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Your Shot

Your Shot: How Guns or Knives and Desperados Created the World’s First Playable Bar

We speak to the various specialists the agency brought together to create this unique experience for the beer brand

Your Shot: How Guns or Knives and Desperados Created the World’s First Playable Bar

For the past year, Desperados has been putting music at the heart of its campaigns and activations. From House Party Plugged, where the brand turned a house into a giant synthesiser, to Train Trax, where they transformed a train into a 10-tonne drum.

Now, creative agency Guns or Knives is inviting Desperados fans to bring their own beats to the world’s first playable bar. Starting tomorrow, 58 top venues across Ireland, under the global stage of the brand’s ‘Inner Tequila Studios’, will be kitted out with playable bar areas, seeking to form the largest DJ Crew in Ireland.

LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with the team from Guns or Knives, Heineken and engineer/model maker Nervous Squirrel to find out more. 

LBB> Can you briefly describe the experience you've created for Desperados?

Adam Crane, Creative Director, Guns or Knives> We’ve created Ireland’s first playable bar area by transforming a set of ordinary pub furniture into playable musical instruments.

LBB> What was the brief and how did it lead to the idea of turntables in bars?

Jeremy Ó’Murchu, Global Brands Activation Manager, Heineken Ireland> The brief was a combination of three key pillars: utilise existing global assets, leverage the language of music to connect with our audience, drive usage and make relevant the brand idea with wild experimentation at the heart of it. 

LBB> Were there any strategic insights that made this the right idea for Desperados' marketing goals?

Andy Williams, Account Executive, Guns or Knives> Throughout our history of working with Desperados, we were aware of the global Desperados music brand platform 'Inner Tequila Studios'. We wanted to use this platform as the main overarching theme of our activation, allowing consumers to release their inner tequila. 

We also knew through brand research that our tribe (Desperados drinkers aged 18-24) are in an experimental stage of their lives. We wanted to bring this element of 'Wild Experimentation' and standing out from the crowd into our activation, and what better way of doing this than creating music and being part of Ireland's biggest DJ Crew? 

LBB> How did the idea develop over time? 

Conor Kenny, Art Director, Guns or Knives> Unlike a lot of briefs where the concept can change 100 times over until it reaches the final production stage, this project was sort of the opposite. Our initial creative briefing (which took place in one of Dublin’s busiest clubs) was where our concept began to form. It was a thought said out loud, “Imagine if you could play this table?”. Things really developed from there. Our first playable piece was created in-house by our copywriter [Clara Traynor]. She created a piano out of bottle caps. We played around with a couple of tech options, another being Mogees [vibration sensors], but touch boards were the main piece of hardware we used in the end. They’re a neat piece of technology with a million possibilities. 

LBB> Were there any lightbulb moments where something just made sense suddenly?

Clara Traynor, Copywriter, Guns or Knives> After we knew we wanted to make playable pieces in the on-trade, it was really a deep dive into the possibilities both audibly and visually. It wasn’t a lightbulb moment per se, but there was a point where we came to the realisation that anything can become an instrument. The possibilities were both exciting and daunting, mainly because we knew we had to decide what could work best. 

There was a point in the creative process where we had three rough concepts, one incorporating the theme of dance and music, the other linking art with music. We decided against it and reverted back to our original thinking. Sometimes, as creatives you can go a few steps too far. It can take a CD or even a colleague that’s not close to the project to put some manners on it.

LBB>Can you tell us a bit about the technology?

Conor Kenny, Art Director, Guns or Knives> After the concept was in a good place we brought in the experts. We came across London-based Nervous Squirrel. We knew Dave (Nervous Squirrel) was the perfect fit for this project. The Badgermin was the first handmade instrument of his we came across. We were more than confident that he’d turn our pieces into something truly unique and special. 

LBB> How did you develop it and what were the main hurdles to overcome?

Nervous Squirrel> This project was the perfect brief. It's almost a full-time job just keeping up with the possibilities in electronics. It was a great chance to put some of this new technology to work. The fact that the custom instruments were intended for a party environment made it a particularly noble cause too. 

LBB> 58 venues, that’s quite a lot! How do you plan to coordinate all of that?

Joanne Laffan, Group Account Director, Guns or Knives> Logistics were part of the thought process from the get-go. We concluded that we needed four kits in order to cover all of our venues. It’s interesting working with a long list of bars and clubs as no two are the same. We created a list of the barriers we were faced with in each place. Our two main concerns were the variance of noise levels and the space we would be taking over in each. We knew we had to create a piece of kit that could be rolled out in venues where space was tight as well as the larger areas. The end result was a movable kit containing a playable poster, musical chairs, a table transformed into a turntable and a stack of crates (CR8-0-8s) which controlled all of the pieces. 

It’s a bit of a cliché but communication is key between everyone involved. There’s a lot of moving parts to say the least. Having a well-coordinated event planning team (Real Nation) and a client with plenty of experience in activations under his belt definitely helps.

LBB> Everyone thinks they can DJ but there's a lot of skill to doing it well. Aren't you worried about people ruining others' evenings with their terrible attempts?

Andy Williams, Account Executive, Guns or Knives> That’s an interesting thought. We all remember those nights with nothing but bad DJ cheese playing for the whole night. Sometimes those are the nights you remember the most. 

LBB> What are your greatest (reasonable) hopes for the project? 

Adam Crane, Creative Director, Guns or Knives> We’ve given people a platform to express themselves in a new way in bars. The main hope for our set of instruments is that people will just have fun with them. You don’t usually get to create a piece of music or have a mini jam session with your mates and, in a bar of all places. It’s surreal.

LBB> Could you paint a picture of the ideal result?

Clara Traynor, Copywriter, Guns or Knives> We aren’t just letting people play the instruments on each night, we’re actually recording all of the sounds that they create across our 58 venues. We’re going to take all of our recordings and turn it into a piece of music when all our activations are done and dusted. 

This music will be available in both digital and physical form. We’re going to produce an actual BYOBEATS EP and release a playlist via Spotify. 

Hopefully this will be something that will ensure our activation lives on past our 58 accounts and the music produced from these nights can serve as a reminder to any players that got to experience it. 

Imagine, the thousands of people that could have played across those nights and now their sounds have contributed to a piece of music. That’s pretty special. 

Brand: Heineken Ireland

Global Brands Activation Manager: Jeremy Ó'Murchu





CREATIVES: Conor Kenny and Clara Traynor



MUSIC, SOUND and Production

SOUND DESIGN: Kieran “Sherry” Sheridan

Hardware and software DEVELOPER: Nervous Squirrel

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