The polar vortex did more than just extend a seemingly never-ending winter. Besides pitting meteorologist Al Roker against conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, the low-pressure system with super-cold temperatures dominated so many conversations on the Long Island Rail Road that a commuter was inspired to put it to song.
A trio of Long Island natives was more than happy to oblige.
"We got an order from a guy; he and his wife were making fun of the fact everybody was talking about the polar vortex on the Long Island Rail Road," said Jeremy Honig, one-third of the partnership behind Write Me My Song, an online site that creates personalized custom pieces by request. "He had heard of our company and was like, 'Let's see if they'll write a song about the polar vortex.' . . . It's not our usual thing, but it's really funny."
Those kinds of challenges and creative outlets are exactly what Honig, a Melville resident, and his co-founders Evan Behlivanis, 32, and Brian Frankel, 31, both of Astoria, Queens, said they need.
The friends all grew up on Long Island but didn't meet until they began performing with the Binghamton Crosbys, an all-male a cappella group at the upstate university. Once their performance days were over, the three wrote tunes for friends and family on special occasions and made up amusing lyrics to songs on the radio in between their day jobs. Behlivanis teaches theater in a public school in Queens. Frankel, 31, works in the financial industry and Honig, 34, spends his days practicing law.
But for two of the three, that wasn't enough.
"Evan gets to use the creative side of his brain every day, but the other two of us not quite as much," Frankel said. "We were very much lamenting that the creative side of our brains were dying a slow and painful death."
Desire for a different song
Write Me My Song has fulfilled about 30 requests since the business started in December. Tunes range from 30 seconds to 411/2 minutes and cost $49 to $399. The soundtrack is a mix of the trio on guitar, piano and synthesizer. Most of their clients are couples, and the most frequent request is for weddings and proposals.
Frankel, Honig and Behlivanis have been building the business via social media and word-of-mouth. When a request comes in Honig takes the lead, asking the interested party to fill out a personalization form.
"Not to knock any traditional wedding song, but every now and then someone doesn't want to get married to 'Endless Love' or a song that's been played at a multitude of weddings," Frankel said.
The process begins with an email from a potential client who wants to order a song online. Honig responds, schedules a phone interview where he probes for details to make the song unique and writes up a detailed summary.
"We really let them lead us in the direction they want to go," Honig said.
Once the customer interaction is complete, Honig's summary is handed off to Frankel, the group's lyricist. When Frankel is done he sends his work to his co-partners and the song is set to music by Behlivanis, who is in charge of musical production and sets the song to music.
The final product is recorded in a studio in Behlivanis' apartment. From start to finish, it takes them about four to six weeks to complete a composition.
"We knew each other's work ethic from being together in college," Honig said. "Sometimes we'd rehearse four to six hours a day. We're very dedicated with what we do. Being 100 percent honest is the most important thing. We can't be worried about egos."
From poem to tune
Although emotional wedding reception numbers -- like the one the three wrote for a couple after the bride's mom passed away before the nuptials -- are in demand, Frankel, Behlivanis and Honig will write songs for any occasion.
The friends have also realized there is a market for more than poignant first-dance pieces. One client wanted music for his Kickstarter campaign for a children's science fiction book, and another turned a poem to his girlfriend into a song.
The trio is helping a fellow former Binghamton Crosby with a personal project. Scott Eckers teaches social studies at H.B. Thompson Middle School in Syosset when he isn't moonlighting as a lounge singer. He's working on an album and has commissioned six tunes from Write Me My Song.
"I've been doing covers for the last several years and was looking to expand my repertoire with songs that are personalized for me," said Eckers, 33.
The songs range from the lovelorn "Passing Me By" to the hopelessly romantic "Out Here Waiting" before delving into frivolity with "Borscht Belt Blues." The song selections aren't coincidental -- the ballads tie in to Eckers' search for love, while "Blues" pokes fun at his uncanny ability to play Catskills resorts on the final night before they close.
When the time is right, all three songwriters said they'd like to turn their own musical stylings into a full-time career. For now, they are content with their personal lives. Honig, a father of two, wrote "My Everything" for his wife, Adee, when their daughter was born in January; Behlivanis and Frankel have longtime girlfriends.
So far, they have yet to run into a request they couldn't handle.
"If someone asked for a thrash metal song, it would be a struggle," Behlivanis joked. "But I have no doubt we'd be able to deliver."