mtvU Spotlights Meridian Drive

Some of the most popular rock bands in music history formed in college; take, for example, REM, who burst onto the scene in 1982 and are still one of alternative rock’s most popular acts.

With this in mind, mtvU, the college-affiliated sister channel of MTV, began holding contests two years ago amongst college bands – the winners of these contests received record deals with major pop-punk labels. This year, mtvU has increased the amount of competitions they are holding in order to give more opportunities to college bands. This increase in record deals may very well help Meridian Drive, a local Queens rock quartet that is, quite possibly, one of the most deserving college bands to have come along in a while.

Meridian Drive is a pop-punk band that has been around since 2004. Their sound is in the same vein as Fall Out Boy, Relient K, Motion City Soundtrack, and various other bands of that style. Three of the band’s members go to St. Francis College, while the fourth member, Chris Castellino, is a St. John’s alumnus, having graduated in 2006 with a degree in television and film production. Meridian Drive has already recorded two EPs and toured extensively, but the road has not been an easy one.

“Starting in Jan. 2005, we started playing nearly two shows a week,” Castellino said. “And since it’s so hard to get shows in Queens, we mostly perform on Long Island or Brooklyn.

Sometimes we travel all the way to Boston, New Hampshire, or anywhere else in the Northeast.”

Meridian Drive, like most college bands, has faced the problem of juggling “real” jobs along with the band. Chris, who works at MTV and has had prior jobs at FUSE, among other places, noted that it’s difficult to perform in a band and make any income from it. “Honestly, being in a band, you never break even,” he said. “All the money gets put back into future recordings or shows, which can be hit or miss.” But the mtvU competition could provide Meridian Drive with the big break they need. Last year, they made it to the top 10 in a similar mtvU competition, so their odds are already high.

Jason Rzepka, head of communications at mtvU, seemed optimistic about the band’s chances. “They’re very similar to artists like The Starting Line and Fall-Out Boy – artists that clearly resonate with our audience,” he said. “They have a combination of good songwriting and great hooks that people just find catchy and feel connected to.”

Meridian Drive undoubtedly stands a great chance in the upcoming competitions. Although the opposing bands are good, Castellino noted that Meridian Drive’s advantage lies in its recordings, which sound far more professional than most bands’. “It’s mostly thanks to our fantastic producer, Rob Guariglia, who also worked with The Veronica’s,” Castellino explained. “His methods have helped our CD sound amazingly professional, which shows fans and record execs how serious we are with our music.”

The competitions will be taking place over the next few weeks on www.bestmusiconcampus.com. There, fans can vote on their favorite college bands for three different contests: one for Epitaph Records, another for Drive-Thru Records, and a third for Epic.

Having listened to their latest EP, Into the Starlight, we can vouch that Meridian Drive has the potential to be the next big thing in the pop-punk world. With any luck, they can continue to gain recognition in the music industry, and a strong showing in any of the mtvU competitions may be the last stepping-stone they need to strike it big.