For Syracuse’s Gorham Brothers Music, they had to do it their way. They had to because that’s how they’ve always done it. The three brothers, Ryan, Brad, and Bobby have been entrenched in the local music scene for over ten years now. Some might know them as part of the bands Engineer and Blood Sun Circle. But these days most know them as the owners of Gorham Brothers Music, an independent guitar shop on Seeley Rd in Syracuse. The brothers took their experiences being in a gigging band and applied it to their business to make a shop run by musicians for musicians. But to get to there we have to go back and see what lead them to running their own store.
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The three brothers grew up playing guitar despite not coming from a musically inclined family. When they started playing together around 2003 it was during a point where the local scene in Syracuse was thriving. Bands always had a place to play and you could always find a show happening on the weekends. The band they have become most known for; Engineer, came together very quickly after the three brothers bounced around in other bands. They started to become serious and started practicing every day. An indication for any band that you’ve stumbled on to something good. It was a great time to start a band in Syracuse because the scene was supporting touring bands coming to town. Ample opportunities were available for the local bands to fill opening slots on a bill.
The venues weren’t big, most were under 200 capacity but they were always full. I remember being at shows where people were literally standing outside watching the bands through the windows. It hasn’t been like that since and those memories are some of my most cherished and I know many who feel the same way.
Bobby Gorham said, “Engineer was like our job, more so than any other job at that time. We were able to do it for so long, longer than any of us expected. Once you do something like that for so long, none of us wanted to get a career working for someone else. This was a way for us to still do our own thing.”
Engineer put out records that helped define the sound coming out of Syracuse during the 2000’s. Their 2007 effort The Dregs was named one of the top 40 albums of the year by respected extreme music magazine Decibel. They along with area bands like Ed Gein, Achilles, and Another Breath solidified Upstate New York’s roster of incredible local bands at the time.
But all things come to an end and Engineer slowly faded in to the background and from it came the store. Ryan Gorham compared the two telling me “Writing and recording is real expressive. You get to experiment so much in the studio. The store is sort of like another band. We go in with a focus. Not a cookie cutter store. Not always a store someone wants or expects.”
Walking into Gorham Brothers Music immediately gives you the sense that you aren’t in your typical big box music store. There aren’t any pushy sales people working on commission. You can get an answer to your question. And they’re more than happy to chat with you about music. You feel at ease. It’s a place where you can go and test out a guitar pedal and really get a feel for if it’s going to work in your set up. You aren’t battling against 25 other guitarists all trying to wail on the solo from “Eruption”.
One of the biggest takeaways in discussing the store with the three brothers was that their store can change. They have complete control which means they can mold it to fit the store they want to have. The biggest benefit of this is the fact that they can stock the store with used gear you might not see at another store. Bobby Gorham said “We can do all the wheeling and dealing. Which a lot of actual musicians like to do. They want to come in and see what comes in, old vintage gear, stuff guitar center can’t deal with as much.” And Ryan Gorham added “Buying stuff face to face from people lets us decide what we want to do. We don’t have to have Fender banners everywhere. We don’t have to order 20 squires.”
The store started to see success as the years passed after opening in December of 2011. But the biggest downside was the physical size of the storefront they were in. However when the opportunity struck, they decided to expand. In October of 2014 the brothers moved the store just a few feet down in the building they were in to a much bigger space. When I asked the brothers about the expansion what I heard from Brad Gorham was exactly the kind of thing you regret not doing “It was too good of an opportunity to miss.” While the brothers said they didn’t plan on moving they all agreed it was the right decision despite the risk they were taking on.
One of the best things to come out of the expansion was the ability to have more room for bands to play. The older smaller store hosted live acts but in the new space there is a dedicated stage with monitors set up that allows the bands to hear vocals. For anyone who has played live, you know how important that is. It’s another example of how this store is designed with musicians in mind because its owners and sole employees are musicians themselves.
I wanted to get a feeling for what it’s like to see bands play in the store so I checked out a show booked the night we conducted our interview. The store was transformed in a very subtle way to accommodate the larger amount of people than normal. Expensive gear was protected and amps were moved around. And I have to say the sound quality was fantastic. I listened to a couple of bands from the back and got right up front for another and couldn’t believe how professional everything sounded. Other venues in the area dedicated to live acts should take a few notes.
The future looks bright for the Gorham Brothers. The store is doing well and they get to wake up every day and know that they own a store that is uniquely theirs. A store that is crafted from their experiences on the road as a band going to other independent shops. Taking an idea from here and there and bringing in their own as well they have handcrafted a store as one of a kind as the music they made and the opportunity they offer Syracuse musicians to come in and get the gear they need at a price that makes you feel good. Not just for sales but for repair work and now for bands to have a venue to play at in a scene that has sadly lost venues in droves over the past ten years.
They are the local shop and I don’t think they want it any other way.
You can visit Gorham Brothers Music in Syracuse, NY at 118 Seeley Rd. They are open seven days a week. Or check them out online at gorhambrothersmusic.com.