Meet the Musical Gadget Maker of Old East Dallas

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The first musical gadget Richard Upchurch made was a gift for his four-year-old nephew – it was a simple wooden box with a button to record a sound, a button to play it and a button to speed up or slow down the audio .

“I call it anti-tech,” said Upchurch, who toured as a guitarist for years.

The “Loopy Lou” voice recorder created by Upchurch is BrandNewNoise’s best-selling device.(Richard Upchurch)

His nephew showed it to his teachers, who wanted to buy one, so Upchurch made five more. More than a decade later, Upchurch now builds the gear full-time for his Dallas-based company, BrandNewNoise.

What started with a “concept of an old-fashioned tape recorder in this playful box”, he said, now encompasses a range of handmade “experimental instruments”, including miniaturized pianos, harmonicas and xylophones, all of which have recording capabilities. The best-selling, Loopy Lou, costs $72.25 and looks just like the toy he made for his nephew many years ago.

“People are like, ‘Who is this for?’ And I was like, ‘Well, this is for 4-year-olds and rock stars,'” says Upchurch, who opened a studio for BrandNewNoise in Old East Dallas in 2017. “They’re kind of the same person. They are curious and free spirits.

The list of rockstar clientele, indeed, is long. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood and country star Brad Paisley are all Upchurch patrons. But why, when these top musicians have access to state-of-the-art, industrial-grade audio equipment?

“There’s a freedom and charm in simplicity,” Upchurch said. “Yeah, you can probably do it on your iPhone. But there’s something about what I’m doing is singular in its use, and it sounds unique, and it’s tactile, and it’s immediate.

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