As of this semester, Basement Records is back on campus to facilitate connections between student artists. Like many other clubs, Basement Records died out when Brandeis went remote during the pandemic. Originally founded in 2019 by Avi Hershbein ’19 as a student-run record label (without contracts, of course), the club made a quick splash, but failed to pick up steam. Without online recruitment opportunities, all the members graduated without successors. Basement Records, it seemed, was dead.

That is, until this semester. President Yair Berzofsky ’24, Co-Vice Presidents Miles Lloyd ’24, and Aaron “Ace” Kelly ’24 met after they heard each other playing music through the walls of Hassenfeld-Krivoff 4 in East Quad. “We would get together and film music videos for each other,” Berzofsky said in an interview with the Justice on Oct. 17. “We thought, why not expand this community, and spend some of Brandeis’ money while we’re at it?”

Joined by marketing specialist Liz Sandoval ’25, the executive board has kept the original name but rebuilt the concept to include all art forms. Basement Records was once a student-run record label — now, it’s "an inclusive space for multimedia artists to connect and collaborate," according to their Instagram, which Sandoval runs. “There’s a ton of insanely talented people on this campus, but none of them know each other,” Berzofsky said. “The best way to create is with other people.”

The three leaders are all film majors, who bemoan their program’s lack of creative initiative. “The film department does not provide a lot of avenues to actually practice, so we want to do that for people,” Lloyd said, citing the thousands of dollars of equipment available in the Sound and Image Media Studios lab, which frequently goes unutilized by creators. Berzofsky works in the SIMS lab, where he has been trained and licensed to use the state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment — a “golden ticket,” as Kelly says. “The fact that I didn’t know about 50% of SIMS’ resources until I started working here is a problem,” Berzofsky said. Additionally, Lloyd and Kelly are experienced musicians and have hosted songwriting and Logic Pro workshops in SIMS. “We’re here to help, but the creators do all the work,” Berzofsky added.

At a typical Basement Records meeting, the SIMS lab is filled with aspiring artists looking to connect with one another. Along with providing this forum, the e-board has created activities that not only help members improve their technical skills, but also promote collaboration. On Sept. 22, they hosted a Beat Roulette, where producers traded computers every ten minutes and expanded on each other’s beats. They are also in the midst of a songwriting challenge, where vocalists and producers are randomly paired and given two weeks to write a song.

What the e-board is most excited about, however, is their gradual construction of a campus-wide creative directory. Despite their relaunch a mere 12 weeks ago, Basement Records has amassed 96 members, with new people still joining. They hope to cultivate a line of communication between all Brandeis students who want to collaborate artistically. “If you want to make a music video,” Kelly said, “you need lights, cameras, actors.” Lloyd continued, “If someone is in need of those things, we can just send out an email so that anyone in the Brandeis community can contribute.” Or, maybe you need a drummer to fill out your band — Basement Records can help with that too.

Once a piece is finished — be it a song, an album, a music video, or a film — Basement Records helps creators get exposure for their work. “Great, you made something,” Kelly said, “now let us help you market and distribute it.” For example, Sandoval, who is in charge of the club’s online presence, spotlighted student creator “barelyanygood” when they dropped a new song last week.

Sandoval, a queer Latinx creator, spoke on the value of inclusivity in creative spaces: “Lots of the time, people who look like me or face similar disadvantages in life are redlined. I want our creatives to feel stable in their dreams.” It’s important that in a field so vulnerable, every student feels accommodated and welcome — Sandoval also highlighted creative grants as a member of the Leonard Bernstein Festival planning committee. “I really want to make space for everyone’s intersectionalities.”

In their short tenure, Basement Records has already seen incredible growth and enthusiasm for their mission. “People used to barely ever go into the sound studio here in SIMS,” Berzofsky said. “If you check now, it’s completely booked.” According to the e-board, the creative departments at Brandeis have not provided enough opportunities for their students to hone skills outside of class. “That’s a huge hole we’re trying to fill,” Lloyd said. Additionally, the other production clubs at Brandeis — WBRS Radio, Brandeis Television, and Student Music Committee — have started a line of communication with Basement Records, offering creative Brandeis students a larger community that before now has not existed. 

Basement Records gets its name from the location of the SIMS lab: down in the Farber Library dungeon, three levels below ground. It’s historically been a place for A.V. misfits — somewhere most Brandeis students don’t tend to frequent. However, the club embraces this. “We’re simultaneously trying to publicize these resources and using the fact that people don’t know about it to give it a more homey feel,” Berzofsky said. Despite trying to preserve the charm of a smaller club, Basement Records is growing fast. They are catering to a demographic that’s been underserved at Brandeis, and recognition of their work has been widespread. “It’s difficult to be creative and have no professional support,” Sandoval said. For those with nowhere to funnel their inspiration, Basement Records provides that space. 

Check out @brandeisbasementrecords on Instagram to join.