Interview: Rafael Atijas (Loog Guitars)

Loog_Records.jpgI'd stumbled across the Loog Guitar on Kickstarter within a day or two of its project being introduced on the site. Within another couple days after that, the project -- a three-string guitar with interchangeable parts that could be assembled with kids -- had already met its funding goal.

And why not? The combination of a kid- (not to mention adult-)friendly design and sustainable production was, unsurprisingly, a big hit. At this point, two weeks before its funding deadline, it's already reached more than $52,000 in pledges, 3 1/2 times its funding goal. Even musician nerds (and I mean that in the best way) like Chris Ballew expressed interest in the project.

The creator of the Loog, Rafael Atijas, answered a few questions about inspirations for the guitar, direct and indirect, why someone might one instead of a ukulele, and the source of its curious name.

Zooglobble: What are your musical memories growing up?
Rafael Atijas: I remember when I was 12 and I decided I wanted to be in a band. But I had no idea how to play guitar and this is what i thought: "I'm too old (:-))... it will take me forever to learn how to play guitar... I'd better pick up the bass, since it has less strings and should be easier/faster to learn." I guess that was really the beginning of Loog Guitars.
When did you first come up with the idea for the Loog Guitar? Was there a particular inspiration?
It was a little bit out of pressure: I had to come up with a business idea for my thesis (I was doing my Master's at New York University) and I knew it had to be something I really liked, because I was going to spend the next few months completely absorbed by it. I don't remember the exact moment when I put the whole idea together, but I guess I narrowed it to something that blended music and design (my two passions), incorporated a few trends I saw (the DIY movement, the value for natural, sustainable materials), and I really wanted to create a product that had a real benefit for those who use it. One product that did serve as inspiration is the LikeABike bicycles. In a way, one could say that what they did for children's bicycles, we are trying to do for children's guitars.

Loog_II_Apart.jpgHow long did it take you to refine the design to the point where you were ready to apply for the Uruguay Innovation Agency grant and to try Kickstarter?
I started working on this in my head in December 2009, and working on the actual design and business plan in January 2010. It took us about 9 months to refine the design (a lot of iterations, prototyping and testing), and by September 2010 I applied for the Uruguayan Innovation Agency grant. By that time, I also discovered Kickstarter and submitted the project (to be pre-approved by them).

Do you have any sense what percentage of the guitars are being bought by families (as opposed to adults for themselves)?
Not really, or not to the point of having percentages (we don't get access to our Kickstarter backers' information until after the campaign is over). But I wouldn't be surprised if 50% of all buyers are adults wanting the guitars for themselves. Even the short-scale model is a favorite among my grown-up friends.

Loog_Girl.jpgWhat advantages does the Loog have over a ukulele?
I wouldn't really know in which way the Loog Guitars are better than ukuleles. I love ukuleles too... but I guess a guitar is always a guitar, if you are into pop, rock, folk, blues, at least. My take would be: if you want a ukulele, then a ukulele is better; if what you want is a small guitar, then I guess ours is better, since it is actually a guitar (with guitar strings, etc.).

Where did the name "Loog" come from?
It's my subtle but very meaningful homage to Andrew Loog Oldham, the first manager and producer of The Rolling Stones (see here). I always found him to be a fascinating character (I'm a rock nerd, as you can see) and back when I had a band I had a chance to meet him and he was super kind to us.

Photos courtesy of Loog Guitars.