At first glance, the members of The Phoenix Within look like a typical rock group. Dark-wash jeans, Chuck Taylors and T-shirts have almost become a uniform for the alternative rock scene, but speaking with Omar Feliciano, the band’s lead singer and writer, it is clear that the group is anything but typical.
By day, Feliciano and his bandmates work day jobs, attend graduate and law school and run a family business — the lead singer just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and is a lab and research assistant at York College— but by night, they trade in the pens and paper for guitar straps and song lyrics.
“I want to live both lives,” he said. “I love science, I value education and I think the other guys would agree with me, but we also cannot shake off the fact that we love music.”
Feliciano, an Ozone Park resident, met drummer Larry Turco, bassist Kenny O’Donohue and lead guitarist Joe Balzanoin in 2007.
“I was looking for a project I could play guitar in,” he said. “During the search process I responded and posted ads on the Craigslist and MySpace musician communities.”
O’Donohue replied and set up an audition for a band he was starting up with his two childhood friends. Around that time, Feliciano heard from a friend that some guys in New Jersey were also looking for a guitar player. It turns out, it was for the same band.
“I remember two things from that day: looking at Kenny’s face trying to remember where I knew or recognized him from and how good it felt playing along with these amazing musicians,” Feliciano said.
The band’s influences, which include Jimmy Eat World, Coheed and Cambria, Dashboard Confessional, My Chemical Romance and Blink-182, can be heard clearly throughout their music but not so much that the songs feel like carbon copies.
A common thread in the Extended Play is simplicity. In an age where electronic tones and synthesizers are commonly used, it is refreshing to hear electric guitar chords supported by a punchy drum.
While the vocabulary is basic, the lyrics Feliciano has written are sharp, to the point and provide the hauntingly dark visuals that make alternative rock enjoyable. Their single “Free Myself” most clearly flaunts the singer’s writing abilities:
“This empty institute is nothing more than a trap;
“My fever’s rising, yeah my eyes, they seem to fade into black;
“They quickly strap me down. The doctor turns and say’s he’s figured it out.”
But even though a majority of The Phoenix Within’s songs have a dark touch to them, Feliciano has a softer side as demonstrated in the love ballad “I Wouldn’t Trade You,” that pairs a catchy and gentle acoustic tune with lyrics of devotion.
The Phoenix Within is finishing its three-track EP titled “Deceptions,” which is due out in January.
As the band continues to churn out music, the players note that they’ve received a lot of support from friends.
“In the ‘Free Myself’ music video, I reached out to people I knew from working in a pharmacy for so many years,” Feliciano said. “When you go to the YouTube page you can see a list of all the people who donated so we didn’t have to pay for the video out of pocket.”
The video has reached more than 50,000 views, most of which Feliciano said is from word of mouth.
“I know this is the age of technology but in the end, it comes down to word of mouth,” he said. “Up until August, our album was completely free but even now, if someone emails us, I’ll send them the album for free.”
Feliciano said he would love to play bigger venues, namely the Highland Ballroom, but for now, the group will go on a brief hiatus as Turco gets married.
Download their debut album for free at: soundcloud.com/thephoenixwithin