Ed Cuozzo is the guitarist and vocalist of University Drive. He has been a member of several bands over the years and also performs as a solo musician. He is self-employed as a construction worker and lives in Throop.
Meet Ed Cuozzo…
Q: What is your music background?
A: In the beginning, the first band I was ever in was called Melded. It wasn’t good; we sounded really, really awful, but that band was really fun and a good learning experience. I met my friend Dan Rosler and my now-fiancee, Chelsea Collins, and I joined a band called A Fire with Friends for a little while. I met some other people, and I started a band called the Social State, and I played with them for probably seven or eight years. We put out an EP and two full-length records. That band fell apart, and I took some time off to focus on home life and writing music on my own. Then I decided I was going to make a record on my own, so I started University Drive.
Q: What first got you interested in playing music?
A: When I was really little, we had a next-door neighbor to my grandparents. He had an acoustic guitar, and I asked him for some lessons. A couple years later, I went to Gallucci Music, which is no longer there. Then I moved to Scott Twp., and a friend introduced me to Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and it was world-shattering. That’s what really got me into music. I was around age 14 or 15.
Q: Describe University Drive’s sound.
A: The band has been working really hard recording a record at JL Studios. The vibe is definitely super aggressive, but at the same time it can be really slow and beautiful. The basis for everything is melodic. We’re all products of Nirvana’s “In Utero” and the first Foo Fighter’s record, but we like moody stuff, too. It’s like if you took Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Weezer and maybe Nada Surf and you pulled something from the middle, we’d exist.
Q: What can people expect on your upcoming album?
A: We’re all in the studio recording things together. I wanted to make it a point to track everything live. We’re not time-correcting everything, or turning every vocal or making sure everything is smooth and slick. There are some songs that have a bit more of a slick production but the bulk of them have more of a, I don’t want to say raw, but a bit more of an edge. It’s funny how you can hear the difference of us tracking it live in the room together as opposed to just layering things one by one.
Q: Does the album have a theme or message?
A: Back in January, my mother passed away unexpectedly. She was my biggest supporter in everything I did. Nobody else ever had that much belief in what I was doing. She wanted to see me do what I loved to do. It’s emotionally heavy and super dark at times. It’s my kind of way to pay tribute to somebody who had such a big impact in my life. There are a lot of sad moments on it. I don’t know how else to be expressive and honest. It was a horrible circumstance, but I’m happy something beautiful came of it.
Q: What is your favorite music venue to play at?
A: I have to say the Keys. I love playing at the Keys, and that’s not to put down any other venue. The Keys, and Jenn the owner, in specific, have been like family away from family. They actually threw a three-day festival in honor of my mother. It was called “A Weekend for Doreen.” All the bands played in honor of her.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about being a musician in NEPA?
A: There are questions like, “What if I play a song in front of people and they don’t like it?” or “Am I too old to be doing this?” I think that all that stuff is so intrusive. We have a tendency to get in our own way as people and as artists. I urge anybody, young or old, who feels like they want to be involved in the music scene to go to any open mic and start doing it. We have a great scene, and there are a lot of great people. Half of the battle is just shaking off the nerves.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
A: I’ve been doing this for a really long time locally. A lot of younger musicians have said really nice things. I don’t expect it or necessarily agree with what they’re saying. There are super talented and super driven people. When someone says to me, “Hey, that song really spoke to me and helped me a lot,” that’s 100 percent of the reason I do this. I let my dream of rock and roll fame go a few years ago. I do it more because I feel connected to something bigger than me, and if it helps other people in other ways, I feel like that’s a good reason to do it.
Q: If you could perform with one musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
A: My favorite would be Kurt Cobain. He changed the direction of my life. I would do so much to have a chance to bring him back and just be able to sing harmonies on a song with him. He is amazing.
Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of music?
A: I don’t really have a lot of hobbies, but I love my dog, and I love my fiancee. (My fiance and I) do a lot of stuff together and write silly songs. When we get the chance to make music together, we write really funny things. I also like my dog Wilco; he’s named after the band Wilco. He’s a western Pomeranian mix, and we got him from Griffin Pond Animal Shelter a couple years ago. He is our best friend.
Q: What is something about you that would surprise most people?
A: Probably that I did martial arts. My friends know that, but I don’t think most people know. I did it for five or six years, and before music, that was music.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: Recently, on Facebook, I just posted a song that my mom used to play for me. She’d force me to dance with her around the kitchen to the song “In My Life” by the Beatles. When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand it, and I hated the Beatles. When I started to get into music, I realized how complex and beautiful that song is. The moments I really think of as “defining moments” all involve her. She was a huge music fan, and she taught me a lot about compassion and trying to go in with good intent with people. Anything good that anyone has to say about me, I owe entirely to her.
Photos by Emma Black