Arts & Entertainment

Tacoma’s MountainHouse Recordings Breaks Down the Studio Hierarchy

If you asked Andrew Nalty and Colin Scott Reynolds what they think of Tacoma’s artistic scene, the answer would be simple: sprawling hills of untapped potential. They want to help that potential pour like a faucet on the fritz.

Creating content, bringing the community together — this is the modus operandi of their production company, MountainHouse Recordings. As musicians and artists themselves, they understand the struggle of growing a brand from the ground up. The desire to make this aspect easier for musicians fuels the MountainHouse engine.

Nalty co-founded MountainHouse Recordings between 2009 and 2010 from the ashes of a previous recording endeavor that fell through. While making ends meet with a roofing job, he decided to book two weeks of studio time at Tacoma’s well-known Sound West Studio.

“I never left,” he says. “I owe a great deal to Steve, owner of Sound West, for giving me the tools and equipment to make this all happen.” In Sound West, Nalty found a home where he could realize his vision.

Two years later, Nalty’s friend and broadcasting major, Jesse Goodrum, came into Sound West to work on a school project, which Nalty engineered. He also never left.

In 2014, their operation at Sound West began to outgrow just the music, blossoming into a larger, more all-encompassing multimedia affair. Videotaping bands and artists during their recording sessions gave birth to the “Cave Sessions,” an in-studio performance series. MountainHouse TV — or “MHTV” — became the home for Cave Sessions and more: “Reel Take,” an intimate, acoustic singer/songwriter series; and “ShowCast,” which promotes upcoming events around the Tacoma area with quirky visuals not far removed from early 90s Nickelodeon cartoons.

Nalty and Reynolds strongly believe that shameless cross-promotion, in a multimedia format, nurtures a healthy art scene.

“We want to bring people together in the same room,” Nalty reassures. He believes a focus on resourcefulness over competition strengthens the bond between local artists and artistic organizations. “We want to treat Tacoma like a big city,” says Nalty.

Andrew touts a healthy relationship with Tacoma’s Swoon Records as an example. Many acts Nalty worked with subsequently signed with or were distributed by the local label. In addition, he gives artists the option to send their final mixes to BlackBelt Mastering, where many of his acts also follow up.

With that, Nalty and Reynolds emphasize the importance of spending money on production quality. Anybody can record in a garage, but MountainHouse wants to help artists make something of a quality worth shamelessly self-promoting, on a broader scale.

“We want to do it right. Smiling faces and full pockets for everyone, not just ourselves. We want to pay the artists fairly. To make something they’re proud of. We didn’t get in it to be administrators.”

Following through with that objective, MountainHouse wants to educate local artists about effective self-promotion. They want the hanging of flyers, promotion of events on social media and even the buying of radio spots in the local broadcasting circuit to become habitual. Whatever they can do to help local artists promote themselves, they’ll hang their hat on it.

Being artists themselves, Nalty and his crew want to meet local artists to see how they tick.

“Come pick our brains, see what we’re about. Even if you’re not musicians,” says Nalty. On top of recording, their services include graphic design, merchandising, music videos, promotional videos, press kits — and more. If artists would rather do it all themselves, they won’t take offense — they’re more than happy to just give budding artists the tools to grow.

“Just come hang out. If you want to use us for all the things we do — or none of the things — we just want to see what you’re all about. We just love meeting people,” says Reynolds.

As for the future, Nalty and Reynolds hope to build on their early successes even further. On New Year’s Eve, Tacoma’s First Night event will hold a MountainHouse stage for the third year in a row. From there, hosting larger events with even larger turnouts dots the radar. This year sees the release of the first MountainHouse Compilation, featuring bands they’ve recorded: Coma Figura, Cloud Person, Etchings and many more. For prospective musicians looking to hear the capabilities of MountainHouse Recordings, this compilation makes for a solid preview piece.

They provide free studio tours for any prospective clients. Better yet, their studio is less than a mile up the hill from the UW Tacoma campus. Take heed, UWT students.