For Peter Holland-Recine, a senior in music production and engineering at Berklee College, getting his band onto Berklee’s student-run record label, Heavy Rotation Records,has been a boost.
“The most important things that we have gained from Heavy Rotation are recognition and exposure, which then give us validation in the [music] industry,” he said of his Black Lettle band.
The label recently sold out its 10th annual release concert for its latest album, Dorm Sessions: 7 at the college’s 1,200-seat performance center, where all nine of the artists featured on the album performed.
Many agreed that the label has given their musical careers a terrific jump start.
Black Kettle is one of nine local artists featured on Dorm Sessions. 7 Others include Ann Driscoll, Jordan Tarrant, Liz Longley, Tin Soldier, Julia Easterlin, Liptease, Tais Alvarenga, and KR & the Future. The album features a compilation of rock, pop, Latin, folk and hip-hop genres.
Commonly known as HR, the label has released 12 albums since 1995, which have featured artists such as Big D and the Kids Table, The Click Five, and Emerson’s own Passion Pit. Heavy Rotation Records is run by students participating in the music business and management practicum at Berklee.
“The label serves as a springboard for careers in the music industry,” said Berklee’s website, which cited HR alumni as current Interscope, Capitol Records, DreamWorks, Live Nation, and Universal employees.
The faculty advisor of the label, Jeff Dorenfeld, who is also the former manager of the band Boston, said that the practicum gives students the opportunity to work with realities of the music world.
“The students must apply what they’ve learned in a practical sense, take risks, and do the work of a true label. The result isn’t a test score, it’s the record itself,” he said.
Heavy Rotation student director Cierra Walker, a senior music business and management major, said the best part of running the practicum as a “true label” is that it helps the artists focus on their music. “We take care of all the business aspects so that the artists don’t have to. That way, they can focus on putting their best work forward, creating the best show possible and getting the most exposure they can,” she said.
Heavy Rotation produced 2,000 copies of Dorm Sessions: 7, which was given away to those who attended the release concert.
Berklee junior music production and electronic production design double major Julia Easterlin said the album and its release performance have given her a broader audience and acknowledgement in the Berklee music scene.
“I have received a lot of positive feedback from not only the Berklee community but from the Boston community as a whole. People recognize me and are so enthusiastic about and supportive of my music,” she said. “I’ve gained lot more listeners than I ever could have on my own.”
Holland-Recine, Black Kettle’s guitarist, said that the band had put a lot of work into promoting themselves but that it was Heavy Rotation that sparked the band’s exposure.
“All of a sudden things just exploded for us with the release of the album and after the performance. It all happened much faster than ever before,” he said.
Both Easterlin and Black Kettle agree that Heavy Rotation’s support has been the most beneficial to them. Black Kettle vocalist and guitarist Kailynn West, a Berklee senior music production and engineering major, said the band’s collaboration with the label has given it the reputation it needs to continue on in the business.
“We’re not sure where we’ll be headed next, but we know that our relationship with Heavy Rotation will extend beyond Berklee and we will be able to continue to work together,” she said. “That kind of support is really encouraging.”
Easterlin said Heavy Rotation has helped her become more secure in her musical style and identity. “It makes it so much easier when you’re booking a gig to have someone there to back you up and say, ‘She really can do this,’” she said. “Their support really boosts my faith in having a musical career.”
Heavy Rotation is currently working with four of its recorded artists and will be attending the “South by Southwest” music festival in Austin, Texas, which Dorenfeld described as one of the largest independent music events in the country. “The music never stops at South by Southwest, it is 24/7,” he said. “A lot of artists get discovered there.”
The festival will begin on March 17 and end March 21. Attending the event will be Black Kettle, Ann Driscoll, Jordan Tarrant, and Nini & Ben, a Heavy Rotations alumni group.
“We’re driving down and checking out all the major music cities along the way,” Holland-Recine said. “We’re going to see where we fit in.”
Editor’s addendum: I went to the last Dorm Sessions concert, which is why I asked Rheanna to write about this. It was the night of the ‘blizzard that wasn’t,’ and a meeting had been cancelled, so I decided to celebrate by asking for a press pass to this event – I have never been happier with a blizzard in my life. This year more than 300 individuals and groups auditioned, so the nine who were finally selected all totally feel like “top of the heap” performers.
I won’t try to say something intelligent about every single act, although I really liked every single one. But I was especially moved by Liz Longely and Julia Easterlin. When they sing about love it’s easy enough to imagine being in love with them, if you’re inclined that way. But what they really accomplish is to model a version of love that you want to adopt as your own. For a few minutes they make what should be seem like what actually is. That’s what makes us want to listen to them over and over again.
I also appreciate that the concert organizers topped it off with KR and the Future – they were a great band to climax the evening with – sent us back out into the faux storm with a little extra energy.
- Stephen Brophy