Silas Durocher picked up the guitar a few years ago and played in folk bands, rock bands and jam bands, but after studying classical composition at New College of Florida in Sarasota, his songs got a sophisticated twist.
"I got really into theory and composition," Durocher, 23, said.
His first album, "Thesis Statement," uses his talent along with that of his band, Everybody Knows, to fuse rock, jazz, reggae, blues, bluegrass and soul with classical styles and instruments.
"The album is kind of a natural progression," he said. "I feel like this is in many ways my first statement to the world about my opinions of music and my opinions on the creative process," he said. "More literally, the project began as my undergraduate thesis."
Durocher's major in composition is evidenced by tracks like "The Kind of Funk," which comprises of three movements.
Because of grants awarded from his school, he was able to pull together a group of musicians that includes Bharat Chandra on clarinet, Sasha von Dassow on cello, Garrett Dawson on drums and percussion and John Miller on upright bass for a school performance.
For the performance, the band hired Grammy-nominated engineer Bud Snyder to do their sound, knowing he could handle the unusual mix of rock and classical. After the concert, Snyder, who has worked with the Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule and Jeff Buckley, invited the band to his new studio to record.
Snyder "has a particularly strong sense of, I guess, groove, for lack of a better word, coming very much from a rock and roll background," Durocher said.
Since then, Silas Durocher and Everybody Knows has played more gigs, mostly in Florida, where everyone but Durocher lives. Durocher, who grew up in Middletown, moved to Asheville, N.C., with his girlfriend after college.
Among family, friends and musicians who worked on the project, the Beatles are listed under Durocher's album thank-yous.
"I'm a huge Beatles fan," he said. "The more I listen to them, the more I get out of them."
He explicitly said he would never compare himself to the Beatles, but there is a comparison to be made: both groups had their roots in rock and pop and brought a heavy composition side to their work.
"Now I'm able to appreciate the complexity," Durocher said, "especially their stuff with George Martin."
Almost the entire "Thesis Statement" CD was written out completely by Durocher, who scored all five instruments, with only brief sections of improvisation. The only exception are the backup vocals by Heather Normandale, a close friend of Durocher's, which involved several emails and mailing a hard drive across the country.
That being said, the album "is still very much a collaborative effort," Durocher said. "Everyone brings their own style and opinions. The score is a basic outline in some cases."
The band has been together for about two years.
"I feel like there is a lot more to explore," Durocher said. "As a composer, I feel like there's a lot more to say with these instruments."
Durocher composed two pieces for the Florida Wind Quintet in 2006, and, more recently, Leif Bjaland, artistic director and conductor of the Sarasota Orchestra, commissioned him to compose a piece for the orchestra. The piece, already completed, will premiere in February.