Last month, a small crowd gathered at Dauphin Street Sound to witness the launch of a new Azalea City music label, Skate Mountain Records. Its local-centric mission was accentuated not only by the choice of venue but also the evening’s showcase of the label’s first two signed artists. Skate Mountain co-founder/producer Scott Lumpkin says Mobile is more than ready to become a recognizable source of quality music on the national scene.
“With Skate Mountain Records, the idea is to showcase and develop what we’ve got here in the Mobile area,” Lumpkin explained. “We want to develop a sound and a genre of music from our world to show what we can and what we got.”
Skate Mountain Records is a combined effort of Lumpkin and his wife, Kate. Before conceiving Skate Mountain, their creative efforts were focused more on film. Over her career, Kate has helped bring sound to films such as “The Wild, Wild West,” “Ghost World” and “Austin Powers in Goldmember.” Scott has worked on the production side, with credits for “Everything Must Go,” “Safe Haven” and “The Best of Me,” among many others.
Throughout his career, Scott’s films have always come back to the Mobile area, the most recent being “Gerald’s Game.” Now the duo plans to use their talents, resources and connections to help local groups serve as music ambassadors to the world. The label’s assistance will come in the form of artist development, recording production, distribution and A&R.
“It’s a project that we want to do together,” Lumpkin said. “[Kate] came from the sound world and has moved into producing movies. The idea is to tap into our local resources and push it out there on a national level as high-quality as we can do here in Mobile.”
Jimmy Lumpkin & the Revival, was the first of two artists to join Skate Mountain’s roster. As the evening’s headliner, the band used the label’s launch party to introduce its debut, “Giants Up Ahead.” The album is a trip across the musical spectrum, with Jimmy expertly mingling rock, folk and blues, using his expressive voice as a common thread. The singer-songwriter admits this amalgamation of music was conceptualized while working in a Los Angeles studio with Kate and producer/engineer Noah Shain (Atreyu, Horse the Band).
“I’ve always separated [genres],” Jimmy said. “When Kate got involved and then Noah got involved, they said, ‘You can mix this stuff.’ The album is basically a mixture of all the stuff that I write. I’m very satisfied with the ability to play a rock ‘n’ roll song and then play a country song right beside it.”
Jimmy also says Shain’s gear and studio knowledge helped give this album its musical personality. In the beginning, Jimmy was leaning toward recording in his own home studio, but also wanted to lay down tracks in an analog recording environment. Kate eventually mentioned her connection to Shain, as well as his collection of analog recording gear. While Scott was in L.A. on business, he stopped by Shain’s studio and decided its environment would be perfect for his brother’s work.
When Shain got Jimmy into his studio, he laid his tracks on 2-inch analog tape, using a tape deck that had been used to record “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash) and “Frankenstein” (The Edgar Winter Group). After capturing the tracks on analog, Shain mixed them digitally back onto 2-inch tape. Ultimately, the process provided a precision mix that maintains the warm vibe of analog recording.
Over the next year, Jimmy says, promoting the album will be priority. Its debut single “My Name Is Love” will be included on the soundtrack for an upcoming Jackie Chan film, “The Foreigner.”
Skate Mountain also used the evening to introduce its second artist signed to the label. For several years, Underhill Family Orchestra has been one of the most successful and beloved bands on the local scene. They used their set at Skate Mountain’s launch party showcase to demonstrate why the label is interested in promoting their sound. Through their DIY efforts at distribution and touring, this band’s raucous mix of alt. rock and folk has already spread beyond the Azalea City, and their recruitment to the new label should further expand their audience.
Skate Mountain has no plans to stop at these two local groups. Scott Lumpkin says the label already has plans to add “four or five” new groups to the label’s roster over the next year. While open submissions are currently not an option, Scott says they are always on the lookout for a new local band at shows they attend.
For now, Scott and Kate are relying on “local resources” and “word of mouth” around town to decide which bands they will sample. All in all, they say, the bands they recruit need to be proper examples of what Mobile’s music scene has to offer.
Skate Mountain will also be keeping things local on the production side of things, working with Dauphin Street Sound. Scott says the combined efforts of the label and the studio could have successful results.
With the studio and the label sharing common goals, Mobile could once again be on its way to being a recognized music center on the national scene, which Scott says could be one of Skate Mountain’s biggest challenges. However, he said he feels his and Kate’s dedication to both the label and local talent are just what the Azalea City needs to boost its reputation.
“The biggest obstacle and challenge is that the world will say, ‘Mobile, Alabama? It’s about putting us on the map to show the rest of the world that we can compete at the biggest level possible and overcome many of the stereotypes of us not being a music center, which is what we’re about to be.”