This year, the Boston Music Awards is doing something we think is really special: selecting 10 Boston-based artists to spend an entire day in a studio recording with a sound engineer and studio assistant. It’s called the 617 Sessions, and it rocks.

We immediately knew we had to learn more about the artists. It should come as no surprise that each of them is extremely talented – but what we were surprised by was how diverse their inspirations are, how they collaborate within the area’s music scene, and how they’re contributing to Boston’s evolving sound.

You can meet them all below; learn more about the artists and listen to their work. You can also vote for your favorite on the Boston Music Awards web site – the artist with the most votes will be invited to perform at the 2017 BMAs at House of Blues on December 7th.

Andrea Wolanin

Haasan Barclay

Chris Rogers (aka Haasan Barclay) has been making music since his early teens; incorporating funk, hip hop, psychedelic dream pop and electronica into a cohesive sound that’s far from ordinary.

His first solo album, Heaven Is Your Last Dream, was released in 2016. A sprawling journey from airy electro-shoegaze to heavy industrial-trap, it’s filled with unfiltered emotion, reflecting the core of his personal music ethos:

"I don't think about my music in terms of genre anymore, just emotions."

Haasan’s interest in music began at the Turk House in Boston. Being exposed to different genres of music and seeing people his age actually getting on stage gave him a point of reference – and cemented his decision to start performing.

Andrea Wolanin

“It was a dark hall with terrible sound where high school kids would come from all over the state and play their music. Emo, metal, industrial dance music; there was a great variety of sounds.”

Haasan believes that what makes the Boston music scene strong is its revolving sound community. “You can meet someone in the punk scene who’s really tight with kids who make hip hop, and I’m seeing those sounds come together gracefully.”

"The advent of the internet gave way to the crossbreeding of cultures and styles all over the world and killed the idea of a regional sound, and that's given way to so many new sounds over the past decade."

His first show was at the Berklee Cafe with Boston-based rapper Original Kadeem. They performed as the JunkFoodKings and put together a band of musicians from Berklee for the show. “It was my first time working with guys who loved the music enough to come together and create something bigger than all of us individually.”

The duo spent weeks rehearsing; pouring everything they had in them into the performance. “It was crazy to see it finally come together in front of a crowd. The energy from that night has stuck with me to this day.”

As with that first performance, Haasan’s approach to creating music has continued to be planned out, and personal.

“When I’m working on a project, I make sure that all of my emotions are mapped out for it. The lyrics I write correlate with my life. Some lines are more direct than others, but the floating guitars against pounding drums speak a poetry that transcends language.”

So what’s next for this genre-bending artist? He’s working on a new project titled 800 FANTASY LANE something he is confident will sound nothing like Heaven Is Your Last Dream.

“And the project after that won’t sound anything like 800 FANTASY LANE.”

You can check out his 617 session track below.

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The Devil's Twins

We tried to find the best way to describe the spectacle that is The Devil’s Twins, but we couldn’t think of anything better than their own words:

"Everything we do we try to make a part of a bigger cinematic universe," says Jeremiah Louf. "The songs, videos, albums and story lines tend to fit along a thematic narrative."

But who are The Twins occupying this narrative? Nikki Coogan and Jeremiah Louf are stage partners with a strong presence, magnetism and allure. They bring a sound to the stage that can only be described as addictive energy created by haunting, dueling vocals, and loud, post-punk guitar – a sound that netted them the 2016 Indie/Rock Artist of the Year Boston Music Award.

They followed up that win with a new album in 2017 – American Noir Vol. 1.As the title indicates, the album is a noir punk piece that includes a rock/hip hop crossover track “Satan Stone,” featuring local rapper/actor Slaine.

Jeremiah feels that what creates the Boston ‘sound’ is the message within the music. “There’s the ‘sound’ I hear and there’s the ‘sound’ that may be true to others. Those two sounds may not match up because my perspective may be, and more than likely is, entirely skewed by what I seek out. But the sound I hear is grit. A sure element of starvation that is a testament to what kind of people you find in Boston. I think because we are known as the hard-headed, stubborn, and proud working class that it comes out in the music.”

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“I’ve got to agree with J,” Nikki says. “That voice may be hidden beneath guitars and drums but it’s there and it’s passionate. That’s what I hear.”

Nikki remembers that passion and power from her first concert – a performance that also showed her that a career in music was her future. “I remember my dad hauling my sister and I to a show at The Paradise when I first entered high school. It was around the time that I started writing music and playing guitar and and I pictured myself up there and made it a goal to move to Boston and play stages like that. The lights and the sounds and the sweaty people cramping you up against the ill placed poles in the center of that venue; I wanted to live in it.”

And that’s just what they do now – but it wasn’t always a smooth ride. The first show that Jeremiah and Nicole played as The Devil’s Twins was at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain. “I can’t say there really were too many fond memories from the show,” Jeremiah says. “Our outfit selection probably wasn’t the strongest.”

Fast forward just a few months to their first record release show for Old Fashioned Mischief. Playing at TT’s in Cambridge, the story was quite different. “We were graduating MassArt at the time and our entire graduating class came out to see it along with family and friends,” Jeremiah says. “It gave us a first good look at what a sold out D2s show looks like.”

"We've made it a big part of our life in this community to seek out the bands who surround us. We're all very different and though we may sonically vary we are all bound together by this underlying, straining urge to be heard, to fix this place and to let out the pressure building in our hearts and minds."

Like Nikki, Jeremiah has been recording music for most of his life, giving him the background to produce The Twins albums. They also collaborate with local musicians like Chris Baum (Bent Knee), Matt Young (Goldenhall), and the aforementioned Slaine.

“[With those few exceptions though] plenty of what you hear on the final cut of the records could be takes recorded in pajamas.”

And sold in their pajamas – in terms of distribution, digital stores are paramount. But the duo also likes to incorporate new and physical formats to enhance the narrative experience for the audience, and the thematic culture of the band.

“[For] our newest album American Noir Vol. 1 we packaged and released as a film in a DVD case, complete with mugshots and a Boston police report.”

You can check out their 617 session track below.

Andrea Wolanin for WGBH

Sleeping Lion

Indie pop duo Sleeping Lion was formed by Nate Flaks and Noah Longworth McGuire when then were living as roommates in Spring 2015. In the two years since combining their chill sensibilities and electronic talents, they’ve created an original sound that has captured attention across the country.

Unsurprising in our digital age, the first songs of this millennial electronic act were produced and written while Nate was living in Dobbs Ferry, NY and Noah overseas in Rome, Italy in the summer of 2016. The following fall, the two were finally in the same place at the same time when they came together to record in Quincy.

Their first single, “You Made Me,” was released in September 2015 and was the start of their hype around Boston. “Rug” and “Generous,” their subsequent singles, were featured across the web on various music blogs and Spotify playlists, bringing that hype to a national audience. It wasn’t until July 2016 that their debut EP, Patient Creature, was released. The album features their unique combination of mellow alternative electronic vibes with elements of future-bass.

Sleeping Lion is currently playing shows in Boston and NYC, and are expecting to release new music in the very near future.

You can check out their 617 session track below.

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Sidney Gish

Sidney Gish is a singer, songwriter, and (believe it or not) full-time student who puts the indie in independent music. Recording and releasing her own music since 2015, she released her first solo album Ed Buys Houses in December 2016. It was met with praise for its melodic hooks, inventive subject matter, and pointedly specific lyrics. But Gish doesn’t let the positive reviews go to her head.

"The music scene in Boston is pretty nuanced, and I'm only part of a slice of it."

A fan of how local musicians use smaller community spaces (yes, like houses) for their shows, Gish’s admiration for their dedication reflects her own drive. “People who put on smaller shows are really passionate about what they do - it takes a lot of hard work to keep a show running smoothy, no matter what space it’s happening in.”

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So it comes as no surprise to learn that Gish’s first show was at PA’s Lounge, a space that defines community for many indie acts. “I got booked there through a friend at my school, and then played there a few more times that year.”

But despite her appreciation for the community and her fellow artists, Gish is determined to keep control over her music. The sound and brand are all “house-made,” a fact she takes pride in, as well as her “learn as you go” approach.

“I made Ed Buys Houses in GarageBand and Audacity, and there’s some strange compression and EQ choices I made in there, but it doesn’t bother me. I have Logic now, and I’m at least slightly better at mixing than I was last year.”

"I do everything on my own. For now, I just like having control of everything."

But despite her “strange choices” she’s been messing around with arranging and overdubbing harmonies for years. Mixing is something she got interested in later on. “Of course there’s always room for improvement when it comes to mixing, but when it comes to recording myself, I can do whatever I need to.”

Beyond that, Gish also makes her own album art and music videos, and distributes all her work digitally. “I put everything on Bandcamp and Soundcloud at first, but eventually put it on other streaming platforms through an online distributor.”

“I try not to think too hard and just make what I’d be interested in listening to. That changes with time. I think some of the stuff I’ve made is kind of hyper now, but seeing someone who’s the age I was when I made it enjoying it makes me really glad I made it anyway.”

She’s currently working on new songs for her next album – and boy, we’re looking forward to it!

You can check out her 617 session track below.

Andrea Wolanin for WGBH

Carissa Johnson

Carissa Johnson is addicted to playing rock n’ roll.

The kind of sweaty, turbulent, in-your-face, post-punk rock that makes uptight people squeamish and uncomfortable. After a few years playing bass in various Boston bands, she decided it was time to step out and pursue her own music. In 2016, her debut album, “For Now” won Album of the Year at Limelight Magazine’s Music Awards, and earned Carissa a nomination for Best Punk Act in the Worcester Music Awards.

"The one thing people need to know about my work can be known through listening to the lyrics."

With influences evident in her songs, her sound pays tribute to seventies punk and new wave, yet remains authentically her own. It’s an aesthetic that’s proven appealing to fans of all ages.

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The first show that Carissa attended in Boston was Phoenix Magazine’s ‘Best Music Poll Concert’ with Metric, The Bravery, The Gaslight Anthem, Ra Ra Riot and a few other bands who were heading up the ladder in 2009.

“I got there early and got front row not knowing how packed the event would get. I remember looking behind me halfway through Metric’s set and seeing the whole place filled with people. Their acoustic set really moved me and all the bands that night inspired me to start a band and to play guitar more.”

And her determination paid off. Carissa’s first performance was at All Asia in Central Square. “I was overjoyed to be playing in Boston and a bit nervous too knowing nothing really about the scene and feeling so new.”

Since then Carissa has played pretty much everywhere rock lives in the area, including The Middle East, The Sinclair, and Once.

"The Boston sound to me is raw, authentic, and to the point. It's simple and straight forward and unapologetic."

Taking the stage along with Carissa is Steph Curran on guitar and backup vocals, and Nick Hall on drums. Together they book shows and tour through the U.S. to distribute the physical copies of the albums.

But it’s all Carissa when it comes to production, recording, and distribution – with a little help from local producer/engineer Doug Batchelder. “I’ve recorded both previous solo albums with him at his studio and distributed my music through CDBaby and Tunecore which have helped get the music onto online outlets.” That’s your cue, boys and girls!

You can check out her 617 session track below.

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The Rupert Selection

Reilly Somach, Zak Brown and Peter Crofton go back – like way back. High-school friends in the North Shore, they were looking for a fun side project when they cooked up The Rupert Selection, their genre-defying group. But what began as a lively distraction in 2008, quickly became a serious endeavor as the three friends began performing dozens of shows throughout 2010. When early 2011 saw the debut of their self-produced album Conspiritorium, it was official – they were on the Boston music scene.

And 2017 is shaping up to be their biggest year yet with the release of a new EP Baseball Practice. With high energy performances The Rupert Selection are a power trio in every sense of the word, and not to be missed. Not that they’d tell you that:

"We try not to take ourselves too seriously."

This playful mentality shows most clearly in their memories from their first show in 2010 at the Sweetwater Tavern: “We parked a half mile away and had to carry all our gear from where we parked to load in. We played a three-hour set of cover songs and got paid $150. It was an interesting night to say the least.”

The Rupert Selection record primarily at The Bridge Sound and Stage in Cambridge, MA with Alex Allinson. And like most indie bands these days, they distribute their music through digital platforms like Bandcamp, Spotify, and iTunes – so go check out their special brand of prog-meets-psychedelic.

You can check out their 617 session track below.

Andrea Wolanin for WGBH

Jenna Lotti

With childhood musical influences ranging from pop to blues, soul to big band, Jenna Lotti is a singer-songwriter like few others. Her sound is a soulful distillation that flirts with both her stirring and sweet sides.

In 2013 she crowdfunded her debut album Tunnel Vision. The LP propelled her career into the next stage and earned her a nomination for Limelight Magazine’s 2015 Female Vocalist of the Year. Jenna released her sophomore EP, Bad Habits, in October 2016, and her most recent release Beauty Queenin April 2017 – both earned her a nomination for The New England Music Awards Female Artist of the Year.

"It's hard to pinpoint the Boston 'sound'. There are so many different artists and genres. So many different venues. You can go out any night of the week and hear a different sound. It's a pretty amazing music scene. I feel very lucky to be a part of it."

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The first show Jenna ever went to was - wait for it – Britney Spears at the Bank of America Pavilion. “I was 9 or 10 years old.”

“I can’t recall what my first local Boston show was. I think it may have been a Lizard Lounge open mic night. I remember being so inspired.”

"The first place I ever performed [in Boston] was at an open mic night at Kings. I will always remember that night because it was the night I decided I wanted to do this for the rest of my life."

When it comes to recording and producing her albums, it has been different for every project. Over the years, Jenna has made connections with other musicians through the Boston scene and has worked with producers ‘That One Eyed Kid’(Josh Friedman) and Susan Cattaneo. “They are both such talented artists that I met through the scene here.”

Tunnel Vision was recorded at Summing Point in Newport, RI; Bad Habitsat 37’ Productions in Rockland, MA. Her current project is being recorded at Friedman’s home studio in Allston, MA. And like most artists, she plays a fine line between digital and physical distribution. “I have distributed my music through a site called CD Baby which takes care of most of the digital distribution (iTunes, Spotify etc.). I also use a site called Disc Makers for the physical copies of my records that I sell at my shows.”

When we asked her what’s the one thing people need to know about her work she said:

“The best is yet to come.”

We can’t wait.

You can check out her 617 session track below.

Andrea Wolanin for WGBH

no hope/no harm

no hope/no harm is a Boston four piece lead by Aaron Perrino (The Sheila Divine, Dear Leader) and longtime music journalist Luke O’Neil (formerly of The Good North).

The project began out of the duo’s shared love of emo — James F. Forbes and Adam Hand (The Field Effect) were brought on board after a singalong at O’Neil’s Emo Night Boston. Traces of all permutations of that broad genre — from pretty, twinkling, sad songs, to screaming post-hardcore, and tightly-wound pop-punk. Their lyrics are at turns literary-minded or arch and self-referential, but are always meant to break your heart.

O’Neil believes that the Boston ‘sound’ is broader than most would recognize.

"I think from the outside looking in you would probably think of Dinosaur Jr., or The Pixies as being the lingering touchstones, but from having played in it, and covered it as a journalist for so long, I'm happy to say that there really isn't one [Boston sound]. If you listen through the BMA nominees this year it becomes pretty apparent. That's how it should be."

Perrino’s opinion is more... ‘regional’? “Basically pick an artist or genre you like, but then pretend a Wahlberg or Affleck is the singer.”

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O’Neil has been going to shows in Boston (and Providence) for so long, that he can’t remember his first. “It was probably something like Letters to Cleo with the Gravel Pit. Then again I went to a couple shows this week and I already can’t remember what they were. Rock n’ roll will rot your brain.”

Despite the warning from his bandmate, Perrino recalls seeing his first show in Boston – The Dambuilders with The Elevator Drops at the Middle East.

"I moved here from a small college town, and was like if this is a local show I need to step up my game."

Perrino remembers his first performance; opening for Rick Berlin at Jacques on a Monday night. “It was all drag queens, indie kids, and seedy characters. I love that bar.”

“My old band, the Good North, played our first show at the Lizard Lounge in like 2002 I think,” O’Neil recalls. “I remember being amazed that you could actually write songs, and people would come to see you play them. What a strange joy.”

“Little did I know you could also write songs, and no people would come to see you play them, a lesson I learned repeatedly over the intervening years.”

no hope/no harm has been lucky to record with some outstanding producers around Boston, including Zippah’s Brian Charles ( this client list is something), who is also nominated for a BMA this year.

“For now we’ve been distributing our music only on streaming, through Bandcamp or Spotify, but we’re close to finishing an album’s worth of material, so we’re looking to put out a 7 inch or an LP if any labels out there are interested.” (Got the hint, Sony?)

Asked for any last words on the interview, the boys proved that they’re just as snarky as their lyrics can be – O’Neil’s irreverent response? “We just want to make everyone else feel as miserable and depressed as we are.” As for Aaron: “All of our songs are written by The Chainsmokers, but we’re not allowed to tell people.”

Somehow we don’t believe that last one.

You can check out their 617 session track below.

Photo: Troubleshooting

Vintage Lee

Vintage Lee is a 21-year old rapper and songwriter from Roxbury, who’s been in the game since elementary school. Exposed to a plethora of different music genres from a young age, Lee’s creativity, high energy and charisma has netted her a lot of attention.

"I hope everyone catches a vibe and has fun with my music."

Photo: Troubleshooting

Since the release of her debut single, “Right Now,” in 2015, Lee’s been premiered and supported by Pigeons and Planes, The FADER, Complex and other critically acclaimed music outlets.

In line with her experience of genres Lee believes that there really isn’t one Boston ‘sound’. “Everyone does their own thing and creates their own music.”

The first show she attended in Boston was Yung Gleesh with Cousin Stizz. “It was litty seeing people in the city turn up.” And likewise, Lee’s first show was at the Middle East Upstairs. “I had my family and close friends there and the energy was hyped.”

For Vintage, that energy starts with a beat. “I come up with concepts after listening to a beat and then I will freestyle the words.”

“After that, I’ll record whatever comes to my mind.”

If you’re like us and need to get an earful of Lee’s work, she distributes her music through streaming services.

You can check out her 617 session track below.


Big Leano

Big Leano burst onto the Boston scene in 2015 with his debut single “Lean For Sale.”

Leano continued to pick up speed through Summer 2016, culminating with the release of his first full length project, Tales From The Mud. The tape established Leano as a key player in the rising Boston hip-hop scene, alongside Cousin Stizz and Avenue. But it was his sold out show at Middle East Upstairs this past November that cemented his position.

Leano is currently working on his second mixtape.

You can check out his 617 session track below.