We’re still in January, but Gretsch has pulled off what is quite possibly the signature guitar coup of the year, announcing the boygenius Broadkaster Jr. – a limited edition shared signature model for all three of the indie supergroup’s members.
The band – consisting of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus – are currently riding high on a total of seven Grammy nominations and a wildly successful tour in support of their second album, the record.
At the core of the design (and in keeping with the band’s democratic mantra) was a desire to create an instrument that anyone can pick up and enjoy, regardless of their skill level.
The result is this stunning double-cut take on Gretsch’s Broadkaster Jr. model that comes in at a shade under $700.
“The vision was just to make a guitar that felt good to play,” says Baker in the accompanying promo clip.
“I was reading Let's Go (So We Can Get Back Again), the Jeff Tweedy book, and he has this part in it where he's talking about learning to play guitar and he's like, ‘I wonder how many great guitarists were impeded by the quality of their instrument?’
“I related to that so much. I was like, ‘Yeah! The first guitar I ever had felt like nails to play [and] it sounded horrible…’ I enjoy that this is affordable and accessible for kids that want to pick up a guitar – and it responds to you. It gives you a beautiful playing experience, instead of being something you have to wrestle.”
The build uses a streamlined take on the firm’s “ultra-comfortable” Broadkaster Jr. platform – featuring a semi-hollow maple body with a chambered center block and a slimmed-down mahogany neck and accessible cutaways – while still adding plenty of personality.
The usual Bigsby is gone and in its place is a vintage-like Trapeze hardtail, then there’s a pair of Electromatic Filter’Tron humbuckers, a simplified three-control layout and a vintage-style scratchplate.
“When it breaks up, it doesn’t get out of control, it’s really tight,” says Baker of the playing experience.
“As soon as you push it, it gets gritty and bright… [Ultimately] it’s really responsive to touch and that’s the vocabulary a player uses… Your dialect is the way you fret it and feel it.”
The spec list certainly indicates a very universal, player-friendly platform, while on the aesthetic side there are several flourishes and nods to boygenius lore.
So you get the bound f-holes, body and fingerboard, plus a boygenius logo on the rear of the headstock, a nickel headbadge with their signatures and, the coolest touch for our money: custom boygenius inlays.
Most notable among these inlays is the three-of-cups on the 12th fret – a nod to the tarot card tattoo that each of the band has that “thematically, concerns friendship as the highest form of love”. Then there’s a spaceship and planet, stars and a tooth symbol, all of which have links to the boygenius world.
The mix of price point and that level of customization tells us that these will not hang around for long. It is uber cool, completely aligns with the band’s aesthetic (and ethics) and is worryingly affordable… which might be why it’s being rolled out as a limited edition.
“I don’t want to make a guitar that is about how good my taste is, or how good we are as players, or about how elite the parts we can source [are],” summarizes Baker.
“It’s a guitar that’s made so that the instant it’s in your hands you can make a couple of clumsy chords and it comes across in an intelligible way.
“The guitar, as an instrument, is just an accessory to communication with yourself and with others. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the best guitarist that ever lived. You just have to make sounds that please you.”
Given the price point and the devoted nature of their collective and individual followings, we think this model might help a host of newer players to do just that.
To order the Gretsch Limited Edition Broadkaster Jr., head over to the boygenius merch site.
Believe it or not, the Broadkaster Jr. isn’t the first custom guitar gear to have been developed for all three members of boygenius.
In summer 2023, during their interview with YouTube/video stalwart Nardwaur the Human Serviette , boygenius were presented with a custom pedal, featuring three individual germanium boosts – in one enclosure!