If you know Pawtucket well, you probably recognize the large brick building on Exchange Street as the former home of the Gamm Theatre. But in its upper floors, another organization is cultivating local performers: ALIEN Entertainment, a recording studio for independent hip hop artists.
“We’re brand new to the scene,” says Ben Moliere, one of ALIEN’s founders. “Rhode Island has great talent. There are artists already in the industry who are from Rhode Island, but people don’t know. We’re able to be a lighthouse for artists in Pawtucket.”
The studio has the intimacy of an attic, with a small recording booth, a lounge area, and a vast mixing board. Moliere started renovating the studio with his two business partners, Keirheim Gentles and Lito Carvalho, in March 2017, and ALIEN opened that summer. Since then, the trio has hosted more than 50 freshmen recording artists, helping them produce pro-quality demos, singles, and albums.
Gentles, Carvalho, and Moliere met at the University of Hartford, where they bonded over hip hop and sound engineering. Each had hoped to apprentice for an established producer, but when they found themselves in Rhode Island, they decided to strike out on their own. ALIEN soon expanded to a second floor, constructing basic offices and a photo studio. Now, after a year of incremental success, ALIEN will find new Pawtucket headquarters this fall.
ALIEN isn’t a label, and no one is “signed.” Instead, visitors pay for studio time on an hourly basis. The building has hosted spoken word events, and ALIEN is slated to participate in the Pawtucket Arts Festival this month. Eventually, Moliere hopes to set up a membership model, so ALIEN feels more like a collaborative. “There’s a system that takes new artists, they groom them, but they never have a manager who teaches them what to do or how to act,” he says.
The name stands for Artists Living in an Extra-Terrestrial Nation. Although the company logo is a flying saucer, “alien” really refers to their outsider identities: Moliere was born in Haiti, Carvalho’s family hails from Cape Verde, and Gentles spent much of his youth in Jamaica. “The name is a double-entendre,” says Moliere. “We’re all from different countries, and when you first come to the United States, you usually have an alien card. Our message is, you’re not from here, and it’s okay to be different.”