Meet Old East Dallas’ maker of musical gadgets

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 back and a knob to speed up or slow down the audio .

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

The "Loopy Lou" voice recorder created by Upchurch is BrandNewNoise's best selling device.
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. Over a decade later, Upchurch now makes the contracts full-time for his Dallas-based company, BrandNewNoise.

What started with an “old-school tape recorder concept in this playful box,” he said, now includes a range of handmade “experimental instruments,” including miniaturized pianos, harmonicas and xylophones, all of which have recording capabilities. The bestseller, Loopy Lou, runs $72.25, and resembles the toy he made his nephew those many years ago.

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

The list of rockstar clientele, indeed, is long. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac and country star Brad Paisley all count themselves among Upchurch’s patrons. But why, when these A-list musicians have access to cutting-edge, industry-grade audio equipment?

“There’s a freedom and charm to the simplicity,” said Upchurch. “Yes, you can probably do this on your iPhone. But there’s something about the fact that what I make is singular in its use, and it sounds unique, and it’s tactile, and it’s immediate.”

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Gadgeteer Adds 23 New Musical Gadgets In Update

A new update for physics-based puzzle game Gadgeteer brings 23 musical gadgets to play with as well as a new environment to build in.

The Musical Gadget Update released recently for Gadgeteer on Quest and PC VR. It adds a bunch of new music-inspired tools for players to implement in their Rube Goldberg machines, such as a metronome, xylophone, drum parts, cymbals, gongs, cowbells and a rubber chicken.

As you can see in the trailer embedded above, players can use existing well-known Gadgeteer staples, such as the marble ball, to interact with the new musical elements to produce tones in sequences and create songs.

The update also adds in a new sandbox environment, ‘Study’, which is “purposely designed to offer a building canvas that’s different from the ‘Apartment’ environment” and provides a better canvas for building music-focused machines.

Metanaut CEO and Creative Director Peter Kao shared bits about future updates to come in a prepared statement, “Our players have been asking for gadgets that allow them to build perpetually running machines. They’ve also asked for powerful electrical gadgets. These are great suggestions and we have them on the top of our list of gadgets to prototype.”

Metanaut has consistently updated Gadgeteer through early access and post launch, adding in some key features such as online level sharing, while also expanding out with Quest and PSVR releases in 2019 and 2021 respectively.

The update is available now for Gadgeteer on PC VR and Quest platforms, with PSVR to come in the future.

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