Newark punks Driver’s Ed stun with energetic and emotional single, “One Under”
Music & Society Editor
Packing into a nondescript house only known as “The Golden Goat,” with inscriptions and drawings covering every square inch of its then-standing walls, a hieroglyphic monumentality was given off: never before had I felt such exhilaration. With amps larger than the living room they were placed in and a drum kit compactly tucked in the hall, the stifling heat and claustrophobia of shoulder-to-shoulder punks left my palms sweaty and heart racing.
Emerging from the crowd itself, the band awkwardly wielded their instruments and turned the volume all the way up. The lead singer pierced with her powerful voice, the drums crashed, the bass moved energetically and the guitar bit with it’s menacing crunch, collectively melting the surrounding room and transporting the audience to a place of sonic ecstasy. This was a rare moment of pure magical energy that will forever be ingrained in my memory.
This was the very first performance of a band known as Driver’s Ed in the fall of 2017, which happened to coincide with my own baptism into Newark’s DIY scene: a collective of independent musicians and artists functioning as a supportive, creative community. Driver’s Ed has played tirelessly since then, and has become a foundation of the community, attracting larger and larger crowds at each show due to their incredible talent and humor.
The lineup consists of Allison George on vocals and guitar, Mitchell Bollinger on drums, Nic Pirhalla on bass and Liam Warren on guitar. Formerly, Ryan Geary was on guitar, but he left the band in 2018. The lineup-change, along with various other factors, delayed the release of any recorded material until now; the single “One Under” just dropped, and a full EP is coming on March 5 from Impetus Records.
Wearing emo and indie-punk influences on its sleeve, “One Under” mixes personal, melodramatic and catchy lyricism with a math-like guitar riff and an instrumental build leading into a breakdown as part of the bridge.
The song uses disturbing imagery — including organs being laid out and allusions to hara-kiri, the Japanese ritual-suicide practice — to describe feelings of alienation and resentment of love lost. The narrator’s great pain has led to being “full of bloodlust” — a seemingly appropriate reaction given the harrowing nature of the emotional trauma the speaker has endured.
While the production of the recording is excellent, not all of the band’s raw energy showcased in their live performance is truly captured — mainly the grit in Allison’s voice. The added guitar solo, however, is phenomenal, and elevates the track to a whole new level.
Driver’s Ed has transcended their position as just another college band, becoming a totemic symbol of the power and potential success of a DIY ethos. In doing so, they have become treasured in the Newark scene; as they continue to advance, their accomplishments feel communal for those of us in the scene, and a sense of pride in their origin is apparent.
Despite my own personal connection with Driver’s Ed, I can genuinely say that of the dozens of bands currently functioning in the Newark scene, they remain at the forefront and are on the verge of a larger breakthrough. This band deserves your time. Support your local scene and catch them at a show.