SOUTH SURREY â€” For 10 years, Brian and Bob Sumner have been making a name for themselves in the White Rock-South Surrey community, and beyond. Known as the roots-Americana duo the Sumner Brothers, the band of siblings is often on the road touring their albums â€“ theyâ€™ve penned four and are working on a fifth â€“ while their hometown fans await their return.
And while music is decidedly their mainstay, when the brothers arenâ€™t making their living in the back of a van, theyâ€™ve decided to set up shop in South Surrey â€“ a music shop, that is.
Launched in late 2013, the Sumner Brothers Studios makes its home at King George Boulevard and 26th Avenue, teaching music to kids, teens and adults, and mentoring budding musicians.
â€œWeâ€™ve been doing (music) for 10 years in total, and I guess youâ€™d say professionally for seven years, but itâ€™s tough obviously, making an amount of money that can really keep you going, so this was to help with that a bit,â€ said Brian Sumner at the neatly arranged two-room studio.
â€œTo be honest, I was thinking about teaching guitar anyways â€“ it was something I wanted to get into, and we thought about getting a job at Long & McQuade or something like that, but we tour so much and our schedules are so fluid that I needed to be able to set my own schedule.â€
(Scroll to bottom of page to see video of "Green Couch Session" with The Sumner Brothers)
With framed records hung upon the walls, pianos and organs sitting in corners of the room and pages of open sheet-music, vintage record players and â€™60s-style vintage couches in the waiting room, itâ€™s a clean, musically-homey space that anyone from Jimi Hendrix to Tom Waits would be comfortable penning an album in. Thatâ€™s perhaps why the studio has been so successful.
â€œWe only had one student for six months, so it was tough making rent, but we were actually funding this place from money from the band,â€ Brian said. â€œWe learned from the band that if you just stick it out, the word will eventually spread.â€
And indeed it did. Now, the brothers juggle about 20 students, working from about 3:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. every weeknight. â€œItâ€™s tailored toward the kids because theyâ€™re going to school and come here after school and we slot the adults in â€“ it works for them, too, but as of yet, weâ€™re not teaching on weekends.â€
Twice per year, students are encouraged to perform at a local coffee shop for the studioâ€™s showcase, presenting what theyâ€™ve been working on in their classes.
Brain also maintains that his time managing the Sumner Brothers band has helped him to understand how to run a business â€” but in actuality, running the business has been a lot easier.
â€œThis business is so much simpler than running the band. Running the band taught me a lot about business, so it worked that way,â€ he said. â€œPlanning, budgeting, marketing, the concept for trying to do a great job from the get-go so that your brand and business can spread by word of mouth, being consistent, longevityâ€¦â€
The list goes on.
Since the guys are relative hometown heroes when it comes to alt-country music in the Lower Mainland, it would be appropriate to assume that most of their students are staunch fans of the brothers, but according to Brian, thatâ€™s not always the case.
â€œWe have a few students who are fans, but for the most part, not a lot of them actually know what we do,â€ he said with a laugh, â€œwhich is kind of funny because we kind of thought it would be like a branding coup because a lot of people in the area know who we are in terms of our music, but I guess it doesnâ€™t really filter down to the 15, 16 year olds and what not. They could care less. But they still get that weâ€™re professionals and that filters down to them. If they ever have any questions or theyâ€™re wondering how to get a coffee shop gig, how you get in touch with the media, all that kind of stuff. After youâ€™ve worked with them for a while, they kind of get the idea that you know what youâ€™re doing.â€