As we walked down the streets of Ashgrove to the Tree Hugger launch night I was starting to get pretty excited. The days and nights of hard work and dreaming were finally starting to take shape, the reality was in sight...but this was only the start.
We arrived at the door of the Junk Bar and eagerly passed through the beaded veil that separates this world from that dreamy and mysterious world of Junk Bar. I felt it almost instantly, this was home.
The room seemed to wrap me in a deep embrace, the warm glow of beaded lampshades, its vintage mismatched furniture purring to me in velvet tones and the sound of the record player in the main room. And then Mia was standing before us, her face alight ready to lead us into the Skukum Lounge.
Before I knew it I had a drink in my hand and Rodrigo Santiago, Luke Watson and Tyler Cooney from ‘The RhythmAddicts’ were already using our guitars to cast a spell over the room with their flamenco swing. The vibe was set and we all spent the next half an hour checking out the guitars, chatting, drinking and nibbling on snacks while the music moved over us like a sensual wave.
Then came the real moment of truth, the reason we had all gathered.
aPurla was going to open our hearts and tell everyone our inspiration behind this very personal series of guitars.
The trees, the forests, the ancient giants, we were gathered here for them, to tell their story and use all the power we have to try and save them.
Mitchell started by introducing the brand, bravely speaking these words…
“Tonight I am going to introduce you all to aPurla.
aPurla really started quite naturally, with my parents helping me to go to America to get training to be a Luthier. At the time I was working in their shop, mostly doing repairs and a little retail, while progressively getting more and more custom jobs. Then more challenging repair work like paint jobs and snapped necks.
Pretty soon I wanted to make guitars. . .
...and that brings us to the latest series of guitars.They’re actually pretty revolutionary. Breaking away from old traditions that even I found myself falling into in my early Luthier days, when enthusiasm outweighed skill and I lacked the knowledge to innovate.
They represent a change that will have to take place quickly in the world of guitars and we hope they will have the power to inspire that change for the sake of future generations, the future of guitar making, and, by extension, the entire music industry.
What inspired these guitars...
About four years ago I started noticing that many of the timbers I loved to use in the building of my guitars were becoming harder to source, while some were just disappearing off the market altogether. Timber prices began to soar and tree species after tree species were rapidly being added to the endangered list, eventually I had to ask myself the hardest question I’ve ever had to ask.
‘Is the guitar making industry really sustainable into the future with the way it is going at the moment?’
Of course, my brutally honest answer had to be ‘No’.
As a born again hippy this was a little disheartening.
How could I continue to create the beautifully artistic guitars that I loved, and still hold my Tree hugging head high, while I knew I was helping to contribute to the depletion of world forestry, and at the same time hammering the nail into the coffin that would be my dead career as a guitar maker?
Luthier’s dreams are made of tone woods, our hearts beat with the round, resonant thump of fine timbers, and in the past I had been convinced that these rare and expensive timbers were what made a great quality guitar.
A rosewood back and sides, ebony fingerboard, mahogany neck with a Sitka spruce top, the perfect combination for a perfect guitar? Right? Well, maybe…it’s a pretty debatable subject.
With deforestation already becoming a massive issue that would threaten everyone and everything worldwide, including our climate. I started to see that something had to change if we were to preserve and maintain the severely depleted forests that we still had, while still continuing to produce great quality guitars and the music that goes with them into the future.
Prior to World War II guitar companies like Martin Guitars and other timber related professions would go to a country, find a source of timber and harvest these species until it was all gone, then they would go to another country find a species and harvest that until it was all gone, and then another, and another, and this was exactly what happened to Brazilian Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce, two popular tone woods of that time, which are no longer commercially available for use in quality guitar making.
I could tell you a million reasons why Adirondack Spruce is the best and only tone wood for tops or how Brazilian Rosewood is the warmest and clearest tone wood for back and sides, but ultimately it wouldn’t matter, commercially it is unavailable and if we continue to harvest and clear cut trees at our current rate we’re going to have say goodbye to species like Sitka Spruce, Ebony and Indian Rosewood within our lifetime.
It’s not only guitar makers to blame, in places like Madagascar, home to many rare, unusual and endemic species like the vast varieties of lemurs, birds and chameleons the Chinese furniture and guitar market fuels an illegal logging trade that is destroying this beautifully diverse landscape and stealing resources.
With all this information coming into light I knew I couldn’t in good conscience continue to use these rare timbers in the same way that guitar manufacturers always have been.
But did this mean that Luthiers would never be able to make another new timber guitar in the future? Without our beloved rare and exotic tone woods to make guitars, was this the end of music as we know it?
It certainly means we’re going to have to see some changes, but with so many skilled craftspeople around that doesn’t mean we can’t still have great sounding guitars. We have to diversify the types of woods used in the construction of these guitars and not just focus on a small selection of exotic timbers. Customers are going to have to start looking for quality beyond the timbers used and concentrate a lot more on build quality.
I knew we already had some great resources in potential recycled timbers that were already logged long ago, and were now sitting in a junkyard because what they were used for has gone out of fashion.
I had seen good quality timbers from demolished Queenslander homes sitting at the wreckers, these homes, which were a snap shot of history and the very embodiment of our modern laid back Australian lifestyle, were a forgotten relic.
It seemed a crime to let these beautiful timber resources go to waste while we traveled the world chopping down 300 year old growth forests for new guitars.
And so the idea for the Tree Hugger guitar family was born, with the aim to create a series of guitars that had the smallest negative environmental impact and were as sustainable and as cruelty free as possible.I could use these timbers to make my guitars and give these homes new life again, new meaning, so they weren’t just a forgotten relic rotting away in a pile, and I could do my part to help preserve the trees we still had.
This way, I can continue to be a hippy and a guitar maker.
I had learned much about spotting good timber from my own work, so I headed to the house wreckers where I dug through piles of scrapped timber from demolished homes, each piece with an inner beauty that was at the time exceedingly hard to see. Nevertheless, I happily collected my woods with secret hopes in my heart, and began my work of cutting and sanding the pieces back.
And I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found...'
To read more on the night check out Part 2 of the blog!
For more on these guitars check out the bios on each here.
Mitchell and I would like to thank all of the people who have supported aPurla to bring us to where we are today and say thanks to the Australian Academy of Music and John and Lesley for sponsoring our launch event and helping to make it all happen.
Big thanks to Jimmy, Mia and all the staff at the Junk Bar for hosting.
Thanks to Crea-re Studio for making the recycled guitar bags and to Couch Guitar Straps for making the straps, it’s thanks to them that we can proudly offer handmade ethical sustainable accessories with these guitars.
Big, big thanks to all the volunteers, helpers, photographers, videographers and musicians who donated their time and skill, words can’t even describe how grateful we are to each of you.
And one last big thank you to everyone who came in general and to all our family and friends for their constant support. We couldn’t do this without you, all of you.
Get in touch with some of the very talented individuals featured at this event:
The RhythmAddicts – www.rhythmaddictsband.com
or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Isaac Collins Kennedy – Facebook and Instagram
JM Junior – Facebook
PHOTOGRAPHERS & VIDEOGRAPHERS:
Alan Schoch – Facebook
Bronte Maree - Instagram
The Junk Bar Ashgrove - Facebook and Instagram