Rich Howells

SONG PREMIERE: Before Cold tour, Scranton alt rockers University Drive recall ‘Eraser Days’

SONG PREMIERE: Before Cold tour, Scranton alt rockers University Drive recall ‘Eraser Days’
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

In just a few days, Scranton singer/songwriter Ed Cuozzo will be in warm and sunny Florida, though not to chase the few remaining beach days on a last-minute summer vacation. He’ll be there to work and work hard, pulling double duty as the frontman of alternative rock band University Drive as well as a guitarist and backing vocalist for Cold, who they’re supporting on another two-week run.

This comes after some recent UD recording sessions and about three months on the road as a member of Cold, living out the dream of so many fellow Scranton musicians – creating genuine music with friends, traveling the country with them, and performing to hundreds, sometimes thousands of people a night. Things are looking bright for Cuozzo and his band, but their songs often come from a dark place, from heavy days he’d rather scrub from memory and forget – “Eraser Days.”

“‘Eraser Days’ kind of all came lyrically in one quick burst. When I first wrote it, I actually wasn’t too sure what I was writing about. The next day, I realized I was writing about being haunted by the ghost of my mother and my previous life with my family before her passing, so when I went back to edit the lyrics a bit more, I went in with that mentality. I can really get analytical with these lyrics in specific and explain them, but I don’t want to taint what the listener might take away from the tune,” he emphasized.

The single is premiering today exclusively on NEPA Scene just as it hits all major streaming platforms, starting a new chapter for the group as drummer Tony Kruszka and guitarist Mark Naples, who became members of University Drive over the past year, join Cuozzo, guitarist Angelo Maruzzelli, and bassist Ryan Grutt in the studio to work on new material that will make an appearance on this upcoming tour.

“[This is our] first song to feature Tony on drums and Mark on guitar. It’s just such a strange song, and sonically it’s a bit of a departure for the band. I really want to always be trying something different sonically and straying far away from trends, so this song just seemed like a cool little glimpse into some of the sonic territory we are starting to experiment in.”

It has now been a year since their third full-length album, “Heal,” was released to both local audiences at venues like the River Street Jazz Cafe and across the country on tour.

“The overall reception to ‘Heal’ been truly incredible. Playing that material in front of our hometown audience in specific has been really gratifying, just because we have a history together now at this point. However, no matter where we play, it’s always humbling to see any positive reception,” Cuozzo said.

“I’m super proud of the record, especially with what we were going through internally at the time – band members leaving, COVID putting a stop to so much work, tours looming. All of that considered, I think it stands up next to [our first two albums] ‘On/Off: Reset’ and ‘Clear’ just fine. Lyrically, I’m really proud of it too.”

Another point of pride came earlier this year when Cuozzo and Maruzzelli were given the unique opportunity to join Kruszka as members of Cold, a national act best known for gold-certified alt rock hits like “Stupid Girl” and “Just Got Wicked,” on their three-month tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their seminal album “Year of the Spider.”

“It’s been great! We developed a pretty deep friendship with the Cold camp right when University Drive was first invited out on the 2019 Broken Human Tour, so when they needed guitar players, it felt less like we were joining another band and more like we were just helping and making music with our friends. That being said, it’s great to play with Cold – Angelo and I are incredibly grateful for the opportunity,” he enthused.

He also recognized how important it is to get those songs right for longtime fans of Cold while also presenting his own music to new listeners.

“In the very beginning, Ang and I put a ton of pressure on ourselves to get things right before the first rehearsal, but after a few gigs, it felt really natural. Angelo and I have also been active in so many projects and cover bands that taking on more music just felt natural. It’s really fun to play Cold songs, though,” he acknowledged.

“I’m personally really looking forward to this. I play a lot with a local cover band called Dance Hall Devils. We do over three hours of music a show, so I consider that like training for this specific scenario. It’s going to be really fun! Being that UD is the opening band, we really just try to build an impressive quick set. At home, we can take more liberties and play a bit more extensively because of the base we’ve slowly developed over the course of seven years. At these Cold shows, we are just trying to make a fast and big impression.”

One of the best ways to do that is with good songs, so instead of jumping into writing and recording their next album between gigs, University Drive is taking their time at JL Studios in Olyphant, returning to where they began with “On​/​Off​: Reset” and even further back with Cuozzo’s previous band, A Social State.

“No plans for any full releases yet, but we will be releasing more songs. We don’t want to rush into making another record until we are completely sure and inspired by the direction we take it in so, for now, we are just going to experiment with singles and try a bunch of weird shit,” he noted.

“[Producer/engineer] Joe Loftus is amazing, always has been. He’s like a brother, and we have so much history working together. We don’t need to really talk too in-depth about sonics or mixes because he knows exactly what I’m going for 99.999 percent of the time. Same goes with working with [engineer] Jay [Preston]. Love them both so, so much.”

“Eraser Days” is just the start of this new, yet familiar direction as they release experimental singles whenever it suits them.

“I think [the song] is an indication of us all letting our hair down a bit and just pushing ourselves artistically. We really want to make the very best music we can, and I think that takes jumping into some strange waters creatively sometimes, but I’m excited for us,” he explained.

“We have this tour we’re doing with Cold, and then some one-offs that we will be announcing shortly after the tour. For the most part, though, I think we plan on writing and recording a lot. That’s the big push for the year.”

Local fans who want an early listen to these tunes can catch the last two stops of this tour – Friday, Sept. 15 at Stage West (420 E. College Ave., State College) and Saturday, Sept. 16 at the River Street Jazz Cafe (667 N. River St., Plains).

“I will always just say that myself and the rest of University Drive are just so incredibly grateful for all of the support we’ve received and continue to receive locally and regionally. We have no delusions and we know that the only reason we are able to continue to do the things that we do are because of the support of all of you.”

Learn more about the band and hear stories from previous Cold tours in Episode 144 of the NEPA Scene Podcast:

Photos by Scott Kucharski Photography/NEPA Scene