New Sounds: Brandeis raises its game through student-run Basement Records


Studio 52 is a community artist space located in the heart of Allston, and is proud to support the Boston music scene and local artist community.

At Brandeis University, recording studios and libraries just go together. While students rack their brains amidst dusty textbooks, one floor below, other Brandeis students are makin’ music at the aptly named Basement Records.

And like most good music, all the magic takes place underground — even in Waltham. The on-campus label’s latest release, piano-rap jam “Upwrite,” was born of a piano melody that blossomed from a session video for their Facebook page. After a few weeks’ worth of hyping the tune, Basement Records dropped the track and video yesterday (March 7).

Founded in the fall of 2015, Basement Records was created to kickstart a music industry community on Brandeis’ campus, something that was seriously lacking in the school’s music programs before the label was founded.

“Brandeis has an amazing classical music program and has a great music major [program] but there is a vacancy for the ever-changing dynamic music business of today,” says Brandeis sophomore and label president Avi Hirshbein. “Basement gives both artists and students a great taste of the business. Dealing with not only the creation of content, Basement also gives students a glimpse of the marketing and legal aspects of the industry.” 

For Brandeis students, utilizing any of the tools provided by Basement Records is completely free. The label can help students as much — or as little — as they desire, from refining their image and working on branding, to providing equipment for recording and audio engineering.

“Students who make music can either choose to produce and go through the whole process individually and send the final product to Basement, which then promotes it for them, or students can choose to begin from square one with Basement producers and engineers,” Hirshbein adds. “We don’t typically release many Basement Records original songs because we try to make them very anticipated when they do come out.”

For “Upwrite,” student Michael Harlow and Hirshbein opted for the latter when the two realized his piano ditty from the session video had potential. Hirshbein then enlisted Basement Records artist and Brandeis student Brian Rauch to pen the hook and Basement Records rapper Marcelo “Celo” Brociner to write and record a rap over Harlow’s piano melody.

“I made it a priority to make sure the recorded piano came from a grand piano at our Slosberg music department just so it can have the rich sound of how I heard it the first time,” Hirshbein says. “I rented out a professional microphone and took it to Slosberg where I had a recording session with Michael on the grand piano. After a little mixing and mastering of that recording, we went into the studio with both Harlow and Celo to record the vocals.”

Hirshbein attests to the song’s lack of “add-ons” — just a smooth blend of piano and vocals. Two more students, Abu Batjargal and Jay Tobin, worked on the engineering of the track, making a grand total of six collaborators on the song.

“Brandeis University never really had a tool like this,” Hirshbein notes. “There was so much talent on campus and nothing to tie it together. Since then it has become a great tool for not only developed artists, but also students who aspire to get better and create an image for themselves.”