Brian James. Mission Synths.
Brian James, co-owner of Mission Synths, poses for a portrait in front of his shop. (David Mamaril Horowitz / Mission Local)

Painters have palettes, and musicians have synthesizers, says Brian James, who, in late 2020, opened Mission Synths, the synthesizer shop at 3026 24th St. with his partner, Betsy de la Garza. 

“Musicians want a palette: They want a large selection of sounds they can call to them,” James said. 

When musicians don’t have the sound they want, well, that’s where the two can help. 

At the shop, James figures out what’s in demand among electronic musicians and stocks those items, helps people build out their synthesizer setups, and introduces non-professionals to the world of synths.

“I love turning people on to new synths,” he said. “A lot of people come in here being like, ‘I have a problem. I want this kind of sound.’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah, hey, we can help you make that.’”

The partners had an online shop for four months before opening. The pandemic allowed them to focus time and resources on being able to open their shop, James said.

“Everyone’s stuck at home; one outlet is to build a studio,” he said.

Demand has been high, and the business sustainable, said James, who has a three-year lease.

James said it’s different from most businesses, because people are often unfamiliar with what they sell. So, teaching people about synths has been an important part of the job.

They let people try out the equipment, whether that means hooking up a drum machine to the system or connecting a keyboard synth to a noise machine to play out pieces, he said.

“Folks can come in here and play anything they want to. This is the place for experimentation,” he said. 

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David’s one of those San Francisco natives who gets excited whenever City College is mentioned. He has journalism degrees from there and San Francisco State University, graduating from the latter in May 2021. In college, David played five different roles as an editor at student news publications and reported as an intern for three local newspapers, mostly while waiting tables at the Alamo Drafthouse. His first job was at Mitchell's Ice Cream.

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