EDITOR'S NOTE: Noisemakers is a new series spotlighting young companies who have built a name for themselves in their communities through organic, minimal branding, and with support from core influencers in their space.
Brand: Album Surf
Years in Business: 6
Interviewee: Matt Parker
Job Title: Founder
Album Founder Matt Parker started shaping boards out of his garage about 18 years ago. His unique shapes and designs, mixed with an appealing aesthetic and community-based approach, has helped Parker elevate Album, but it’s only been over the past six years that the brand has risen to recognition.
Transworld Business stopped by their showroom earlier this week to have a chat with Parker about how Album has built a local community while also resonating internationally, their partnership with Josh Kerr, his take on the surf industry and a whole lot more.
Album’s audience has grown far past San Clemente. How have you gained that much traction? And how has Album been received internationally?
Surfing is interesting. Even though you can head into any shop and buy a stock board, people still like the idea of having a shaper design a board specifically for them. We make unique shapes and designs for each one, thus crafting a new story for each one.
It’s not some made-up marketing campaign to present our boards or brand in a certain way. It’s just us, and what we do. I think that people all over the world like that aspect.
Recently, someone from Spain was visiting Los Angeles and postponed their flight an extra day, just so they could drive down and visit. But at the same time, people that live down the street will poke their heads in – thinking we are a record label at first – and ask what we do. It creates a very unique dynamic for us and we get orders from all over the world.
If you were wondering how they literally receive Album overseas, we ship globally – and all of our sales are direct-to-consumer.
Would you consider your marketing approach to be different?
Yes. We don’t have a large marketing budget so we have to be creative with how we get ourselves out there. It lets us focus on the one-on-one customer experience, which I think is better because it allows the customer to connect with the brand.
What’s your biggest driver of sales?
As far as from a marketing approach, Instagram definitely generates the most interest because it allows people to connect with brands. We’re making unique, artsy boards, so whatever channel we can push that out on is best.
What are your biggest inspirations for each shape and design?
Color is my biggest influence – the balance of contrast, neutrals, pop-color, black … Unique shades and saturations mixed and paired together, art outside of the surf world, graphic design, as well as ’90s hardcore music and snowboarding.
How did you get Josh Kerr on board?
We just reached out. We knew he was retiring from the tour so we just messaged him and said, “Hey, let’s make you something different.” Because on tour they ride stock boards, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity for both of us. We sent him a bunch of asymmetricals and fishier boards just to play around on.
He was psyched on how they looked, rode and the freedom that came along with it. So from there, it opened up a new avenue for his surfing.
It was validating to get that kind of a response because a lot of people think asymmetrical boards are just a gimmick. So to have someone that legitimate, surf that well on your boards … It just feels good.
I noticed you recently made boards for Filipe Toledo and Dane Reynolds as well?
Yeah. For Filipe, we made him a fish to play around on. For Dane, we made him an Asymmetrical board for the Stab Mag Electric Acid Surfboard Test. We made a board for it – specifically for him – and we made a few replicas for the showroom to sell.
We’re in a nice space where we’re known for alternative shapes, so some of the tri-fin performance guys with sponsors feel a little more freed up to play around on our stuff without it interfering with their “serious” surfing.
How much has the brand evolved since it first launched?
When I started Album about 18 years ago, it was not a business – at all. It was just my own creative extension to play around with new shapes and designs. After about the first five-to-eight years, it caught its first gust of wind, but it was still not really a business.
We have a warehouse located in Oceanside and used to work out of some office space at Surfrider Foundation, but for the most part, we’ve always been based in San Clemente. It sort of became an official business about six years ago, but it’s still my creative extension. So in a sense, it still doesn’t feel like a business, even though it’s taken off and turned into one.
What’s your current view on the surf industry?
I think it’s a really interesting time. Everyone knows that it can be difficult for big brands and I think that’s largely because the landscape is just so different nowadays. It’s almost like once you get to a size that big, is there even a market to sustain that? All in all, I think it’s [the surf industry] figuring itself out, which makes for fun opportunities.
In today’s age, the world is very connected and a ton of people surf. Even people who don’t identify as a surfer are still interested in surfing, which opens up all these little splintered nuances of demographics that you’re trying to reach.
So I think as long as you can create your own audience, and live in that space, you don’t have to be massive to run a sustainable business. You just need an audience that likes it. And that’s the cool thing about surfing … It still has its individualistic, handmade, aesthetic, with unlimited possibilities.
A lot of other sports have everything mass produced and it all looks the same. In surfing, you can have something made just for you that no one else has. It looks different and it’s shaped differently than everything else. And I mean, it’s 2018. That’s pretty amazing that we still have that.
All photos by Album.
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