PERSONAL JOURNEY: Garage bands shaped his music life

Retired lawyer focusing attention on a life-long love.

Music is a big part of the lives of most teenagers. And for those growing up in the 1970′s and 80′s, it was often lifechanging. Countless musicians of that era got their start in “garage bands,” so named because these groups usually practiced in their own family home garages.

Brian Elias of Springboro began his own musical journey as an elementary school student growing up in Columbus. When his father finished dental school, he opened an office in Huber Heights and moved the family to Forest Ridge, a then Mad River Township subdivision.

“I started playing piano when I was around five years old,” Elias said. “I continued to play instruments all through high school.”

Elias was in the marching and concert bands at Stebbins High School and said those experiences shaped his life.

“It was an amazing experience from a music perspective,” Elias said.

When he was a junior in high school, Elias started playing in his first garage band – Mirage. At the time, local radio stations did a lot to promote up and coming local bands.

“What got us started is there was a contest on a local station, and it was held at a place called The Bus Stop in Dayton,” Elias said. “We pulled together the band to compete in that.”

Elias played the keyboard and sang lead in Mirage and the group created a tape with a few songs. They ended up earning a second place in the contest.

“It was incredible,” Elias said. “They had a massive sound system and a lot of our friends from Stebbins came out to see us. It was a great time.”

The band stayed together for about a year but disbanded once their lead guitarist graduated high school.

After Elias graduated in 1981, he headed to college at Miami University in Oxford, choosing to major in chemistry with the hope of one day becoming a doctor. But by his junior year, Elias had become interested in studying law.

“I wanted to make the world a better place,” Elias said. “I got the chemistry degree but then went to Pepperdine University in California for law school.”

Throughout his time in college, Elias continued playing in bands – his first was Chantz – and developed enduring friendships through music.

“I also played in two other bands,” Elias said. “During that time I met musicians that ended up playing with me in Stranger when we started that band about 26 years ago.”

After law school, Elias stayed in California and worked at a law firm. He married Amanda, his fiancé through his college years and eventually the couple decided they wanted to move back home to be close to family and friends. They moved to Centerville in early 1990.

Elias was hired at LexisNexis and stayed with the company until he retired in July of last year. While at LexisNexis, he received more than 10 patents for software related inventions, traveled internationally and experienced many different countries.

As a member of Stranger, Elias also experienced what it was like to open for large national acts, like REO Speedwagon and Foreigner.

“We started like any band playing small venues and then festivals,” Elias said. “We quickly started to feel like rock stars.”

With Stranger, Elias plays the keyboard and the rhythm guitar, after teaching himself in college. He also sings lead vocals and plays bass.

Now that he has retired from full time work, Elias has time to focus more on his music. He and Stranger drummer Rob Hoeting founded “Seconds to Surrender,” a cover band that plays songs from The Police and Irish rock band, U2.

“The band evolved with different members coming in and out,” Elias said. “We auditioned a lot of people and found some great guitar players, but we needed someone who understood guitar effects.”

In addition to Elias and Hoeting, guitarist Thad Bissett and bass player Sean Kelley joined Seconds to Surrender. Elias also continues playing in Stranger, along with Dayton radio personality Jeff Stevens, who is lead vocalist.

“We launched the band before the pandemic,” Elias said. “But in 2020, all our gigs were canceled.”

The band continued to rehearse as much as possible and today they are working to move from an events band to a party band and play at larger venues.

“When people come to watch a concert, they like to dance and have fun,” Elias said. “We have finally had a few shows and want to get back into playing at festivals.”

Elias said that Dayton in particular, is a wonderful place for music and that local bands, many starting out in garages, have done well and gone on to play regionally and nationally.

“We live in an area that has a real diversity of music,” Elias said. “You don’t have to be in Nashville or southern California to find high caliber musicians. You can find that right here.”

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