Banks Journal: Matt, can you tell us a bit about your upbringing and where you are from?
Matt: I grew up in Orange California in the 80s & 90s, came from a big family, lots of brothers & sisters. My parents loved to take us all over the place, so we spent much of our time growing up traveling and learning about different places & cultures together as a family. I was very active in anything I could do - skating & surfing, playing all kinds of sports, making art, all that good stuff. Spent a majority of my youth outdoors screwing around.
Banks Journal: What inspired you to start shaping boards? And did you always envision the craft as a vehicle to be a brand owner or was it strictly passion and hobby at first?
Matt: I was going to school for design and had been taking all sorts of art & sculpture related classes and it just seemed inevitable that I'd try shaping some boards for myself. I got the most rudimentary tools I could find and a Clark Foam blank, rigged up some very questionable racks and just sorta went for it. Surprisingly what I hacked out resembled a surfboard, glassed it and just had the most fun surfing it and figuring it out. Was such a great learning experience and was the first time that I did something artistic that had this functional side to it that I could dig in and feel and make fun with. So I was hooked and wanted to try and make all these different ideas that I had, that I couldn't find in other shapes bumping around shortboard central Newport Beach CA. I made boards for probably 10 years as a side project / hobby - never ever with the intention for it to be more than that. That gave me a ton of freedom because it didn't really matter - I could make and ride whatever - it was just a personal creative expression. At it's core this is still what it is - other people just know about it now haha.
Banks Journal: There is clearly a heavy artistic and graphic influence with your boards. Can you share a bit about which artists inspired you and the significance color and art play on the surfboards your shape?
Matt: Yea my background in design plays a big part in the approach and aesthetic with Album and our boards. I try to treat each board as a unique one off piece rather than a commodity, which is why you see a lot of variation in style and color and even logo style & usage board to board. I think color & design play a huge part in how you feel about a board psychologically and I feel like boards tend to surf better when your mind is excited about it and your senses are intrigued! Plus I think it just feels more special - and less like a commodity. In school I remember being excited about Mark Rothko's art because it was mostly about color and the contrasts and feelings you could get from the most simplistic color expression. Playing with resin tints and color combinations with surfboards in a similar way can bring the same feelings for me.
Banks Journal: When you step into the shaping bay to begin on a new board, do you already have an idea of the art, colors, and graphics you want to use? Or does the shaping process inform the visuals you want to apply?
Matt: Usually no - Usually I'm thinking purely about the board design - the shape and the curves only. This is always the most important thing of all to me. The finished shape then usually becomes the canvas to think about separately. Sometimes I have an idea in mind beforehand but I usually treat them as their own unique process. When I'm making a custom board for a customer it's different though as we've usually figured out the color & design in advance. So I have it in mind before I shape.
Banks Journal: Who has influenced you most in surfing and in your career?
Matt: Well I always wished I surfed like Tom Curren but it'd be a stretch to say you could see his influence in my surfing haha. Really though, my wife and kids 100%. They're the reason I wake up and work as hard as I can everyday.
Banks Journal: At Album, it would seem you guys do your best to keep the sourcing and shaping process as wholesome and environmentally friendly as possible. Can you elaborate further on what is important to you in this regard and which areas, if any, you would like the surf industry as a whole to improve upon?
Matt: I just think the most sustainable thing we can do in our position is to make what we make really, really well, make it so it lasts, that it's of the highest quality, so that people get years of use out of it and they pass it on to someone else to enjoy someday. We're intentionally small and plan to keep it that way. We mostly just try to not be wasteful and care for our community and our local crews that we build our boards with.
Banks Journal: Any hobbies or side interests outside of shaping and running a business that you enjoy?
Matt: Love to snowboard, do anything with my kids.
Banks Journal: Top three favorite surfers of all time?
Banks Journal: Any advice out there for markers and artists learning their craft?
Matt: Make what you like, not what you're supposed to like or what you've been told is cool. What do YOU actually like? And then just do it all the time and explore everywhere your brain wants to go.
Banks Journal: And lastly, since you’re kindly blessing us with your go-to Spotify playlist; who is your all-time favorite artist?
Matt: Geeeez is that even possible? Individual artist? Cat Stevens, Morrissey, Johnny Cash, Ian Mackaye....too hard to say!
Photos by Brennan Wright