I wonder how Ramy Antoun, president of A&F Drum Co., fits into his pants in the morning? Speaking on this topic firsthand, I understand the pressure and risk of owning and operating a business all too well, and to say the least you need some big cajones to take that plunge. But....if you have a vision and need to see it through, what other choice do you have other than to get on with it? With that being said, taking on the entrepreneurial role isn't for everybody. Once committed you must pursue your passion tirelessly and guide each decision with instinct and knowledge. You must be prepared for failure but set your sights on success and that is a tough balance to strike. Now based on what I have seen, Ramy probably doesn't sleep much and when he is awake he is making some very smart decisions in order to get where he and his team are today.
So why am I so interested in A&F Drum Co. you may ask? Put simply, I am an old soul and I have this irresistible draw towards anything that resembles a relic and A&F, I believe, is executing this aesthetic perfectly. The level of detail and craftsmanship seems to be taken very seriously over there and it doesn't appear that compromise is a word they accept in their vocabulary. After months of observing them and feeling like I am getting to know their brand through the lens of Instagram, I felt it was time to write something on them and have Ramy answer some questions I had about A&F. Rapid evolution is typically a sign of prosperity and I wanted to make a contribution in my own way to both congratulate and help shine a positive light on this little company from Austin, TX.
DG:A&F officially started in May 2016. How do you consider A&F Drums' growth up until now?
RA: We are both shocked and grateful at the rapid pace of growth for A&F, we had no idea this was going to happen, especially in 8 months. Going from two guys in a garage to 6 people in a warehouse with a showroom and 20K organic Instagram followers, is not something you can plan for, lol. We are in 6 retail shops in the US and a couple overseas, this coupled with being welcomed into a beautiful online drum community, is simply humbling.
DG: Your team has grown significantly since May 2016. Who is your team now and what are their contributions and specialties?
RA: Yes also blessed to have a great team. We’ve got Tabber Millard leading the Craftsman team with Nikki Spencer on Brass shells, and Brian Ferguson on assembly. Then we’ve got Josh Jones, my partner, building systems and infrastructure to help us stay efficient and grow healthy. Tiffany Antoun, my wife, oversees accounting and keeps me sane, and I oversee production, sales, marketing, product development, and artist relations. We are also extremely spoiled to have John Aldridge living about 3 miles from the shop. If you don’t know him, he’s one of the top drum engravers in the world and has been gracious enough to take on some projects for us.
DG: Are all the drums' components produced in house?
RA: We make our own wood and brass shells, our own hoops, and our own lugs and tubes. We use the George Way Beer Tap Throw off, and buy our clips and tension rods from a US supplier. We are collaborating with a good friend and well respected drum builder on our own throw off design, hopefully ready by spring 2017. Our friends right behind our shop at 4lyfe printing do all our merch.
DG: You have said before that you had been searching for a drum sound your whole life. What tones from other kits came close but needed refinement in your opinion?
RA: I wouldn’t use the word refinement but rather a preference. I love my 30’s radio kings, as well as my early 60’s clubdate's with nickel hardware, but I was searching for a very specific sound and was so stoked to have found it with A&F.
DG: You have many drums of interest in the A&F lineup...but the Pancake snare has to be my favorite innovation. Can you explain where this idea came from?
RA: Sure, and first off let me say that the “Pancake Snare” has been around from the early 1900’s. I did a post on Instagram where with a brief history of the drum as well as shared our story. Here it is:
"Stoked to be a part of this legacy of pancake snares. Every one of these companies has a story behind their Pancake Snare, this is ours:
In 2003, A&F President, @ramysdrumpocket, was invited to join @Seal as his drummer. When given the songs to learn, Ramy took it upon himself to recreate the electronic loops on the records with live drums, matching the electronic drum sound with acoustic drums. For one specific song, he reached for a 1920's era banjo, disassembled it, and used the thin short brass shell as a snare. He grabbed two @Remopercussion heads, a couple chrome hoops, single tension rods, and Ayotte nuts. Ten minutes later, his first Pancake snare was born. Flash forward 13 years, the A&F Pancake snare is a new addition to the A&F Drum Co. snare collection. With a handmade 1.5" deep raw brass shell in 12", 14", & 16" diameters, add handmade raw brass hoops, single tension tuning rods w/clips, heads, and a beer tap throw/butt plate. Simple design, practical application, brilliant sound!"
DG: I have noticed your drums really appeal to jazzers and pocket maestros...how much of that is attributable to the aesthetic appeal and drum sounds of A&F drums?
RA: I think it's a combination of the drums and frankly the artists we’ve chosen to sign. I’ve been a session drummer most of my life, and that world is very specific on drumming for the song. I think those are the type drummers we tend to gravitate towards in our artist program. That's also the arena in which our drums really shine, the studio!
DG: A&F participated in the Drum Heads Podcast raffle to help Daniel financially (super cool of you to do that BTW) can you elaborate on your companies experience in this raffle?
RA: It was basically as you stated. Daniel has always supported us with Instagram and his podcast and when we heard he had to shut it down temporarily because of financial hardship, we really felt the need to help support his mission.
DG: Finally, without giving away too many specifics....are there more products on the way that we can look forward to?
RA: YES, I drive everyone crazy because I have ideas all the time, but we need to pick and choose what to really pursue and make sure there's an economical side to it that's sustainable. To answer your question, YES!!! In Jan 2017 at NAMM we will be revealing what I think is our biggest thing yet!!! We’ve been prototyping it since October, and I'm insanely excited to share it with everyone. Its Royal man, you’ll see...
It appears to me that growth is the future for A&F Drum Co. and that there is a real sense of fellowship amongst those who work there. A&F stands for Antoun & Family.....and I think that says it all. It is something I really like to see and if I am perfectly honest, I feel like there is a profound connection between the instrument and its player when instruments are built in this type of environment. It was certainly a huge pleasure for me to write about them and I wish them nothing but success and happiness with what they are doing. I feel that after this year is complete they will all look back on their progress and feel great about what they have accomplished and strive forward to continue doing great work. Godspeed.