Grendel Guitars is a passion project created by brothers Drew and Colin O’Brien. The two brothers were born on the same day (Drew in 1975 and Colin, ten years later, in 1985) into a musical family. Both began playing the guitar as children, receiving their first guitar lessons from their father, a finger-style folk player whose technique borrows from the likes of Dylan, Leitch, and Van Ronk.
Initially, Drew learned his father’s fingerstyle folk and blues tunes and played them on his father’s S. Yairi parlor style acoustic guitar. But shortly after his 13th birthday, he took what little money he had been able to save up and bought a disastrous plywood Strat copy with a cherry red finish and a 10 watt Gorilla practice amp for $250 from a small music store in Indianapolis, Indiana. For Drew, getting that awful guitar to stop buzzing, to intonate properly, and to stop squealing, was the start of a lifelong obsession with the look, feel, and tone of electric guitars. From early experiments aimed at altering the sticky gloss poly neck finish on that terrible strat copy, Drew moved on to learning to set up a Floyd Rose tremolo so he could keep a Charvel dinky in tune with his high school metal band. Like many guitarists on a budget, he wound up swapping out pickups and rewiring cheap guitars in a never-ending quest for tone.
After a number of years tinkering, Drew realized that getting exactly what he wanted in an electric guitar meant building one for himself…so that’s what he started doing. And what he realized in the process is that there is a significant underserved market for custom, built-to-order guitars. The reason that market is underserved is that getting a guitar built to your specs from the custom shops of the well-known guitar manufacturers is beyond the means of most players. So Drew set out to build truly custom instruments at a price point within the reach of as many players as possible.
Though not nearly as smart, charming, or good-looking as his older brother, Colin is a vastly superior guitar player. He is also ten years younger and, as such, will likely live longer than his rapidly aging brother. Colin realized earlier than his elder brother that getting what you want in a guitar sometimes means doing it yourself. And so, while still in high school, Colin and his father built a kit guitar together – a strat style guitar with an innovative Humbucker, P90, and strat-style single coil pickup configuration. It turned out to be a winner that Colin still uses on stage to this day. When Drew began turning hunks of wood into guitars, Colin had the good sense to be among the first to place an order. After laying hands on the guitar Drew built for him (a solid spalted maple T-style with a Warmoth neck and Lindy Fralin Blues Special Tele Pickups), Colin, an entrepreneur, immediately began brainstorming about ways to expand the reach of Drew’s fledgling business beyond setups, repairs, mods, and one-off builds. And thus, Grendel Guitars was born.
Like Drew, Colin began learning to play the guitar at an early age and has sung and played lead guitar with a variety of bands. In addition to being an experienced musician, Colin has built several businesses engaged in web and app development and search engine optimization. With that background, Colin has been the brains behind Grendel Guitars – a business venture that has finally given the two brothers a musical project to work on together that won’t involve disputes about whether Nirvana qualifies as “classic rock.”