style. We include a personal message inside the box that speaks to how we stand behind our guitars and will always be there for Frank Brothers players, just like family.
Now that I, along with several amazing local players, have had a chance to spend time with your instruments, we all feel - without hesitation and with all sincerity - that the build quality, playability, and tones of your guitars are as good as any high-end brand we carry at The Music Emporium. That said, you are an unknown name to most of our customers. How do you see yourselves fitting into the boutique guitar market, or even The Music Emporium? Is there a certain niche or type of player that you feel your instruments will appeal to?
Nick: Thank you! That means a lot to hear you say, especially given the carefully curated selection of high-end instruments at The Music Emporium.
Tim: When it comes to fitting into the market, we didn't necessarily intend to fill a void or compete with other guitars builders, who we respect. We are really just doing our own thing and people have been digging it.
Jon: As far as type of player, we have found our guitars appeal to a wide range of styles. It is a versatile guitar and we're really excited to hear what people do with them!
"It was also important for us to ensure the guitars arrive safely and in style."
Being that the Frank Brothers Guitar Company is a relatively new company, what does success look like for you? Where do you guys hope to be in the next 5 to 10 years?
Jon: Hopefully delivering guitars to you by drone! But we do talk about what success means for us, because that has to be a guiding principal for business. And at its most basic levels, success for us is people loving our guitars and for us to be contributing to people making their music.
But we are not just building guitars, we are building a brand and a company that will be around for a long time, and hopefully outlast us as individuals.
Tim: It's incredibly gratifying to see our guitars in action, from the local music scene in Toronto, to Madison Square Garden, and in recording studios across North America. We can't wait to see where it goes next!
Visit our Blog for other exclusive interviews and more.