Alumni, students rock toward record deal

Studying for exams, purchasing textbooks and scrambling to finish papers are typical parts of a college student’s life. But for some, additional responsibilities include writing songs, recording music and playing gigs.

Phoenix Highway, an eclectic ensemble formed on Elon University’s campus, has been preparing for the release of its debut album, “American Blend,” available Tuesday, Dec. 13.

“We’re excited about it,” said senior Frank Hurd. “What we think is really cool is that it encompasses a lot of styles, like rock, acoustic, soul and country.”

Hurd met Jacob Danieley, class of 2010, and Michael Lobacz, class of 2011, in 2009, when the three were part of the Elon Electric Ensemble.  After playing together and exploring interests, the musicians discovered common sources of inspiration, including The Beatles and The Eagles.

“We really respect what they do so much,” Lobacz said. “That’s where a lot of our music comes from, trying to emulate their work, but not imitate it.”

Influenced by the harmonies and songwriting of what Hurd calls “great bands of the past,” the three teamed up with junior Ben Soldate in spring 2010 and were joined most recently by freshman Jake Valente.

With a solid foundation, the group is moving on to bigger things. Hurd said the band has been looking to play more venues outside Elon, expand its fan base in number and location and talk with Redlight Records about a management deal.

Phoenix Highway has been talking about commercials, TV shows and movies, hoping to build a following that can support its passion.

“When we get enough momentum to get rolling and get the CD out there, we’re going to be looking at something great,” Hurd said.

The men of Phoenix Highway have a lot to be proud of.

“As music technology majors we did everything for this album ourselves,” Lobacz said. “We put in a lot of time, which helps with the end product because we were exposed from beginning to end.”

Hurd said he believes the band’s role in producing, writing, mixing and performing its music commands a certain respect that will hopefully translate into fans.

“There’s so few people that write their own music and do it all themselves,” Hurd said. “We did it all, and maybe people will be encouraged to support us and come see us live.”

Although the bandmates are welcoming success, they have faced challenges balancing responsibilities as students, family members and musicians.

“Some of the guys are still in school so it’s hard to find time to practice,” Lobacz said. “Jacob is starting a family but when we’re on the road with the band, it’s hard.”

Despite obstacles, fans continue to support the band’s work and look to the future.

“This band is made up of some very talented musicians from the drummer all the way to the lead singer,” said fan and senior Ned Cuthbertson. “I would definitely recommend seeing them perform before you graduate, so in a few years when they get big, you can say you watched and listened to them before they got famous.”

Phoenix Highway will be performing Dec. 7 at College Taphouse, and Dec. 13 at the Fat Frogg.

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