Wired for Sound: Re-imagining the sonic signature with Josh Grierson from Brand Sound Studio

Whether it’s the iconic McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” jingle or the classic Universal Pictures intro melody, being synonymous with a sound is an immensely effective way for Brands to communicate with their customers and to make their mark with sonic branding.

AND UNION encompasses the senses; incomparable flavour, our beaming colour palette, hoppy aromas and our trademark debossed grid texture. The only thing missing is a sonic signature. That’s where Josh Grierson from Brand Sound Studio (BSS) comes in, crafting the perfect symphony to match our brand.

Read on to find out how BSS started, the inspiration behind the AND UNION jingle, and the intricate task of curating music for brands and venues.

1: What is Brand Sound Studio?

Brand Sound Studio is a company specialising in a number of music-focused avenues. Namely music curation for the restaurant, retail, office and hotel space, which serves as an extension of our clients’ experience to their customers. Original music composition for production and digital content creators, and consultation when it comes to making a space more acoustically friendly.

2: What motivated you to launch Brand Sound Studio, was there a gap that you picked up on?

A number of years ago, I was asked to curate a string of playlists for a prominent clothing chain in South Africa. This gave me the understanding that there were businesses out there who understood what the right music can do to a space, and how it can help to distinguish a brand from so many others out there. Despite this, I would regularly walk into spaces that were getting it wrong and I ambitiously thought that my talents and sensitivity to music and sound could benefit establishments that truly understood its importance. Many establishments get the music wrong or are getting it right but are simply putting the music too loud. Brand Sound Studio hopes to change this. My career in music has allowed me to understand the integration between music, people, places and spaces, and has helped to connect me with like-minded people, who I could partner with to make my visions a reality.

3: Who is Joshua Grierson?

I was born Joshua Kenneth Grierson, on the 9th of June 1984. Roughly 5 years later my father presented me with my first guitar and proceeded to teach me its fundamentals for the next 3 years. From 8 years old I learned a number of songs and extended my chord knowledge through songbooks found at home and from the age of 11, I was starting to write my own songs.

A number of bands and various music projects started from the age of 13 and I have been performing ever since. My music has taken me around South Africa and abroad and with my solo act and other music projects, I have released a number of albums, EP’s and singles. Just before the pandemic hit, I maintained a DJ residency at 2 prominent night clubs in Cape Town, which lasted for 5 years.

4: How much do you need to interact with a brand before you can pinpoint a perfect playlist?

I need to meet with the owner/s and hear what their vision is for their space. I then need to see and experience the space and their offering. If possible, stay in their hotel for a night, taste the food on the menu, see the people that frequent the space etc. Soak it all up and then start to craft a soundtrack to their story.

5: When curating the perfect playlist for a brand, what are the first steps you take and the main things you look out for? Is it the same creative process across brands?

Every business requires something different. There might be similarities to another but if they want to stand out they would need to have something unique to draw a crowd. Having access to their brand-bible really helps; the colours they are working with, the feeling that their branding evokes. It all informs me what music mood it needs to be paired with. If possible, my first port of call is to always immerse myself into the world of the brand.

6: What is your biggest challenge when curating a playlist?

I can obsess over one song and how it’s either making or breaking the flow. The flow is extremely important. You ‘change the temperature of the room’ with music, so I am hyper aware of how each song needs to speak to each other and not feel all-over-the-place when it comes to tempo and mood.

7: How important is the order of the songs in the playlist, should they be played in a select sequence or shuffled?

This is quite an important element of what we do at Brand Sound Studio. Ideally, you would like every song to flow perfectly through the hours and we curate our playlists accordingly. When that shuffle button gets clicked, we kind of lose control of that flow and allow an algorithm to decide what should be played next. A song that would work well at 4pm might not feel at all appropriate at 8am. So we always recommend to our customers that they play the playlist in the order that we curated it. Yet, playlist fatigue is very common in the restaurant industry, so to counter this we update our customers' playlists every month with fresh new songs.

8: Do you have to check out the acoustics of a venue before choosing music and how do you work around it when a venue doesn’t have great acoustics?

An assessment of the space is imperative before choosing the music but there are always going to be limitations that one has to factor in. So it is a push and pull between choosing music that works for the space and knowing that sometimes you will have to work with what is given; high ceilings can be tricky, decor and finishings that doesn’t/does soften bright frequencies and the speaker system provided, would be a few of the fundamentals that need to be looked at first.

If a space is proving to be tricky, we offer consultation to make the space more user-friendly. There are a number of options available to suit all budgets but factoring in this element of the space comes highly recommended, as this is an area of your business that greatly affects your customers sensory experience.

9: Do you think that there’s a connection between colour and sound, and when you walk into a place and see a specific colour, do you associate that with a specific sound or music style?

There is definitely a connection. From my research into colour therapy, every colour (much like different styles of music) will inspire different feelings. With our latest customer BUTTER, their use of light brown wooden furniture and yellow painted floors inspired a sense of warmth and happiness. While their black metal-framed large windows gave a strong sense of the cityscape. So there was a strong link between bright tones of acoustic Folk-inspired music while still keeping it edgy with light-Indie and City-Pop jams.

10: What other elements impact the sound/music you curate for venues?

The menu and operating times. Much like wine can be perfectly paired with the meal, so can the music be paired with the menu. Your day crowd’s expectations of the music will be completely different to the night crowd’s expectations.

11: How can brands utilise musical creatives better in their branding or marketing objectives?

By understanding that musical creatives are specialists in their field, as they are specialists in theirs, and thus should be paid accordingly. When done properly, musical creatives translate the soul, heartbeat and rhythm of a brand. Listen to them and trust them to drive your vision. Clear communication and expectations are imperative.

12: Which style of music would you say most embodies AND UNION?

Happy and light Indie, and nostalgic soft rock happy summer jams.

13: When you tasted our beers, did any songs jump out at you that perfectly suited the beers?

Boys Don’t Cry - The Cure

14: Because we’re a global brand and aren’t set in one country, does that impact your song choice?

Definitely! I hope my choices will reflect the inclusivity that the AND UNION brand evokes.

15: You also developed some of the special effects for our social media animations, what sound design process do you follow to create these sounds?

If there is no sound reference given, I gather the heartbeat of the animation from the animation/visuals provided. The colours/visuals used evoke certain sounds (sounds that live in that colour/visual family) and how it is edited gives me a strong sense of what kind of tempo to follow. The message of the video/call to action also leads me down a number of possible pathways. I then begin to play with sound ideas that I generate with either acoustic or digital instruments. From there I sculpt out a theme and start to generate an intro, middle and end.

16: What was the inspiration behind the AND UNION jingle? What feelings are you trying to convey with this music?

I wanted to encompass all the elements of AND UNION and once again, let the colours jump off the page. Give a little Around-The-AND-UNION-World-In-Thirty-Seconds feel.

Interviewed by Savannah Bacon for AND UNION

Pictures supplied by Joshua Grierson

For business inquiries: joshua@brandsoundstudio.co.za