Every song on University Drive’s third LP Heal is absolutely massive. It’s got the radio rock bona fides of The Color and the Shape, the snarling spirit of Nevermind, and the pop sheen of Bleed American–it’s a winning combination, and the record is the band’s tightest and best yet. It’s a melodic, grungy alt-rock ripper, and the soaring moments are just as powering as the soft and airy ones. Frontman Ed Cuozzo was kind enough to break down every song on the record. Heal is out today, and it’s streaming below.
This was one of the first songs I started writing for Heal. I remember thinking that I wanted to have an intro song that had the same marching quality that a song like “Apocalypse Please” off Muse’s Absolution had. It’s a special moment for the record for a multitude of reasons, but one of my favorite parts about recording this song was recording the drums. At first, I recorded a normal drum track that seemed to fit decently enough, but we opted for something a bit more exploratory. We decided to record two drum sets live at the same time. Myself on one kit located on one end of the live room, and our then drummer Steve Martin on the opposite end of the live room with a bigger kit. We did about two or three takes together before settling on the best pass. It was immediately evident that this was the correct approach. It gave us the marching quality I was looking for, and something else entirely. The song itself lyrically is a continuation from our last record Clear. Where Clear dealt solely with loss and grief, “Forever” deals with the aftermath of loss. Repair is a big theme throughout the song and the entire record. In the verses of the track I’m listing all of my flaws, fears, and all of the damage that I’ve brought into my life post-Clear. I’m making great proclamations of change, but I’m also acknowledging that I’ve become older, bitter, and cynical as well. The song ends with what I like to think of as my conscience asking me internally, “Do you want to heal?”
So this song comes from a combination of a few places lyrically. The major inspiration behind the tune was from watching a film called I’m Thinking of Ending Things. It was such a bizarre movie that left me feeling so uneasy throughout the entirety of the film that I immediately went upstairs to my music room and started drafting the initial demo for the song. The plot of the movie is that this woman Lucy is on her way with her boyfriend Jake to meet Jake’s parents for the first time. When the couple arrives at Jake’s family home we start to see strange jumps in time, awkwardly painful conversations between the parents and the couple, and visually disturbing imagery of the death of Jake’s mother. I immediately felt some sort of strange resonance to certain parts of the movie. I thought internally about how quickly life can change, or how things can be completely different than they might seem to everyone around you. The music for this one is essentially a play on controlled chaos in a song. It’s a simple verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/outro arrangement, but is littered with noise and destructive qualities to make the song feel like it can sort of fall apart at any minute. It has a bit of a Queens of the Stone Age feel with the bass/drum focused groove, and a more twisting and somewhat unorthodox vocal melody that sits on top of the track.
“Residual Self Image”
After dealing with the loss of my mother in 2018, I went to the beach with my wife for a getaway from the insane whirlwind that my life had instantly become. There was a specific moment where we were on the boardwalk on one of the chillier days at the shore. I leaned over the railing, looked out at the rolling waves, and just thought deeply about my relationship with my mom. I started to have an internal “conversation” with her. It was a really heavy time that still echoes loudly through my world almost 4 years later. So lyrically “Residual Self Image” is essentially about wanting your old life back, wanting the sea of change to slow down, and losing yourself…or losing pieces of yourself. In the bridge of the song there is a direct callback to the second song on our last record, “Please Release Me”. It shares the same chord arrangement and overall mood. Tracking this song was fun, but the drum tracks proved to be quite difficult at the time. I think we tracked and re-tracked the drums for this on five separate occasions. It needed to be right, and I feel like we got there by the end. My favorite section of the song comes in at 3:33. There’s something so beautiful and sad about the way the guitars play out to the end of the track – It seems to musically reiterate the mood and sentiment of the first verse..of longing for a loved one gone too soon.
“Somewhere to Hide”
This was another challenging song during the recording process to get right, and it almost didn’t make the record. Lyrically it’s sort of a snapshot of life during the pandemic and where my head was at. Feeling stagnant, watching the world literally turn off….it was crazy to say the least. While there are undoubtedly pieces of that, I feel like more of the imagery presented in this song is directly related to the disillusionment of my family. Searching desperately for escape from these colossal shifts in my life. I just desperately wanted somewhere to literally hide away from everything. Musically this is one of my very favorite songs from the record. This was also the very first song that Steve and I demoed for the record. He and I really honed the drum parts together as a team. Trying to make sure the drums had a very specific ebb and flow to them that felt exciting, while still serving the song. A really great memory from recording was Paul Smith (our fantastic producer) screaming with excitement over the guitar tones Angelo and I had captured on the rhythm guitar parts. Angelo Maruzzelli (guitar/vocals) also steps up big here, taking on all of the vocal harmonies, and adding almost all of the more soundscape leads and strange guitar sounds featured.
Musically this song is quite literally a love letter to the song “Everlong” by Foo Fighters. Featuring an homage to Mr.Grohl with the hi hat intro before each verse. Lyrically this song is about a strange dream I had where I was living across the street from a building that housed a cult. In the dream I peered through their front window and saw all of these cult followers dressed in blue and just staring at me with no expression on their faces. I decide to investigate the situation and sneak into a side door of their facility revealing an entire amphitheater filled with occult-like statues/imagery. I run out of the building scared shitless, and out of nowhere this woman sticks a needle in my shoulder and I gasp violently and wake up. Right when I woke up I called out to my wife who was in our kitchen–”Chelsea! Are you in there?” and she replied, “Ed, do not come in here.” I was so confused, and asked “Why? What’s going on?”, to her replying – “Ed, you’ve been in a car crash!”…then I started to float through the ceiling and into the sky…Fucking terrified, this is when I ACTUALLY woke up all discombobulated and completely confused. So, I wrote “Ceiling” about this entire fever dream. I interpret the dream and the song as my subconscious telling me how terrified I was of dealing with any form of abandonment, and how scared I was of looking weak in front of my loved ones/peers.
Getting into the deeper waters of abandonment on “Carry It.” This song is a pointed finger for sure. But I’ll let the listener decide who it’s pointing at. It’s a devastating song lyrically, and it’s often incredibly difficult to sing on stage without emotionally breaking down to some degree (as cliche as that might sound). Musically, I adore the aggression that lives in each instrument on this track. Vocally, you can hear that I’m really pushing past my comfort zone too. Plenty of little vocal cracks & strained notes. I remember being extremely “in the zone” when recording the vocals for this song. Another personal favorite.
Following suit like the previous songs, but more so here–depression is getting the best of me. It’s mainly about my wife trying to lift me up out of it, but I’m stuck in it. Refusing to acknowledge that I’m in it deep. I’m trying to navigate the new world we’re living in after watching my family essentially disintegrate. The bridge section goes back to the root of all of the dismay of the record–being stuck in a shock state after getting the call that my mother was dying. It’s all super heavy stuff. Some of my favorite guitar features/melodies on this track. I love the forward movement and groove of the drums with the walking bass guitar. When I first had the song the bass was a lot simpler, but Paul (producer) really pushed us hard to come up with some bass lines that really made the track move while still feeling menacing.
I was just playing with words when I first wrote the verses of this song, but right now while writing this track by track and listening intently, I think I was more or less describing what I thought my “fate” was. Terrified of being lost forever in grief. Describing a fortune teller basically saying that it was written in my hand as they “tracked my lifeline”, that I was destined for nothing. The second verse dives deeper into being scared of living an inauthentic life…entertaining the notion of throwing in the towel on your hopes/dreams, and just doing what’s expected of you. Favorite section of this song is without a doubt the bridge section. It was fun to venture off into heavier territory with a pretty heavy riff for our band. I really can’t wait to play this song live.
So this is the first tune that features Angelo taking on lead vocal duties, something I hope becomes way more common in our future releases. I started writing this song and reached out to Angelo asking for him to add his own spin on it. He ended up writing a whole new second verse, bridge, and altered the melody in the best way. It was our first true venture into co/writing and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. This song features everyone in the band playing Ryan Grutt (bass), Angelo (vocals/guitar), Steve (drums), and myself on guitar and back up vocals. If you ask most of the current band members I think it’s safe to say this might be our favorite song on the record. I’m a sucker for bridge sections and this one gives me big Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity vibes which makes me very happy. I wrote my section of the lyrics about feeling like you’ve been purposely and quietly walked to the guillotine by certain forces in your life.
We’re at the most reflective moment of the record on “Medicate.” Lyrically we’re confronting the damage that Clear has left behind and trying to figure out a path forward. The allure of substance/alcohol to help ease the sting of loss is now presenting itself as a way out. This is the darkest point of the record sonically. There’s a lot of musical experimentation going on in the intro section of the song–Paul (producer) loved synths, and was always looking for a spot where we could use them in a cool way. I wanted the intro to feel like you were underwater, faintly hearing this voice from afar. To do that we built a little synth bed (inspired by Nine Inch Nails) that’s sort of bubbling underneath the lofi acoustic guitars. It’s cool to hear the drums so upfront in the beginning of the song too I think.
This song is really the culmination lyrically of the entire record, and the one that came before it, Clear. It takes every experience of the past 10 songs and sort of tailspins out. A dizzying reflection on all of the trials and tribulations that came with this new life post my mothers death. It climaxes in the bridge section where I’m begging for it to “Please Release Me,” another callback to Clear, but in the same section I beg, “Don’t leave me.” Because I never want her spirit to leave me, I never want to forget her legacy. Like I said above, I’m in a tailspin, and this is reflected in the outro of the song through the building intensity of the guitars, and the screams of “I can’t get out.” It feels hopeless in a lot of ways, but uplifting in that I can hear myself fighting through the grief in a way.
This song started as a little demo on my phone, the only song on the record that wasn’t demoed multiple times in advance. One night at the studio I just asked Paul if we wanted to try to work on this song I didn’t have finished at all, and he happily obliged. Over the course of a month of working on this one it started to come to life and has become my favorite ending song I’ve ever had on a record before. Through the entity of the song I’m basically accepting abandonment in all forms..at least in the moment I’m singing. I’m admitting to all of my faults and failures throughout the collapse of my “previous life” that disappeared when my mother passed, while also recognizing that at the end of the day I will approach this crazy time in my life with love. When I sing the chorus line of “I’m never gonna stop loving you, I’m never gonna stop trying to” it takes on a few different meanings. When I say it in the first chorus I’m saying it to my wife and my family who have saved me over and over again through this awful time, In the second chorus I like to think of it as God speaking to me and basically saying he’s not giving up on me (or that he’s trying not to at least) and in the last chorus my intention is that even after every obstacle we’ve encountered throughout this fucked up period of life that seems so dark, I’m still going to approach the future with love to the best of my ability.
This song is a “bonus track” on the record, and features Ryan Grutt (bass) on lead vocals. This song was penned and arranged entirely by him. A few years back before Ryan was in University Drive, he called me and asked if I would help with some screamy stuff on this song he was working on (that song being “contradiction”) at our friend Joe Loftus’s studio (JL Studios – Joe ended up mixing this entire record btw) After working on it and Ryan eventually joining the band – once we needed another song it seemed like a no brainer that this would be the true ending of the record. While I can’t speak for Ryan about the songs subject matter, I can explain why I felt that it fit thematically coming directly after “Recorrect Everything”. In “Recorrect Everything” I’m making these grand proclamations that I’m going to go forward with love and saying that essentially nothing will get in my way, but “Contradiction” is almost the alter ego. Kind of calling me on my bullshit, because at the end of the day there is no perfect ending to the story. Life just goes on. The good and the bad.
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