Eve of the Atom Records began less as a stab at a lifelong dream, and more as a simple solution to a problem. Proactive Maine musician and engineer Frank Hopkins was collaborating with his pal Ben Burgess on a record, and devoting enough of a slice of his time to the endeavor that it made more sense to put a name to these everpresent projects.

Thus was born Eve of the Atom Records (eveoftheatom records.com), a family of artists tapped deep into Portland’s help-a-brother-out music scene ethos. It’s not a punk label, it’s not a dance label, it’s a quality collective of passionate people. And Hopkins’ crazy busy 2010 was all a result of the opportunistic response he took to being overwhelmed with artistic activity. GO sat down to hear about the highlights. 

Right there on the home page (eveof theatomrecords.com), you state that Eve of the Atom Records is more a family than a traditional label/artist dynamic. How does this play out in real life? Why are you committed to it, and do you ever encounter squabbles among passionate people as you would in a family with talent?

It’s kind of a natural extension of the whole music scene here in Maine, which is to say, we’re incredibly lucky to have the kind of environment where everybody is so helpful, friendly, accessible and professional. They say every family squabbles from time to time, and I’m sure we may encounter it, but everyone on the label is pretty professional about not letting egos interfere with music making, and for another we mostly just feel tremendously blessed to be able to live the dream. There is also a massive amount of admiration within the label for the talent folks are bringing to the table. I’m not gonna give Kenya Hall lip about leaving dog kibble on the floor of the studio all the time because my mouth is hanging open about the crushing take she just nailed … and technically I guess I’d have to take it up with her beagle anyway. 

You’ve had a pretty full year. Touch on all the highlights for us.

The release of Adam and The Waxmen’s second record, “Universal Soldiers,” which shows massive growth and maturation on the part of Adam, the band and the production value. The release of the much anticipated and long overdue debut record from the Kenya Hall Band, “Learning For Miles, Vol. 1.” The release of Benjamin Burgess’ “Skeleton Forms” and it’s subsequent radio play on the BBC in merry ol’ England. As far as live performance goes, the Aroostikoostik Music Festival way up north is curated by our labelmate Travis Cyr and is always one of my favorite trips each year. The revival of the Big Easy and it’s support of my own group Line Of Force is also one of the best things about this year. Having a weekly residency on Mondays has made us a tighter band and just makes us happier people. Monday is typically such a hated-upon day, and it’s the highlight of my week now, leaving the rest of the week room to grow more awesome as well. 

Who is newest to the Eve of the Atom roster? Have they been properly adapting or bringing their own little something to the party?

The newest chap we’ve got on board isn’t fully on board yet, because we’re taking so long to cut his record. But it is an epic record that will be worth the 10- or 15-year wait, and when it finally does come out ye shall know the name of John Clavette. He is playing a show this Saturday with Giraffe Attack and you can find him sitting in with us most Mondays at The Big Easy. Tremendous songwriter, arranger and vocalist. 

How did life end up dropping you off at “starting a record label?”

I woke up a couple years ago and realized I was in three different bands I really believed in and nobody else was really going to organize them, book them and manage them. I knew we needed a framework for that sort of thing so we could do it ourselves. And then I was working on Ben Burgess’ record, and he suggested we partner up and start a label. I was sold and we’ve been at work ever since. 

Are you more inclined to keep the artist count small and intimate and cultivate what you have, or is it the more the merrier on the label as we move into 2011?

Small and intimate. We have a rule that we can’t fit more people on the label than can all get in the bathtub at the same time. We only have one bathtub. Or less strangely, we really want to focus on figuring out how to be beneficial to our current artists and gain some clout before we just grab people willy nilly. 

What type of artist can a listener expect to hear on Eve of the Atom?

Original, organic and quality. We believe that much of what we hear on the radio and see on the telly is pure unadulterated crap, distracting the masses from the startling notion that they are beams of radiant light and the creators of untold alternate realities. And so that informs our ethic more than say, we are rock or soul or folk. 

Are there specific ways you want to expand this project in the new year?

We want to keep doing exactly what we’re doing. We’ve had great shows and great records, and we just want to keep doing it mo’ better. We had shows in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York and we want to keep spreading outward and solidifying those bases. We really want to send someone to Europe. Any Italian booking agents out there reading?

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland and Boston.