SWISS MOVEMENT: With its innovative Jane model, Switzerland’s Relish Guitars makes a bold, forward-thinking debut.
By Richard Bienstock | Photo by Massimo Gammacurta
“So many luthiers around the world imitate Les Pauls and Strats,” says Silvan Küng, the 30-year-old co-founder of Switzerland-based Relish Guitars. “We wanted to do something that really felt like a new approach.” With the company’s first offering, which Küng and his partner, 30-year-old Pirmin Giger, call Jane, Relish is certainly looking at the electric guitar in a new way.
On first glance, Jane appears to be a standard—if sleek and modern-looking—instrument. But peer a bit closer and you may notice a shiny ribbon of metal that frames the body’s perimeter, joining together its top and back. This is Jane’s aluminum core, a ring of metal with another slab traversing its center. Attached at one end of the center bar is the quartersawn maple neck, and, at the other end, the bridge, essentially forming the guitar’s crux. The aluminum core is then sandwiched between a top and back of pressed-wood veneer—offered in walnut, cherry and, shown here, ash (a.k.a. Ashy)—to create a semihollow chamber.
According to Küng, this construction design imbues Jane with superior resonance and sustain. “The aluminum frame acts like a triangle in terms of vibration,” he says. “On top of that, the frame is connected to the neck at one end and the bridge at the other, with the strings traveling through it. So it’s an incredible sustain network for the sound, which then resonates in the hollow body cavity between the wood veneers.”
But Jane’s metal-and-wood construction is only one element of Relish’s unique approach. Flip the guitar over and you’ll notice a back cavity cover free of screws. Rather, it is secured to the body by six strong magnets: insert a guitar pick into the groove and you can pop the cover right off. The guitar’s electronics are then easily accessible, with the two humbuckers—the Ashy Jane features a Good Tone Pickups “Twangster” in the neck position and “Hot Vintage 59 PAF” at the bridge—wired in using RAF connectors. The benefit here, according to Küng, is that pickups can be swapped in and out in “three or four minutes,” he says. “You can just unplug the pickup, pull it out, and plug in a different one. You don’t have to solder anything. You don’t even have to remove the strings. You don’t have to bring the guitar into the shop or to a professional. You can do everything yourself, quick and easy.”
Situated near the pickups in the back cavity is a nine-volt battery, but it isn’t for the humbuckers, which are passive. Rather, it powers the LED lights for another cool Relish feature: the pickup touch sensors. Küng and Giger have done away with the standard three- or five-way pickup selector switch. In its place are two small, glowing circles next to the single volume and tone knobs. Touch one sensor and the neck pickup is activated; touch the other to turn on the bridge humbucker. You can also turn off both and mute the guitar entirely. “So if you’re onstage and you don’t want any signal, you don’t need to lower the volume knob,” Küng says. “You can just switch the pickups off and keep the guitar at the same volume level.”
In contrast to Jane’s somewhat radical construction, when it comes to aesthetics, Küng and Giger opted to go with an elegantly understated design. The guitar is refreshingly low on accouterments. There are no fingerboard inlays or truss-rod cover, and the Relish logo on the headstock is carved directly into the veneer and free of abalone or pearl. The body, meanwhile, sports a clear, natural matte finish that emphasizes the wood grain and the graceful curves. Other features include Schaller M6 Mini tuners, a Hipshot Hardtail bridge, and, interestingly, a bamboo fretboard. Explains Küng, “We didn’t want to use tropical wood, because it’s not sustainable. So we searched for another option that would be as hard and would have the same playability. We found bamboo to be the best solution.”
While Küng acknowledges that the Jane guitar might seem extreme to some six-string traditionalists, he says, “There’s really a market for forward-thinking musicians and individualists who want a new design and a new sound. So far the feedback shows us that a lot of guitarists out there share our beliefs. What we’re saying to them is, we can do better. We can do things different and we can have something new. And I think this can be the future. Hopefully people will want to be a part of this Relish revolution story.”
LIST PRICE: $4,900
Relish Guitars, relishguitars.ch