Rich Howells

VIDEO PREMIERE: Scranton alt rock band University Drive is caught in humanity’s ‘Crisis’

VIDEO PREMIERE: Scranton alt rock band University Drive is caught in humanity’s ‘Crisis’
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Whether it’s personal struggles or the state of the world today, it seems humanity is always in crisis mode.

Thankfully, that’s what we have music for.

Since 2016, Scranton-based alternative rock band University Drive has been crafting the kind of songs that help listeners identify and navigate through their problems, no matter the size, and their latest single, “Crisis,” is no different.

However, while vocalist/guitarist Ed Cuozzo is typically forthcoming about the direct inspiration behind each track they release, he chose to be a bit more ambiguous this time around.

“I wrote it about just feeling small, feeling like I was being laughed at. It was just a knee-jerk reaction lyrically. However, the song’s meaning started to morph as time went on,” he shared.

“Reading the news every day, watching a literal genocide taking place in the Middle East, watching almost everyone struggling to make ends meet while being completely drugged up by social media – I see the song and the video as a commentary on where the human race is headed if we don’t start to have real empathy for each other, and especially for those less fortunate who are truly suffering.”

Premiering today exclusively on NEPA Scene as “Crisis” hits all major streaming platforms, this war-torn music video captures these confrontational feelings in a crumbling building that could just as easily be the result of the urban decay that plagues Northeastern Pennsylvania (and the rest of the United States) as it could be the aftermath of an overseas military conflict, a fitting setting for the battles here at home and abroad.

“We were looking for a location and we were lucky enough to be offered a space at The Landmark, Pittston, courtesy of The Hive Salon Collective and Klein Horsley Aesthetics. It was the perfect spot. When we attained access to the space, it was in the middle of them doing renovations, hence the way it looks in the video, but they’ve put a lot of work in there and it’s allowing multiple small businesses to grow,” he explained.

“The rest of the building is a beautiful and newly renovated facility. The Hive and Klein Horsley were super accommodating to us in getting us all set up for the shoot, and they all just do really great work there overall. We’re incredibly grateful that we were able to use the spot.”

Eric Curtis, who directed their first two music videos, returned to helm the operation featuring the current lineup of guitarists Angelo Maruzzelli and Mark Naples, bassist Ryan Grutt, and drummer Tony Kruszka.

“I think the war footage [cut in between] fits perfectly if you look at it through the lens of the times we’re currently living in,” Cuozzo added.

“Eric is a close friend of ours. He’s a great guy, he’s super easy and fun to work with, and he’s immensely talented, so he’s always our first choice. We were just happy that he wanted to do it too.”

In times of crisis, turning to friends like that are essential, and University Drive has few friends better than fellow Scranton rockers Esta Coda. Co-vocalist Jay Preston, who is also an engineer at JL Studios where they recorded the tune, appears as a guest vocalist on the track.

“I love Jay. I love everything Jay and Esta Coda have ever done musically. I think I asked Jay if he would sing the part I had for the bridge simply because I was on the road and did not have access to any decent recording gear. That being said, I always wanted to have either [co-vocalist] Dan [Rosler] or Jay sing on a UD track. What happened was I sent him the part that I wanted him to sing on a voice memo, and then he sent me this completely different part that he wrote himself – and it blew our fucking minds when we all heard it! So we kept it, and then Jay added in my original vocal part as the counter melody,” he recalled.

“Esta Coda – they are in many ways our brother band. And in many more ways, our brothers. I feel very much like we are two sides of the same coin musically. Our friendship with them goes way back. Outside of them being our true best buds, we have so much respect for everything they do. Huge fan and supporter of all things Esta Coda.”

They also became close friends with national act Cold while opening for them on their “Year of the Spider” 20th anniversary tour celebrating their best-known, gold-certified album – so close that Cuozzo, Maruzzelli, and Kruszka became members of that band as well and played with them on their most recent trek.

“It was a fantastic tour! It was really fun to get to dig into all of the ‘Year of the Spider’ material in a live setting. Seeing the reaction of the crowd to these songs in specific was particularly gratifying – a really amazing time overall!” he enthused.

“The story of ‘Crisis’ is sort of funny, just because we intended on releasing it much earlier. It was originally slated to be released while Tony, Ang, and I were on the road with Cold. However, due to time constrictions with recording, and more work that needed to be done on it, we waited. Funny enough, Angelo and I didn’t record any of the guitars on the song. Right before we went on the road with Cold, I called [bassist] Ryan [Grutt] and told him I had a new song that I thought we should record. I sent him my demo, and then I went to Ryan’s house and he and I did a recording of the song. The only thing that we truly finished were my vocals and the musical arrangement of the song. When I left to go on tour, I trusted Ryan and Mark with writing/recording all of the guitar/bass parts. It ended up coming out so much better than I ever thought it would. Once we got home, we had Tony replace my placeholder drums and we finished the song. We all loved it so much that we thought it was worthy of a video. Hence, here we are!”

Since then, the group has been demoing songs by themselves and in pairs before they come back together in Olyphant at JL, where their 2023 sessions produced their previous experimental single “Eraser Days” – and they’re not done experimenting.

“I wouldn’t say ‘Crisis’ is as experimental as ‘Eraser Days’ – I would say this song is more focused. I think it just has a sonic weight to it that most of our older songs don’t really have. It’s in C standard tuning, so that’s probably a big part of the reason why, but even the melodies just feel much more focused. Looser melodically, but in a focused kind of way,” Cuozzo noted.

“I don’t like to give too much away, but I can tell you there’s an 11-minute song in the works currently.”

In the meantime, Cuozzo is excitedly counting down the days until Cold’s next tour starts in April – a two-month run where they’ll travel coast to coast with Orgy, who are marking their own anniversary of “25 years of ‘Candyass’.”

“Eventually, I’ll drag my ass to the gym and start to whip myself back into shape a bit [for this tour]. I’ll try to re-familiarize myself with all of the material and focus on my harmony vocals. I also just try to take in the moments of solitude at home and enjoy it while I’m here. For as excited as I am to get on the road, it’s still hard to be away from home,” he admitted.

The closest they’ll come to home is on Tuesday, May 14 at Lovedraft’s Brewing Company in Mechanicsburg, where UD opened for Tantric last year.

“That was a fun show! It was really nice to get to meet them and all of the other bands that played that night too. We love playing Lovedraft’s too, so it was just nice to be back at a venue we love so much.”

While University Drive won’t be opening for Cold this time around, the spring tour won’t delay any plans they have for 2024.

“It actually makes things work out really nicely, believe it or not. Before being in Cold, our schedule was sort of all over the place and a bit random. Now we are able to schedule our time into specific bursts when Cold isn’t touring, which actually makes for a lot of focus and productivity. I’m currently booking the year out with University Drive. I don’t think we will be playing until around June, but then it’s on! We are writing a lot, and there are plans. I just don’t want to give anything away,” he left off.

“As always, I just want to thank everyone for their support across the board. Every year that passes makes me more and more aware of how lucky we have been to have an audience at all. For that, we are grateful.”

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