By Michael Lello
A Social State frontman Ed Cuozzo feels that the band, which has been together since 2009, has recorded its best record yet, called “How To Get To Heaven.”
“I’m so proud of it and I just want everyone to hear it,” he said in an interview with Highway 81 Revisited last week. “I think if anything is going to open a door for us, it’s going to be this record.”
A Social State will headline The Vintage’s fifth anniversary show this Friday, Jan. 17 (the free, all-ages show is co-produced by Highway 81 Revisited and also featured Young At Heart, Esta Coda and Katie Kelly & The Charming Beards). On Jan. 25, A Social State will play at A Fire With Friends’ album-release show at 25/8 Productions, and on Feb. 12 the band will open for Palisades at Crocodile Rock in Allentown. It’s a busy few months for the band, which has previously played at local venues like The Keys and the former New Visions, as well as New York rooms like The Trash Bar and Arlene’s Grocery, Philadelphia spots and small tours of the Midwest and East Coast.
We spoke with Cuozzo about The Vintage’s role in A Social State’s growth, the making of the new album and the origins of the group.
H81R: Tell us about A Social State’s history with The Vintage.
EC: We just lost our rehearsal space which was just next door (to The Vintage’s previous location on Penn Avenue) at Phoenix Cuts. The Vintage opened up to us and gave us all this availability and let us store our stuff in the back. Everyone was constantly nice to us. And that’s how our relationship started. We ended up having our first show there, and I even ended up working the board a few times. . . .
We really had our best shows there. I really think if it wasn’t for that place, and them taking us in and even pushing our band, because they pushed our band really hard over there, we wouldn’t have had as many fans as we did for our first little demo, our first record and even know. It means a lot to me. Conor (O’Brien) and Teresa (O’Connor) are like family.
H81R: Tell us how A Social State started.
EC: I used to be in a band called Melded. That band fell apart, and Jon (Fletcher), our bassist, and Nick (Ogonosky) — he’s not our drummer right now, he’s in Georgia — Jon and Nick played in a band called Losing Caufield. And Jon and Nick left Losing Caufield and joined Livingston with C.J. (Williams, guitar). So all the bands broke up more or less, and we just happened to kind of meet each other in the middle.
It all started off with ‘Why don’t you come down to a practice?’ and we were practicing at Phoenix Cuts. We started to be friends and going to each other’s shows, right before the bands collapsed. We played one little riff that I was working on, and immediately we knew we had to pursue it. It felt so right, everybody understood each other. In the beginning, middle and where we are now, there was never any point in any practice where anyone has really raised their voice to someone else. No arguments. I mean differences, obviously, when you’re working with creative people, but for the most part we haven’t raised our voices once. That’s why I think we’ve persevered almost five years as a band.”
H81R: What was the process of recording the new album?
EC: We put out this other record called ‘Everyone’s Your Friend.’ We loved doing it, we self-produced it, and I have to start there because that’s how we got to this one. We couldn’t get label or management attention, which, I think is a little naïve when you’re younger and you just think ‘let’s make a record.’ Everybody really liked it, and a few months after we released it, we got an e-mail from this guy Steven Haigler, and he said ‘Kudos, no one has the balls to do anything to tape or live these days.’ I didn’t know who he was. I followed the link to his studio VuDu Studios (in Port Jefferson, N.Y.), and I started looking at the client list, and I’m going ‘Holy shit.’ This guy did Fuel, he did their ‘Sunburn’ record; he did Brand New’s ‘Deja Entendu’ record; he mixed all The Pixies’ records with Gil Norton, except for ‘Surfer Rosa,’ that was all Steve Albini. He did crazy work.
We went up there and just had the idea to do a 6-song EP. So we’re up there and recording and it sounds so much better than anything we’ve ever done before. He really drove us to write better songs and better parts. He beat us up a lot but it worked out. We would go up in increments, we’d go up for seven days, we’d go up for a weekend, and eventually the third time were up there, we’ve got to make a full-length record.
H81R: How will the album be released? Will a label be putting it out?
EC: We’ve been talking to a lot of little indie labels, some management people here and there. We don’t really know what we do, because certain people are expressing interest and asking us to do certain things, and we’re kind of stuck in the middle before we get a green flag or a red flag.
H81R: So I guess there isn’t a release date set.
EC: Right now I can’t (give one), but I could tell you that if by mid-February nothing has happened with this record (with a label), we will release this record ourselves. We will do a Kickstarter and raise money, because it’s the only way; if people want to hear it, we’re going to need their help.
H81R: How has the band’s music changed since it first started?
EC: In the beginning, when we did our little 6-song demo, I think we were all just hyperactive, rock ’n’ roll, punk rocker kids that wanted to play as heavy as we could, and that was kind of the thing. When we went to record our next record, we recorded 14 songs, and we thought they sounded so much like the first record, and we didn’t evolve, and that’s when I had the idea to do it to tape and to do it live. And that’s when I wrote 12 new songs, and that was the record that turned into ‘Everyone’s Your Friend.’ I was also going through a lot of personal shit at the time, and I know that’s a cliché thing for a frontman guy to say, but it’s the truth. My life was in a big change, and those guys at first were like ‘You want to do it to tape? You want to trash 14 songs that we have?’ It was just like, ‘No, that’s a bad idea.’ But it ended up being probably the best idea ever, because if it wasn’t for that record, we would’ve never met Steve, we would’ve never gone to the studio.
Also for that record, the one that we did live, everything changed. We went from this straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll or indie or whatever to more of, there were elements of shoegaze, there were elements of punk rock, but there were elements of Radiohead, just stranger elements in the band, and I think that forever changed us, in a positive way.