High places: Monticello Road's busy summer

Copies of their debut album This Scripted Show may still be warm from the presses after last year's release, but the boys of Charlottesville-based rock outfit Monticello Road are already back in the studio recording more demo tracks. Like plenty of wide-eyed hopefuls before them, they're about to make a serious bid for mainstream label attention. The catch is that they have no earthly idea what sort of record company they're looking for.

"The whole goal from the beginning was not to have one sound," says manager Jane Murphy. Three years later, that mission is still intact. Melding influences as diverse as Phish and Ryan Adams and then polishing the result with the same pop sensibility as Train and Matchbox Twenty, Monticello Road tries to cover as many stylistic bases as possible.

"We've got so many styles. It all sounds like Monticello Road, but we can play a bluegrass folk song, a singer/songwriter song, a reggae song, a funk song, a melodic song, a pop song..." explains bassist Jason Marshall, trailing off into a litany of genre names.

In fact, the band is recording two entirely separate demo compilations so that they can more effectively target different types of labels. Nashville is just as important to them as the rock and roll scene, and the unreleased track "Hallelujah" even delves into gospel. At times it can be a far cry from their southern rock roots, but they're confident that old fans will be as happy with the change as the new fans have been.

"We could probably play W&L every weekend, three shows," says Marshall of their regional success on the college circuit. They now hope to transfer that grassroots momentum to the promotional opportunities afforded by major label backing. Those goals may begin to materialize when they play a couple of high-profile shows in August, first opening for Dave Matthews in Tennessee and later headlining at Fridays after 5 here at home.

Charlottesville's favorite son is not the only industry giant watching out for them. The band counts among their mentors no less than three members of Everything, the group behind the 1998 modern rock smash "Hooch." Craig Honeycutt and Stephen Van Dam produced This Scripted Show, and Nate Brown has guided and influenced Monticello drummer Josh Manzano.

"I think they write honest songs," says Honeycutt in an enthusiastic endorsement of the band's studio work. And Honeycutt doesn't hesitate to draw attention to the live shows. "I've been in a live band long enough," he says, "to know where the diamond in the rough is."

Monticello Road<


From left, Vaden Cox (guitarist), Jason Marshall (bass), Kyle Rannigan (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Josh Manzano (drums), Adam Silvers (keys and piano).