Echo Tone Guitars
There’s a genuine love for niche and vintage guitars that fuels the direction of Melbourne’s newest music retailer, Echo Tone Guitars. Co-owners Matthew Liveriadis and Ash Blakeney dreamt up the idea of opening a second hand music store that championed unique vintage fare; one that puts guitars from bygone eras into the hands of guitarists from all musical backgrounds. With that dream being realised this week, the two are hoping to alter the way we experience older instruments.
“When we play, those instruments speak to us,” says Blakeney. “It may not be a guitar that does everything, but when you plug it in it does something really cool. And so we want to really provide that for musos. A vintage guitar doesn’t have to be a $10,000 thing that hangs in a glass cabinet and no one ever can touch or whatever. It can be a $500 Japanese thing that you get up onstage with and it’s cool.”
Liveriadis carries the same enthusiasm for past models and makes. “It’s got a character to it, it’s got a vibe, it’s got a unique sound and no one else is playing anything like it, and it can actually be your own,” he says. “There’s something beautiful I think about second hand goods in general, in that you’re not perpetuating this new kind of consumer thing. You’re able to give new life to an old instrument that’s been neglected. That servicing component is something as well that’s important to us.”
Located at 497 High Street in the heart of Northcote, Echo Tone Guitars offer set ups and services, new instruments, effects, accessories and ukuleles, to accompany its healthy range of vintage guitars and basses. It’s a product line that Blakeney says is tailored towards the active musician, regardless of age or level of experience.
“So we want to take on the responsibility of being able to curate a selection that can cater for someone getting a $99 starter guitar, or the five to $10,000 premium vintage piece. Right in the middle, [there’s] a bunch of guitars that are a $1000-$2000. We reckon that if you’re going to get up onstage and you want to play guitar, that’s kind of the pocket where it’s a professional instrument. It’s going to have some character and vibe to it.”
There’s a real desire that the store can also break down existing barriers to playing music, for the local scene and suburban cultural hub. “Because it can be a cliquey industry at times and I suppose [we’re] demystifying that to a certain extent,” says Blakeney. “Why can’t you just walk in and have a chat, you might be a young kid from the suburbs who has been playing in a band, or you might be a 50-year-old guy that used to play. How do you sort of bridge that gap to become connected to the music industry?”
Based on the success of Melbourne’s independent record stores, Blakeney and Liveriadis see Echo Tone Guitars evolving to not only complement, but also enrich the inner cultural fabric of their local community. It’s a two way relationship that Liveriadis believes will help differentiate them from your average music store.
“To us it’s been this organic thing - of course we do in-stores, of course we have local band’s records for sale,” he says. “Traditional musical instrument stores - if I can use an analogy of a hardware store - there’s a bunch of stuff on the wall and you kind of take your pick and that’s about it. For us it’s about bridging all those elements into this one cohesive offering.
“That’s the beautiful thing about second hand gear too, you’re not picking from a catalogue. You’re not having a wholesaler saying ‘you must stock these items.’ We’re completely in control of what we want to have on the wall and, in doing that, you can actually create something special.”
BY CHRIS SCOTT