If you're new to the world of analog audio, or you're buying your first turntable,…
We wanted to give you guys a peek inside the minds behind LUNO with a couple of interviews with our founders. Both have incredibly cool and interesting backstories, we didn’t want to cheat you of any of the good stuff, so we decided to do this in two parts. So, to kick things off, using the metrics set forth by the master David Bowie in his song “Sound & Vision,” we’ll be starting with the vision half of this dynamic design duo, Jennifer Farmer. Her involvement with music runs deep, we’ve asked her to share some cool stories from her past life in the music biz. She also gives us some insight into her creative process, what goes into designing their amazing hifi record consoles, and a few hints about what’s on the horizon for LUNO.
Did you grow up with a record player/console in your house, did your family listen to much music?
I was an 80s baby so I grew up with cassette tapes mostly. For my 3rd birthday all I wanted was a pink tape player and a Bon Jovi tape. I can’t help but think that this moment was where my love of music and quirky design came in. As far as the music in my family, my dad was a huge Zeppelin, Van Halen, Lou Reed fan so those are some of my earliest musical memories. My mom loved people like Queen, Bowie, Skynard, and Aerosmith. However, I think my the person who had the biggest impact on my musical taste was my older brother, Jason, who sparked my love for a lot of weird alternative and indie bands. He taught me about The Pixies & Frank Black, Nirvana, all of Steve Albini’s projects, My Bloody Valentine, Magnetic Fields (Stephin Merritt), Jesus & Mary Chain and so many more that I could go on about this question alone for 10 pages! Also, I’m from Texas and have a lot of family members who play country music so there was a lot of Willie Nelson and classic country music happening during family festivities!
FUN FACT: I one time got hired for a job assisting a famous Japanese rock star because I told him that my favorite music was Nirvana and Garth Brooks. He hired me on the spot because he thought it was so ridiculous!
What was the first vinyl record LP that you purchased?
I believe it was Queen “A Night at the Opera” for .99 at Goodwill.
Do you have a listening room in your house, what’s your current setup like?
We have about 10 “listening rooms” at our house thanks to Dan. Every room in our house has a record player/audio system of some sort. Even our bathroom has some sort of hybrid tube amp contraption Dan set up. Our living room has a Soundburger / Mister Disc portable record player that comes through our surround sound. Our bedroom has a Barbie Disco suitcase style record player I got at Goodwill that we refurbished and it actually sounds fairly good all things considered. Our office has a U-Turn turntable that Dan uses to test out a lot of our new speakers and listen to when he’s working. Last but not least, we finally just brought home one of our KC27 consoles that lives in our dining room. It sits at the end of our 12 foot dining table so it’s the perfect entertainment and conversation piece. (We would have brought the EGB2 but it didn’t fit properly, that thing is a beast!) We even currently have it voice activated so you can yell at it to play stuff for you which is pretty fun after a few cocktails!
What did you do before you started LUNO?
I moved to Los Angeles from Texas in 2003 to go to acting school – isn’t that why everyone comes to LA?! After a year of that, I realized that it wasn’t for me and I really like being behind the scenes. My boyfriend at the time was in a band and his manager also managed The Killers so I started helping him out occasionally. Also, all of my friends that I had met when I moved out here were musicians. I wasn’t even really aware of the “the industry” side of things before moving to LA nor had I considered it a career option, but found it fascinating and it seemed like everything was pointing me in that direction. I enrolled in MI and studied music business and interned at Interscope Records. From there, I went on to do radio promotion, marketing for a startup music platform, promotion for live venue, assisting a famous rock star, and artist relations for a guitar company. I dabbled in a bit of everything on the marketing side of the industry and absolutely loved it. It’s still my dream to someday own a beautiful live venue that I can design and Dan can do sound – future LUNO Lounge idea!? Working on the live side of things was by far my favorite experience. Everyday was something different and it was never boring. I loved being able to create experiences that allowed people to have a good time, which is something we try to do with LUNO. After I got laid off from my last industry gig, I had decided that I didn’t want to work for anyone ever again – it was natural for me as I’m stubborn as hell and both of my parents are entrepreneurs so it is in my DNA. While I was working on a startup I’d wanted to do for a while called BandPass (similar to MoviePass but for music) and trying to figure out my plan, I started painting vintage furniture in my garage as a hobby. I ended up putting some of it on Craigslist for fun and it sold. So I did more, and it sold. BandPass soon took a backseat. People soon started asking me for custom pieces, then started asking me build stuff for them (WTF) so I just sort of figured it out by being extremely obsessive and persistent! It was a very organic process and nothing I ever intended to do, but I fell in love with the design process. I studied and stalked everyone I could who knew anything about it sometimes hanging out at paint stores for hours on end. Just a few years later, we now have 2 successful furniture lines and LUNO has allowed me to combine my love of music & design. We’re planning on launching new products at ICFF 2019 and talking about doing a design show in NY this October, as well.
It sounds like you’ve met a lot of celebrities in your work, any stories you can share?
I think it’s inevitable that living in Los Angeles, you’re going to meet and know celebrities especially when working in the entertainment industry. One that stands out in my mind is when I met Paul Stanley of KISS when I was working at Daisy Rock. It was Halloween and I had no idea he was coming by and I was wearing a Kurt Cobain costume, as I would. He was not in a costume. It was such a random experience and he was super nice! I also got to meet Shonen Knife, who I had been a fan of for a while. We ended up becoming friends and they sent Dan and I a wedding gift that we still have, a beautiful Sake Set! Meeting Davey Havok from AFI deserves an honorable mention too because he’s one of the nicest people on the planet.
If you could make a custom hifi console for anyone, who would it be, describe the style and design for us?
My original intention of doing a lot of the custom designs (such as Prince, Bowie, etc) was to make them for the artists, sadly they never came to fruition. I really love the design and customization process and the ability to make something so wild that totally reflects a specific person’s style. I’m currently obsessed with trying to make a Yeezy console for Kanye. Dan and I are HUGE Kanye fans and Kanye is also a huge interior design and furniture fan and I recently read that he’s opening up a Yeezy architecture branch so I think it’s in the realm of possibility?!
What speaks to you about mid-century modern style?
Mid Century Modern style evokes a nostalgic feeling. When we launched at ICFF almost every person that came into our booth (one of them being Terry Crews) immediately would smile and say “this brings back some memories.” This is the exact feeling we wanted to create and the Mid Century Grandma aesthetic brought that to the table.
If you could choose one record to describe yourself, what would it be and why?
Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ because damn near every song on that record is perfect and relatable.
“Think I’ll pack it in and buy a pick-up
Take it down to L.A.
Find a place to call my own
and try to fix up.
Start a brand new day”
Can you explain to someone what the experience of having one of your record consoles is like?
From someone who doesn’t know much about audio, I can say that they sound like being at a live concert. Dan is a phenomenal live sound engineer and really makes it feel like an immersive experience. We even had a customer once say as soon as we turned up the volume “Sounds like a concert!” – there is a video to prove it! In terms of the design, we tried to take a lot of aspects of the vintage players that we liked and clean them up a bit. I used Marshall Grill Cloth to really make it feel as authentic to the old stereo cabinets as possible. For our custom consoles, the sky’s the limit, you want me to wrap one in hundred dollar bills or add a mini-fridge – let’s do it! The funkier, the better! I’m up for the challenge.
What was your first concert, who did you see and what impression did that have on you?
The first concert I saw alone with friends was The Smashing Pumpkins Zero Tour in 97 or 98, I believe. I was hooked from that day forward. I remember going to the after party at a local club called Numbers hoping they would be there (they weren’t.) I’m still upset about that. Call me, Billy.
Can you tell us about the creative process of making one of your record consoles? Where do you take your inspiration from?
Typically it starts out with me seeing something I like and trying to incorporate it into one of our pieces somehow. No matter if our cabinet makers tell us it’s not possible, we always figure out a way! I’ll send my sketches to our designer and he’ll make them actually look good (and realistic) not like a 5 year old drew them. From there, my cabinet makers and I figure out what is and isn’t doable – the former always wins if I have anything to say about it! Dan spent a lot of time developing the audio components and sound quality of the consoles so we do have certain restrictions we’re working with but in terms of the cabinets & design aspect, we can get pretty funky (within reason) as long as the materials don’t affect or hinder the sound in any way. It’s a bit of trial and error when working on new designs. Most of my inspiration comes from pop culture, I would say, I’ve always been fascinated by it.
You’ve designed a lot of very unique custom hifi record consoles, can you tell us about a couple of your favorites?
My favorite to date by far is the new Limited Edition piece we just designed. I can’t get too much into it until we announce it but it’s stunning and was an extremely complicated process. It took multiple people with various skills to pull it off. Besides that, I did a really cool Louis Vuitton piece that I’m in love with, and the Bowie was very interesting because the base had a welded constellation pattern which looked really amazing.
Can you tell us a little about what’s coming up for LUNO?
We have a new Limited Edition console coming up that we collaborated on with a famous artist so keep your eyes peeled for that! I’m extremely proud of the design, it was a long process but the end result is phenomenal and some of the best work we’ve done. We also have a desktop/portable type console that we’ve been working on for a while that will be announced soon, as well as several cabinet designs sans equipment. We also collaborated with a whiskey company on multiple pieces that they’re using for a giveaway so you may have a chance to win one! Lastly, we’re in the process of moving our listening room aka “LUNO Lounge”, production facility, showroom, all under one roof so that’s really exciting! We’ll be able to hold inventory, have listening parties and all that cool stuff that’s been difficult to do so far.
I hear you’re also a musician, can you tell us a little about that and your current project?
I wouldn’t really call myself a “musician” per se. I learned to play bass for a band called Ghostel than Dan, I, and our friend Bryce had for a little while. It was super fun and our song “Buckley Get Your Gun” got a placement in the trailer of an Oscar nominated film called “Mustang” so that was pretty wild and got us a decent amount of attention. I’m not formally trained on any instruments and pretty much only know how to play our songs! I sort of made up my own tablature and Dan worked with me and taught me in a way that I understood. It’s a really fun experience and I love the rush of being on stage and hope to do it again soon. The full album entitled 1414 was just released on Spotify. Currently, we’re so busy with LUNO and MVV that Dan and I write some songs here and there for fun and hope to turn those into a new project at some point in the future and release it on vinyl!
If you could give anyone a single piece of advice what would it be and why?
My dad always told me you gotta spend money to make money! So basically buy one of our damn consoles and it’ll make you rich!!!! No, but seriously, in the words of one of my favorite professors “Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible.”