A new age of rock ’n’ roll made in Switzerland
TEXT: SONJA IRANI | PHOTOS © RELISH GUITARS
Since the age of 16, Silvan Küng and Pirmin Giger have been close friends with a shared passion for music and guitars. But when they realised that the guitar-making construction industry had been at a standstill for more than 60 years, they decided it was time to revolutionise not only the guitar market at home in Switzerland, but the music industry worldwide. Thus, their successful start-up company Relish Guitars war born.
“When we launched our business in 2012, the guitar market had been dominated by two guitar-making giants for over 60 years: Fender and Gibson,” says co-founder Silvan Küng in our interview. “The heroes of our childhood and teenage years have all played their music on guitars from either one of these two brands.” Although these brands still have a large influence on the industry today, there is a noticeable trend towards creatively thinking guitar-making brands that offer fresh innovations, limited or special collections as well as high-quality workmanship. At the same time, the music industry as a whole is undergoing huge changes. “Young people today do not only know and admire the guitar legends of the past, but look up to countless new ‘stars’ on various social media platforms,” continues Küng. “These usually have an incredible following and impressingly large fan communities. Because they have so much influence, they should not be underestimated.”
The Relish Brothers: Silvan Küng (left) and Pirmin Giger (right).
A change leads to a chance
The market conditions for guitars have changed considerably, too. “These days, there are too many guitars which are offered at a very low price, thus generating a higher pressure on margins. At the same time, more and more people buy guitars online, which means that many offline shops are no longer able to compete.” However, this change represented a chance to Relish Guitars. “We believe that the traditional guitar shops have to specialise in a so-called niche in order to offer sought-after alternatives to low-priced online guitars,” explains Küng.
The birth of Jane
Inspired by the idea to change the industry with a brand new guitar design, Silvan Küng and Pirmin Giger founded their start-up Relish Guitars. Giger then designed their very first guitar model ‘Jane’, which became an instant bestseller thanks to its truly unique features. “Jane offers a patented sandwich composition, which differs quite noticeably from ordinary e-guitars,” explains Küng. “The body consists of three layers: the middle layer is made of a milled aluminium frame which allows the guitar strings to swing longer and more intensely than any other construction, and the top and bottom layers are made by pressed wood veneers, which provides a great warm sound.”
The huge amount of “sustain” thus consistently inspires artists to try out and find new sounds. The musician can also customise his guitar. “In the past, every adjustment, for example regarding different sounds, had to be implemented at the music store or directly with the manufacturer,” says Küng. “In the future, we are planning to create even more innovative designs in order to open up new possibilities for the musician to connect with his instrument.”
Jane gets a little sister
Meanwhile, the so-called ‘Relish Brothers’ have further refined their patented design of Jane: ‘Mary’ is her little sister. “Mary is a little bit more daring than Jane, features two different central positions (either aluminium or wood) and is offered at a lower market price,” explains guitar enthusiast Küng. “She therefore appeals to a broad target group.”
Furthermore, the savvy business brothers offer a special acoustics add-on that can be incorporated into every guitar within their range. “Such a guitar is perfect for any singer / songwriter as the musician can constantly switch between the acoustic and electric sound experience without the need to change the guitar,” assures Küng. “Live on stage, this helps the artist to present his songs in a more diverse way.”
From Switzerland to the world
All guitar models, which are produced locally in the Relish Brother’s own shop in Lucerne, Switzerland, can be ordered directly via the Relish Guitars website or several distributors worldwide including the US, UK, Japan and Germany. “Our distributor network gets bigger every year so that we become more and more international as a brand,” rejoices the guitar start-up co-founder. “We’re already looking forward to bringing our guitars to a range of international trade fairs in 2017, including L.A., Shanghai, Frankfurt, Paris, Cremona and Vancouver. There, potential customers can try and learn more about our products on the spot.”
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