Guitars by Evil Evil — Awarded $20k in 2017 UP/Start Competition

Benjamin Torres ’15, ’16 (General Fine Arts B.F.A., Post-Baccalaureate in Graphic Design) always loved music. He played bass in his teens and, since he was 13 or 14 years old, had a secret desire to make his own guitars. And even though making art was the art he wanted and what he pursued, he never lost his love for the instruments — the way they look and how they sound.

So, when it came time to decide on a post-baccalaureate thesis project, a conversation at a local bar with Ian Murphy ’15 (Painting B.F.A.) led the duo into the woodshop, where they began to try their hand at creating custom guitars. And Guitars by Evil Evil was formed.

There are two categories of custom guitars on the market, they said: those that exemplify extreme elegance and are almost too nice to play and guitars that are so ridiculous that you can’t take them seriously as an instrument — a novelty item. “We wanted to find the very, very fine line between the two. Eye catching, a little weird, but a guitar that is still very beautiful,” Murphy said, noting how the balance of his background in painting and sculpture and Torres’ graphic design and “borderline pitch perfect” skills work together.

“You are going to be playing with your hands, you should be making it with your hands,” Torres said. “When you are carving the wood by hand, you feel the little nuances of how you hold the guitar.”

After a year-long research and development phase to get the sound and style exactly how they wanted, Evil Evil is now producing distinct custom electric guitars and basses that encapsulate the intersection between classic and experimental instrument design — they are making guitars that match the aesthetic of the musicians on stage and of the music they play.

The pair recently returned from a trip to New York where they got their guitars into the hands of musicians, and they are looking to build the buzz and word of mouth to expand. They are hoping Up/Start can help with tools and materials to streamline production and advertising and marketing support to grow their business.

“For me, going to art school, the best thing I got out of it is that you can do whatever you want. Whatever your passion, you the world can offer it,” Murphy said.

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