The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Friday, Feb. 23, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

UNC dropouts release EP

Sign deal with Hopeless Records

In May, freshmen Jose Villanueva and Matt Morgan dropped out of UNC.

The same month, they received an e-mail from Hopeless Records about a possible record deal.

“I didn’t know if it was just me being lazy or me having this childhood fantasy of playing music,” Villanueva said. “It really was terrifying.”

Tuesday, California’s Hopeless Records announced a long-term record deal with Villanueva and Morgan’s band, Divided By Friday.

Villanueva and Morgan have been playing music together since the eighth grade.

They founded Divided By Friday in 2005 when they were freshmen in high school.

A year later, Villanueva brought drummer Al German and bassist Drew Howard into the lineup.

Divided By Friday toured and played shows regularly from 2006 to 2009. The group continued to tour even after Villanueva and Morgan enrolled as freshmen at UNC in 2009.

But balancing band life and college life became something of a challenge for Villanueva and Morgan.

“We tried doing the band and college thing throughout the first semester,” Morgan said.

But mixing classes and business proved problematic.

“At the end of the first semester, we were recording from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m., and then we had classes at 8 a.m.” Villanueva said.

“We were exhausted.”

It wasn’t until the end of their freshman year at UNC that Villanueva and Morgan decided to devote themselves entirely to their music.

“Any time a UNC student tells their parents, ‘Hey I’m going to leave one of the best schools in the country,’ especially with the state of the music industry, they think ‘No way, you’re crazy,’” Morgan said.

But at this point, multiple record labels were showing interest.

“Our family and friends, people at our church, even my academic advisor, were all really supportive,” Morgan said.

Morgan and Villanueva agreed last May that they would not return to UNC in the fall.

“The moment I told my mom she just burst into tears,” Morgan said. “(But) they accepted it and were 100 percent for it before we even got the record deal.”

In September, Divided By Friday signed the official contract with Hopeless Records.

Band manager Jason Frizzell helped facilitate the band’s offers.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

“It’s been a real whirlwind for the past eight or nine months,” Frizzell said.

Howard, a 16-year-old at the time the group signed with Hopeless Records, is finishing high school online while the band tours and records. The band members now share a house.

“We are basically his parents now,” Morgan said.

As a part of the Hopeless Records label, Divided By Friday joins such bands as Anarbor and Yellowcard, one of the band’s biggest influences.

Tuesday, Hopeless Records released the band’s newest extended play record “The Constant” on iTunes.

Hopeless Records will work with Divided By Friday to release their first full-length album in 2012, Morgan said.

“Dropping out of college is a big deal, dropping out of Chapel Hill is a really big deal,” Villanueva said.

“We felt blessed to get so much support.”

Contact the Arts Editor at