Under the Influence covers Radiohead, Pixies, REM, Joy Division and more

Berklee's student-run label Heavy Rotation Records (HRR) releases its latest project, Under the Influence, on February 14. The compilation – available on CD and via download – features Berklee students and alumni covering some of rock's biggest names, including REM, Green Day, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, and Smashing Pumpkins, and the seminal bands that influenced their sounds—Mission of Burma, Hüsker Dü, Joy Division, Gang of Four, the Pixies, and My Bloody Valentine.

Under the Influence was produced by Paul Kolderie, cofounder of famed Fort Apache Studios, who produced or engineered some of the original artists. Unlike past HRR CDs, where students submitted songs already recorded, Kolderie went into the studio with artists chosen by the label and helmed the project from the beginning. He used the same console from sessions with the Pixies and Radiohead, along with some of the original amps, pre-amps, and mics. "Unfortunately the original studios are gone, so we couldn't go to those locations, " said Kolderie. "But we did as much as possible to incorporate the older gear into the new songs." In addition to Pixies and Radiohead, Kolderie's credits include Billy Bragg, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr., Hole, Morphine, Portugal. The Man, and many more.

The album features Julia Easterlin (Pixies, Radiohead), Da'Rayia (Gang of Four, Red Hot Chili Peppers), David Pramik featuring Johnny Duke (Joy Division, U2), the Boston Boys featuring Emily Elbert (Hüsker Dü, Green Day), the Berklee String Metal Ensemble (My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins), and Pinn Panelle (Mission of Burma, REM). The project gave each HRR artist the opportunity to reinterpret songs by a pair of these classic bands, writing their own arrangements and instrumentations for the new versions. Although the artists are performing covers for this project, they are not cover bands. Each writes and performs original music in varied genres—with the exception of the Berklee String Metal Ensemble.

HRR's faculty advisor Jeff Dorenfeld hatched the concept for the record while talking to his son one day. "He was listening to My Bloody Valentine and Husker Dü, and it dawned on me that these bands have become more popular because of the bands they influenced, " said Dorenfeld. He took the idea into his class and added constraints: a member of the influenced band had to mention the influential band [in print], and the influential band could not have had a major recording career. The students researched the bands to choose the artist pairings. "We also decided to cover the bands in different genres than the original recording, which led to picking a bluegrass band to cover punk bands Husker Dü and Green Day, for instance, " he added.

HRR is a class that gives music business/management majors at Berklee hands-on experience in running a record company. Under Dorenfeld's guidance, the student staff oversees all of the label's functions, including marketing, sales, web development, media, and accounting. The label presents events in the Boston area and at some of the music industry's largest festivals, including SXSW in Austin and the CMJ Music Marathon in New York, and recently had an artist perform at Lollapalooza in Chicago. HRR celebrated Under The Influence with a concert in Boston that featured a special guest performance by Roger Miller of Mission of Burma.

The label's releases since 1995 have included Shekinah: 13 Artists, distributed by Epic; Apollo Sunshine's second CD, coreleased with spinART; and Dorm Sessions 1-7. Many up-and-coming artists have appeared on HRR albums, including St. Vincent (as Annie Clark), members of Passion Pit (as the Peasantry), the Click Five (as Oscar Bravo), Christopher Barnes (of Gem Club); Elizabeth and the Catapult; Big D and the Kids Table, and Madi Diaz. The label also serves as a springboard for careers in the music industry. HRR alumni have gone on to work at Interscope, Capitol, DreamWorks, BMG, Universal, Live Nation, AEG Live, and RightsFlow.

RightsFlow collaborated with HRR to provide marketing and licensing support for the recording project. Licensing was provided through Limelight, RightsFlow's online mechanical clearance utility that ensures legal compliance and accurate accounting and payment to songwriters and publishers. Designed by musicians for musicians, Limelight is a simple way for any artist, band, choir, or other musical group to clear any cover song for release. RightsFlow was acquired by Google in 2011.

About the artists:

Julia Easterlin is one part siren, one part loop scientist, and a sophisticated musical mind that can wield composition, production, and performance in one fell swoop. Not only is Easterlin a versatile singer-songwriter, vocalist, pianist, and guitarist, but her looping machine also makes her into a virtual one-woman band. In 2007, she was awarded a full scholarship to Berklee, where she graduated with a degree in several disciplines. Under the Influence marks Easterlin's second HRR appearance: she was also featured on Dorm Sessions 7. Easterlin performed at Lollapalooza, SXSW and CMJ in 2011, and traveled to Cuba to perform with the Berklee Interarts Ensemble.

Da'Rayia is a band of Berklee students that play a variety of genres, including hip-hop, jazz, soul, funk, rock, and reggae, fronted by vocalist and rapper Da'Rayia Wilson. The group features Dennis Drummond on guitar, Clynton Cox on bass, Coran Henley on drums, and Jonathan Lotson on keyboards. Wilson, the group's namesake, was the first winner of the Berklee and Essence magazine hip-hop songwriting contest. She subsequently was awarded a full scholarship to Berklee. Wilson, a dual major in music business/management and contemporary writing and production, is busy writing, performing, and producing her own music.

David Pramik featuring Johnny Duke: David Pramik's debut album Expectations is catching listeners with its intricate guitar work and vocal harmonies. Pramik draws inspiration from artists like D'Angelo, Norah Jones, and A Tribe Called Quest. Berklee graduate Johnny Duke picked up the electric guitar at 10 and fell in love with the blues. He has found success fronting Johnny Duke and the Aces, and as a sideman in varied genres. Pramik and Duke are joined by students, guitarist Matt Thompson, bassist Spencer Stewart, vocalist Avena Savage, and drummer Tom Myers; and keyboardist Nate Hopkins. Producer Paul Kolderie played bass on "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

The Boston Boys featuring Emily Elbert: The Boston Boys have been touring the past two years. Described as an electrified psychedelic soul string band, they blend roots-rock with pop, folk, and Appalachian music. The lineup features alumni Eric Robertson on mandolin, Josh Hari on bass, Vishal Nayak on drums, Duncan Wickel on fiddle, Stash Wyslouch on guitar, and Jesse Scheinin on sax. Student guitarist Emily Elbert has played across the U.S., in Scotland, Puerto Rico, and Peru, and has won awards including the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Foundation's jazz ensemble, WUMB's Best New Artist, and Glamour's Top 10 College Women. Elbert's second CD, Proof, features strong melodies, straight-to-the-heart vocals, and intricate guitar work.

The Berklee String Metal Ensemble is a student group composed of three cellists, two violinists, two drummers, a bassist, and a vocalist. They play melodic death metal, with some hardcore influence. The group covers bands such as Dark Tranquility, Arch Enemy, and Heaven Shall Burn. Band members include Trev Wignall and Jason Lim on violin; Dean Capper, David Tangney, and Eden Raiz on cello; Aaron Liao on bass; Steven Hopkins on vocals; Rae Amitay on drums and vocals; and Carson Groenewold on drums.

Pinn Panelle is composed of Berklee students Jonah Wei-Haas, and Chris Nicholas; and alumni Derek Song, Justin Conway, and Brian Kohlhoff. Their sound is influenced by Muse and Thrice, with elements of dubstep, techno, electronica, and classical mixed in. Said AltSounds of the group’s debut, "The last three songs are possibly the best. The intensity and beautiful strangeness escalates, and you want to play it louder and louder. 'Firelight,' 'Throwing Out a Heart,' and 'Come to the Ground' ignite in such subtle, beautiful ways that you want to go back and start over from track one again."

Berklee College of Music, for over 65 years, has evolved to support its belief that the best way to prepare students for careers in music is through contemporary music education. The college was the first in the U.S. to teach jazz, the popular music of the time. It incorporated rock n’ roll in the 1960s, created the world's first degree programs in film scoring, music synthesis, and songwriting, and, in recent years, added world music, hip-hop, electronica, and video game music to its curriculum. With a diverse student body representing over 80 countries, a music industry "who’s who" of alumni that have received 250 Grammy Awards, Berklee is the world’s premier learning lab for the music of today – and tomorrow.

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