We're seeing much more growth in the Provo music scene this year, and with one of their primary venues about to return to full form next month, many bands who haven't had their time to shine for a while will be able to step up in a big way. One of the businesses looking to help fuel that growth is Mountain Beach House Studio, a recording spot located on Center Street offering high-quality recordings to up-and-coming bands. Today, we chat with the founder Mark Carey about the place and their impact on local music. (All pictures courtesy of MBCS.)
Gavin: Hey Mark, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m from Alpine, I’ve been playing guitar and cello for 15 years, I’m an avid BYU sports fan and I come from a very musical family.
Gavin: What first got you interested in music, and what were your favorite acts growing up?
My parents are musical—my dad plays piano very well, and my mom is a singer. My mom actually started out at BYU as a music major, but later switched to history. My dad would always accompany me for my cello recitals and competitions. So I’ve always grown up with music. I grew up listening to The Beach Boys and John Denver. Those are the acts I remember listening to the most, because my parents liked them. In high school, I really got into Styx, Journey, Kansas, Billy Joel, Boston. That’s kind of where my love for rock and roll started.
Gavin: You attended BYU and earned your BA for Music in Sound Recording Technology. What was your time like there, and what did you think of their program?
I loved my time at BYU. It’s such a great school. The SRT program at BYU is pretty great, and it’s just getting better. Since Ron Saltmarsh has taken over as head of the program, he’s made a lot of really great changes. It’s now changed to be the Commercial Music program, combining Media Music and Sound Recording Technology. It’s much more personalized now to what you want your career to be. He’s also improved curriculum, upgraded the studios, and other things. For me, the program was great because it gave me a start and taught me fundamentals about how recording and sound works. It also gave a great experiences to practice and experiment while doing projects in BYU’s "Studio Y." My favorite classes were Recording Studio with Bart Schaerrer. That’s where I really started to learn about microphones, and studio equipment and techniques.
Gavin: I read that you toured with The Young Ambassadors groups as a sound engineer. How was it for you to earn that kind of experience?
The Young Ambassadors are such an awesome group. Dedicated to spreading love and happiness through music. I got to tour to South Africa, China and Southeast Asia, as well as Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and around Utah. It was awesome to see how the people in other countries loved our show. Especially in China, they are so desperate for outside entertainment and just love American entertainment. It was the best experience I could have gotten while in school on sound. We did everything, [from] setting up the equipment to mixing the show. Invaluable experience. I really learned how to craft a mix there.
Gavin: During this time, you were also playing in local bands like Brooklyn Gabbitas and Dry Erase Tracks. What was it like for you being a part of the music scene at that time?
I started getting in the Provo music scene when I got home from my mission, so I’ve learned a lot about how the scene works and what it takes to get noticed. So that was great when we started Dry Erase Tracks, because I knew what needed to be done from watching other bands succeed and fail. My first band was with a girl named Haili Murch, and I grew tremendously as a guitarist while playing with her. I figured out how to craft guitar parts to fit with the rest of the band, which helps me a ton in the studio as I play guitar parts on other people’s songs. And with Brooklyn, I helped her put together her band and arrange her songs for a full band. I still have connections I use that I made from Brooklyn’s band.
Gavin: When did you learn about June Audio, and how did you get an internship with them?
I wanted to get an internship at a recording studio to get more experience in the studio. I really didn’t know much about June Audio, and emailed them along with many other studios around. Scott Wiley was the only one that got back to me and said he was looking for a new intern. I learned so much. Scott was so awesome with teaching me everything he could. I would help set up microphones, and he would teach me about mic placements. I would watch him mix, and he would tell me why he was doing what he was doing. He also taught me a lot about how sessions work and how the music industry works. I worked with everyone from Book On Tape Worm, The New Electric Sound, Allred, Fictionist, Mercy River, Parlor Hawk and Neon Trees. The experience with Fictionist was an awesome learning experience, because I was working for a whole summer with them on their record with Atlantic Records. They had brought in a producer from LA, and I really saw how the music industry works on the corporate level. Very interesting. Also made some lasting friendships and connections with the guys in Fictionist.
Gavin: What influenced you to start your own studio, and why Mountain Beach House for the name?
Having my own recording studio has always been my dream. Someday I want to do that full-time—that’s my dream job. I want to have my own June Audio someday. I was already starting to record friends and stuff at my apartment, so after I graduated from BYU I decided that I ought to give it a try and do the real thing. Mountain Beach House comes from the fact that I have always had a deep love for the beach and the ocean, but I live in the mountains. So I put together to parts of who I am, and I thought the paradox was kind of cool. I added house because I thought it gave it a nice ring and also established a location.
Gavin: How did you come across the space near Guru's and what was it like setting up for a recording space?
I worked for The Str!ke for about a year and one of the guitarists, Chase Baker (who I also was friends from the BYU program), was using this space for some of his work. He told me that he was moving out and wondered if I wanted the space, so I took it. I had already been running a studio out of my parent’s house in Alpine. They were nice enough to let me turn my old bedroom into a studio. So over about eight months there, I was tweaking how I had stuff set up until I was happy. When I got the place in Provo, it was just a matter of transferring it over—it’s a nice little space, but it’s definitely big enough to record any instrument by itself, and sometimes a couple together. It has high ceilings which were great for acoustics. I record drums here too. We just push some of equipment aside and set up the drums in the corner. Because of the high ceilings, drums actually sound fantastic in this space. I usually just wait until 8 or 9 at night to record drums so I don’t bother the other offices around me.
Gavin: What made you decide to take this one as a one-man operation rather than getting some additional staff?
The studio is small enough that lots of people [makes it feel] crowded, and if I have a band here, it’s really crowded if we bring in any additional people. Also, since I am usually recording one instrument at a time, I don’t need anyone else to help. So it’s more of a practical logistical thing. Also ... I don’t have a ton to pay another employee. Later on, when I get a bigger space and dedicate more time to the studio, I’d probably consider getting some additional help.
Gavin: Who are some of your favorite bands you've had a chance to work with since opening the studio?
I’ve done two albums with the bands Likelihood and Grizzly Goat so far. Likelihood
was a punk rock band, which was fun because I’ve never recorded punk before, so it was fun to experiment with getting their sounds. I had a blast cooking up guitar tones with them. I also did a lot of producing with them, helping them flesh out their songs and adding parts, etc. Grizzly Goat was a blast too. They’re a folk rock band, and I’ve always loved folk music. It was fun to see their songs come together in new ways than they had been playing them live. I also recently recorded an EP for a kid named Jaren McMillan—we did an Ed Sheeran meets Explosions in the Sky/Sigur Ros style and I think it’s one of the best sounding albums I’ve done.
Gavin: You're one of the few studios I know of that publicly gives a list of people you recommend working with on recordings, from music to photography to design work. What made you decide to push those people?
A couple of reasons—I actually got the idea from my good friend Stephen Cope at Studio Studio Dada. He had that on his website and I told him I was going to steal that idea. In addition, I just love helping other people do what they love (and get paid for it). Also, it was a convenience thing for me too so that I didn’t have to rack my brain every time someone asked for a certain skill set. I didn’t have to think of who did what of my friends, I could just look at my list and have all their info there. Also, I’m not going to pretend that I can do something that I’m not very good at. For example, if someone wants a simple bass line on a song, I’ll record it myself. But if they want a more complex bass line, I’m not going to try and do it, I’m going to hire one of my bass friends like Rob Qualls or Matt White.
Gavin: How has it been for you working with so many talented people so far in your career and having an impact on the local music scene?
I’d be flattered to know that I’ve made an impact on the local scene. I love Provo music and want it to just keep improving. If I can have an impact on that, that would be incredible. With that said, I would love to eventually become one of the names that everyone knows in Provo music, alongside Corey Fox, Scott Wiley, Nate Pyfer, etc. Because then I would know that I’m doing what I love and helping enough bands to be making an impact. I just want to make awesome music and let other people know that I’m making awesome music.
Gavin: Do you have any plans to expand the studio in any way or are you comfortable with things how they are?
Eventually, yes. For the time being, I’m going to stay where I’m at. I have a day job at Best in Music, so I’m going to work there and save money, and then eventually when I have enough in savings and enough steady work coming into the studio, I would like to quit my day job, expand the studio and do this full-time. I’d also love to buy a house and move the studio into the house someday.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and the studio over the rest of 2015?
I’m finishing up albums with Jeremy Packer, Taylor Warner, and my own band Dry Erase Tracks. I’m also going to finish my second solo album this year. I hope to sponsor some local Battle of the Bands (I’ve sponsored BYU’s twice) and hopefully get my name out there more.