Larry Studnicky has always heard music playing in his head.
Although this was something he ignored through most of his early adulthood, after earning a law degree and starting a family, he has since revisited what he has looked at as a calling in the music industry.
After finding some success in his first takes in the studio back in the 90’s, and recording with some music greats, he has returned with a new band and a revived drive to once again create and write.
I met up with Studnicky and bandmate Charles Czarnecki last week at the Lunchbox in Greenpoint to discuss their new band, Cold Beer and Broads.
How did you two meet to start Cold Beer and Broads?
Czarnecki: Our relationship started, in a professional sense, in the industry as me being a client of his. So technically he’s my lawyer, but he’s also my co-band member. His partner introduced me to Larry.
Where are you guys from?
Studnicky: I was born in Tarrytown, but raised almost entirely in the immediate suburbs of Washington, D.C. I then came back to New York right out of college. I left to go to law school and came right back.
I make my living as a lawyer, which fortunately I’m at a point in my career where it gives me both the flexibility in my schedule and the extra income to be able to make music without my wife divorcing me.
I sat down with Charles one day and said I made an album once upon a time, it didn’t work out real well and I lost a lot of money. I said I’d like to at least get one more song out of my head and Alan says you’re a genius and would you be willing to help. He said sure, then I introduced him to another friend of mine John Macon, who is an indie artist in his own right.
He recorded under the band name Binge. He’s had songs on things like “Dawson’s Creek,” “Party of Five” and shows like that. The three of us became a songwriting team.
So why was his partner calling you a genius?
Czarnecki: Don’t know, I was still a young client when I met Larry. As far as vouching for my level of intelligence or talent or whatever, it’s based on a few things. Shortly before I met Alan before my Broadway debut and my Carnegie Hall debut, I know that I had made an impression. I guess when people see something they have faith in it and they advocate for it. I guess I was just lucky.
What show were you on at the time?
Czarnecki: At the time I was one of the conductors in Jersey Boys, I did some orchestration for the New York Pops, then they asked me to conduct so that worked out. I got a couple significant debuts right on top of each other and obviously those as credits work for you. They create a lot more work and so far my career has done real well in theater and developing new artists in all different kinds of genres.
Studnicky: What Charles is leaving out is that he was a child prodigy on the keyboard. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and on the EP we are working on now, he plays everything from keyboards to percussion; one song he even plays the accordion.
Czarnecki: I have Grammy blood in my veins from my whole family. I grew up in the Polka world in the whole network of dancing and going to see bands. Even my family, my mother was a groupie in my father’s Polka band. It is still part of my life now. Not as much because I live in New York now, but it’s appropriate because we’re in Greenpoint.
What is your music background like?
Studnicky: What’s so weird about everything that we’re doing is that I don’t play an instrument. I’m not musically trained, I can’t read music but I have songs that write themselves in my head. I hear the parts, I hear the instrumentation, and that started in high school.
As a high school nerd, I just dismissed it as something that was interesting. I’d scribble down the lyrics, and I’d make sure to record the lyrics and melody. I didn’t pay too much attention to it until much later on when I became a lawyer. I was like, I’ve had songs recording themselves in my head for the last 10 years and it’s still happening.
I went out and recoded a record, I had the time of my life, but I lost a fortune. That was back at a time when you couldn’t just go to your co-writers house and find a whole digital Protools studio. You had to pay to record in the studio and I had to spend a lot of money.
It was a cool project. I met and worked with Nicki Hopkins, who was a keyboardist for the Beatles, for John Lennon on Imagine, he was the Stone’s keyboardist on “Exile on Main Street” and a lot of stuff in the 70’s. I got to be good friends with him because the record took too damn long.
At one point Nicki said, “would you like to have Mick Taylor play on the record?” I said why the hell not, assuming he doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Mick Taylor played on about five songs. The band’s lead singer was from a Brooklyn-based band – I was just a songwriter on that project – and he was one of Cher’s roadies. And he swore up and down from day one that Cher would sing a duet with him, which she did one night after finishing a concert in Atlantic City. She put her entire cast and crew on a bus, drove to the recording studio, which was near Colt Neck, New Jersey, stayed and finished the duet with her roadie.
The experience was amazing, but back then it cost a lot of money to record in a digital studio. I didn’t know anything about the music industry, I was an idiot and I ended up mostly broke.
How is recording now different than when you first started?
Studnicky: For me it has to be about risk-reward. I have a wife and a daughter, and I can’t go broke twice in my life and come back a second time. I knew that we would be able to record the songs for close to nothing based on where digital technology has gone. Our cowriter John Macom has a Protools studio in the basement of his house in Queens. We’re able to work out the basics of every song so we were ready to go when we stepped foot in Kaleidoscope Sound in Union City.
Czarnecki: We also have all of the resources in our own group. We’re pretty much able to create an album. But we take it to the next level, and we’ve done it properly and brought in really great musicians as well, as opposed to us on the instruments that we can just hack. We recorded everything on the highest level.
What motivates you?
Studnicky: It started with one song. It was a song I started writing back when I was in the studio in that Brooklyn band in the 90s when I lost a lot of money. It’s a country-rock Christmas song and what triggered it was when Obama said he was going to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Its lyrics spoke to a guy who was stuck overseas and trying to get home to see his family in time for Christmas Eve. I thought the timing was good, it doesn’t have to be explicitly or overtly about a soldier coming home – it’s not – but it speaks to that issue.
I told my wife I have one song to do, and if it doesn’t get on the radio, it’s just going to be that one song. That song made it on the radio, not to the extent that people across the country know it, but it got picked up by over 100 stations that went to holiday format in Christmas 2012. It started spreading internationally in Christmas 2013, and since it got on the radio, it cost almost nothing to do so I said let’s keep going.
Check out the band’s new single “Summer Girl” and look for their forthcoming EP “Six Pack.”