Rich Howells

SONG PREMIERE: Scranton alt rock band University Drive assesses the emotional ‘Damage’

SONG PREMIERE: Scranton alt rock band University Drive assesses the emotional ‘Damage’
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When Scranton singer/songwriter Ed Cuozzo lost his mother unexpectedly last year, the local music community came together in an unprecedented way, organizing a three-day music festival in her memory at The Keys called She’s the One: A Weekend for Doreen, which included several performances from Cuozzo himself as a solo artist, a reunion of his old band Melded, and his current alternative rock project, University Drive.

“I’ll never forget that weekend, how much it all still means to me. It was super inspirational in a lot of ways, but more than the music, it was just amazing to see/feel so much love in a room,” Cuozzo told NEPA Scene.

It was only a matter of time before the torrent of emotions that come from saying goodbye to a loved one, especially someone as kind and supportive as his mother, swirled around and came together in the form of new music from University Drive like “Damage,” a special song premiering online today exclusively on NEPA Scene following its radio premiere on Alt-Natives on Alt 92.1 last Saturday.

“‘Damage’ is kind of a collection of feelings/scenarios all rolled into one. There’s a lot in there about feeling left out, or feeling less than… and eventually becoming bitter and paranoid with the world around you. I think it fits into the theme of the record pretty well in the sense that sometimes when you deal with something so crazy like a death, it makes you reexamine and question all of your surroundings. It has a lot to do with the accumulation of trauma/crisis and how those things can manifest in your life in destructive way,” he explained.

The group’s debut album, “On/Off: Reset,” made a huge splash in the Northeastern Pennsylvania music scene when it was released nearly two years ago on Canadian indie label Fightless Records, even gaining attention from Alternative Press, New Noise Magazine, Roadrunner Records, and Fueled by Ramen.

“I was very happy and very surprised to have had so much support right out of the gate,” he said, adding that the focus since then was simply playing impactful live shows.

“I don’t think we’ve done anything insane or have really had any crazy accomplishments outside of playing some really fun shows. I think we’ve just decided to move at our own pace and try our best to write good tunes.”

“Damage” is the third song released to the public from the upcoming album, titled “Clear,” which was recorded at JL Studios in Olyphant. “Cry Without a Reason” was the first, followed by “Please Release Me” last week, all products of nearly a year of writing and recording. Cuozzo tracked a little more than half of the album live with bassist John Husosky, drummer Steven Martin, and guitarist/vocalist Angelo Maruzzelli.

“It’s a song I had for years that I never could finish and, after my mom passed, the song just sort of finished itself,” he said of “Cry Without a Reason.”

“I felt like it was a really good example of where the rest of the record was heading too.”

Interspersed with voice recordings from friends, family, and fans talking about their own sad experiences dealing with grief, the whole album of love and loss is set for release next Wednesday, March 27, when it will premiere on NEPA Scene in its entirety. Until then, listen to these pieces of a broken but healing heart from one of the area’s best songwriters.

“[The voice recordings] added to the sense of confusion, and also how united people could be in their uncertainty about the big questions in life,” he noted. “Those voice memos took the album to another level.”

Learn more about Cuozzo and University Drive and hear him play two acoustic songs in Episode 2 of the NEPA Scene Podcast: