The Michigan Daily - Wuhet*,4 e. - Thursday, February 22, 1996 -- 5B
Local band ha
BI Tim Furlong
ly Arts Writer
:A year ago, I interviewed a rela-
tiyely unknown band from Detroit at
a tiny recording studio in Saline. Their
first single "Plowed" was just begin-
ning to receive a considerable amount
of radio play. At that time, the band
was working on some new material
and gearing up for a trip to Los Ange-
les to make their second appearance
on "The Jon Stewart Show."
What a difference 12 months can
ke! Today, "The Jon Stewart
Show" is history, that tiny recording
studio in Saline has been expanded
and remodeled, and the unknown
group went on to sell more than
900,000 copies of their debut album
"Rotting Pinata." The band, of course,
is Sponge, and 1995 saw this Detroit
quintet explode onto the national
ponge followed up the smash hit
owed" with "Molly," a tune that
found its way to the top of radio
playlists for the betterpart of the sum-
nier. It is safe to say that 1995 was a
whirlwind year for the group, which
suddenly found themselves opening
up for arena heavyweights like Live,
Caidlebox, Soundgarden and White
Zombie. It was a year that included
stops on "The Late Show with David
Letterman" and "Conan O'Brien," a
If summer stint in Europe and a
solo tour that culminated in a sold-out
tinues to soak up success
sn't let fame go to its head
New Year's Eve bash for hometown
fans at the Palladium in Detroit.
Sponge is not taking any time off to
stop and smell the roses. The group
has been diligently at work on album
number two for the last month and a
half. Once again, the group has de-
cided to pass on the distractions of
New York or Los Angeles and record
at "The Loft" in nearby Saline. Some
were surprised to hear that the group
had decided to record their sopho-
more effort with local upstart pro-
ducer and former University music
major Tim Patalan: Many, including
myself, thought that the group would
be lured in by some slick, high-priced
mega-producer. Apparently, Sponge
feels that they have a gpod thing go-
ing with Patalan, and they are not
going to mess around with it.
"We just feel real confident with
Tim and the way he allows us to do
our thing," said Sponge guitarist Joe
Mazzola. "Tim is great. He's like pro-
ducer, engineer, musician, friend,
therapist, psychoanalyst, and bar-
When I met up with the band re-
cently, singer Vinnie was putting the
final touches on the album tentatively
titled "Drag Queens in Memphis." He
was in the middle of singing a line from
"Velveteen," a somber acoustic num-
ber that seems sure to make the record.
"We've recorded over 21 songs this
time. Some of the tunes have been cut
two or even three different ways," said
Vinnie. "We've just been experiment-
ing with different tones and textures
trying to create the ultimate vibe."
Experimenting is definitely an un-
derstatement. Vinnie and the rest of
the band have been recruiting local
musicians to contribute their talents
to this record. There is a bluesy piano
played on "Drag Queens in Mem-
phis," atune that also features Sponge
guitarist Mazzola performing a mas-
terful slide guitar. On the extremely
hip "Baby Said," the band recruited
the brass section from local favorites
"The Howling Diablos." This is defi-
nitely a tune that shows how far the
group has evolved as musicians.
Of the seven or so tracks I listened
to, "Wax Ecstatic" outshone all of
them. This raw, energetic, smack in
the face is the song Sponge fans have
been waiting for.
"'WaxEcstatic' is definitely going
to be the first single off this record.
People at the label are going crazy
over this one!" said Patalan.
With the band definitely stretching
out in many different directions, some
Sponge fans may wonder if this record
is even going to sound like the same
band. The band members dismiss that
notion by saying if they simply went
out and recorded "Rotting Pinata, Part
Two," they would be cheating them-
selves and their fans.
"Overall, this is a much stronger,
Sponge are (left to right): Tim Cross, Jimmy Palluzzi, Vinnie, Mike Cross and Joey Mazzola.
much heavier record," Mazzola said.
"Let's just say there are no 'Mollys'
on this album."
It's hard to argue with them, espe-
cially if you look at how much they
have accomplished in such a short
time. I asked the guys if they ever
thought the band would come so far
"What do you mean fast? We've
been at this now over 15 years for
some of us," Mazzola said. "We've
all had projects that looked like they
were going someplace but they just
never panned out, so for me it doesn't
feel like it's really happened all that
fast. I mean let's face it -there is no
such thing as an overnight success in
this business, and I would not recom-
mend it to anyone who's not in it for
the long haul."
The reality is that most of the guys
were a bit surprised at how fast things
actually did progress once the ball
began to roll, but perhaps their eyes
have been opened to the fact that as
quickly as success can come in this
business, it can just as easily fade
away. I wanted to know if they were
feeling any of the pressure to deliver
the "Big Album."
"The only difference now is that I
think we have more of a sense of
responsibility," Mazzola said. "Now
that people have seen the band and
bought the record, I think we all feel
that we need to deliver to live up to
those expectations, but I don't think
we are feeling any pressure to put out
that huge record. We're all just a bit
more serious this time around."
With the album tracks completed,
the band's next stop is Los Angeles
where highly-regarded producer Tim
Palmer will mix the record. Sponge
will also be participating in an online
Spin Forum about rock'n'roll and
"It's kind of ironic that politicians
are trying to place themselves into: a
rock context these days," said Vinnie.
"I mean, let's face it - rock'n'roll, by"
definition, has always been anti-estab-
lishment, and now here is the establish-
ment trying to bring themselves in line
with the rock'n'roll audience. But hey,
we're going to have some fun with it."
The record is slated for release some-
time in the late spring, and barring any,
unforeseen events, the band should hit
the road shortly after. Until then, look
for Sponge to turn up around town for
some low-profile gigs to road test some'
of the new material.
With all that has happened over the
past year, success hasn't seemed to
change Sponge very much. For now,
the only major difference is that they
are buying the $8 bottle of wine overthe
$5 brand. Still, it's hard not to wonder
what the next 12 months will bring for
these national stars.
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