FLINT, Michigan -- Spacey futuristic funk is booming from the speakers inside of the basement studio. It hits the soul, allowing everyone in the room to groove to the sounds of a bass guitar, a keyboard, and sultry vocals. The atmosphere is rich with flavor and harasses a fusion of ideas, beliefs, and cultures. Two men, Benjamin Aurand and Phillip Walker II, are at the helm of this operation. Together, the dynamic duo makes up the group PhZD, pronounced, Phazed—a name that symbolizes how in-phase and in sync they are with each other and the moon phases. It's their ability to blend genres that places PhZD as one of Flint's most unique artists.
Dressed in attire that screams retro or, in this sense, hipster, PhZD presents a different narrative compared to their peers. They are funky, groovy, hippy, and in a way, free. "I like [music] that feels good. That makes my hips move," says Aurand when asked about the phrase "genre-benders" that's written in their Instagram bio. For them, it's a term that expresses the melting pot of their music featured on their two R&B/Soul albums, Phaze One and Impulz.
"A lot of our newer stuff we haven't released is a lot of funk. Stuff that was happening when Motown was happening and after it," Walker says, speaking to the style of music that's captured their eyes. "Hip Hop is very important because it brings a lot of cultures within it. We like to blend funk and Hip Hop."
Those elements are echoed in their 2020 releases, Moon and The Light, that see PhZD dig back into the 60s and 70s disco, soul, and funk to mix with today's hip-hop. The accompanying cover art and music videos take inspiration from American cartoons and Japanese animation. Although, the concept itself extends from the blending of their friendship—one that started rocky—as Aurand is European American while Walker is African American.
Aurand, who grew up on "Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Green Day," before falling in love with Hip Hop in high school, is their producer. The sounds reminiscent of "George Clinton, Funkadelic and The Parliaments" are created by him. Walker, who juggled school and work before pursuing music full-time, provides the soulful vocals and gives off a humbled yet knowledgeable demeanor. They formed PhZD after a mutual friend stopped showing up for practice. This left them musically, says Walker, "trying things out." After composing a few songs, they realized they were on to something, and an open mic night in Detroit granted them an opportunity to join a jam session and gain community exposure.
"There was a song we made, and that night is when we decided to do this," Aurand says on PhZD's birth. "I was trying to convince him for a couple of months. I was like, 'we're doing some pretty cool stuff, dude.'"
But creating their signature sound isn't always a smooth process and requires patience, knowing themselves, and understanding each other. As individuals, life, relationships, family, and other obligations and commitments have impeded the creative process and delayed things significantly. True of any artist, there are days where "I feel like I'm king of the world," and music flows effortlessly, but "other days [where] I'm not getting out of bed," says Aurand.
In today's era, maintaining brand awareness on social media dominates creative and business decisions. Having self-discipline and recognizing weakness' is critical. There are periods where PhZD goes quiet, says Walker, because "we're working on something," or "we don't know when things are ready to go out or finished," and nothing releases—a detrimental flaw they both recognize. However, through these hardships and more, they've grown as individuals, musicians, and a group.
"We fight a lot and have really good days. We go through a whole range of emotions," says Aurand with a laugh. "It's like Maslow's hierarchy. Music is the self-actualization [piece], so if the rest of our relationship doesn't have a strong foundation, our moods aren't good, or we aren't working together, the music won't happen."
"Our dynamic is everything. It has to be. I don't think it could've worked with him and anyone else," reflects Walker. "When we decided to become [PhZD], I said, 'yo I can't do this without you. Now, we're approaching five years."
And those five years have brought a wealth of experiences. They work out of two studios—one in Detroit, the other in Flint—and have amassed over 16k and 11k YouTube views, respectively, on their latest videos. They've performed in Flint locales like GoodBoy Clothing in downtown Flint in 2018 and 2019 at Kettering University's Centennial Fest, featuring local artists in addition to Grammy Award-winning artist T-Pain.
Now, in 2021, PhZD is hard at work on their latest project, titled Space Force Funk, with another album hoping to drop by the end of the year. They've begun collaborating with Flint artists like Jeff Skigh, Alexis Harvey, Cameron Tyler, and Xzav1er, to bring new elements to their music and vlogging to communicate more with their audience. The duo continues to focus on developing their female artist, with plans to release her music soon. All of this brings humbleness and readiness to provide quality music and art. To them, this is their version of success.
"We live in a society in which the goal is unlimited growth. I guess," Aurand says, gathering his words, "success for me is waking up every morning and being able to decide if I want to work. Freedom, that's the goal."
"Free from everything—financially, sexually—just in general," Walker says. "This is very cliche, but I think success is self-fulfillment. [That's] the greatest thing that you can in life."
You can find PhZD on Facebook, Instagram, and their WeArePhZD website. You can listen to his latest release, The Light on all media platforms.