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Sponge Still Having A Rockin' Good Time
Over the past 17 years, Sponge has become the little Detroit rock band that could. And still does. The group, formed from the ashes of the Detroit industrial rock outfit Loudhouse, has recorded for major labels and small independents, has had radio hits (“Plowed,” “Molly (Sixteen Candles)”), a gold debut album, internal strife and personnel changes, management hassles and record company tumult.
Sponge is hardly at the peak it enjoyed in the mid-’90s with the albums “Rotting Pinata” and “Wax Ecstatic,” but it’s still an active concern, as is putting out its sixth studio album, “Galore Galore.”
“We keep making records, y’know, and people can’t believe it,” says frontman Vinnie Dombroski, the only original member left in Sponge. “They come to gigs and they’re like, ‘I can’t believe you gus are still doing this.’ I’m like, ‘Why wouldn’t we do it?’
“I think the big thing is we’ve managed to figure out ways to do it without any financial support. I think that’s where a lot of bands fall by the wayside; they owe too much money, so they never make any. We’ve managed to do this right. We keep doing it, and the fans keep coming back.”
Dombroski also manages to keep Sponge fresh by making it just one of his creative pursuits.
He leads two other bands as well — the more extreme, industrial-flavored Crud, and the country-leaning Orbitsuns. “It really is a labor of love,” Dombroski notes. “I can go out here and play gigs. There’s not a ton of gigs for any one band, but if I go out and work three bands, I have a gas.”
The variety also “helps me keep my focus on music and only music,” and while Dombroski’s not sure quite how the three bands intersect, he’s sure they do in some way.
“That stuff helps me write — or pick on what to write about. That’s how they bleed over into each other,” explains Dombroski, 45, who has four children from two marriages. “I think I’m too close to it to really tell, though.
“Sometimes I play some of the new Sponge record for friends, and they’re like, ‘Wow, that sounds like a Crud song’ or something. I just go with it. It’s not really a conscious effort.”
What Sponge fans will notice on “Galore Galore,” however, is a newly sober and postive tone to Dombroski’s writing. The album’s 11 songs are not as angsty as their predecessors; mostly, tracks such as the atypically soulful “I Did It Without the Drugs,” “No D.O.A. on Sunday” and “Dig My Own Grave” acknowledge prior tribulations, but with a sense of celebration that Dombroski and Sponge have outlived their bad decisions.
“I’m not as self-loathing as I used to be,” explains Dombroski, who began his career as a drummer and even played a bit on Kid Rock’s latest album, “Rock N Roll Jesus.” “I still mess up the same; I just don’t take it so hard anymore. Maybe I’m just getting a little bit older; why beat yourself up?
“I just don’t like being in the head space you have to be in to write those kinds of songs anymore. I don’t like writing like that anymore. I feel... better, I guess.”
Dombroski plans for the good feelings to continue for the indefinite future. Sponge’s plan, he says, is simple; “More gigs,” including a five-day cruise in December with several other bands and a planned acoustic set at Saturday’s “Just Let Me Breathe” cystic fibrosis benefit concert in Royal Oak. He’d certainly like “Galore Galore” to sell well and wouldn’t turn down radio support, but Dombroski feels Sponge is set up to endure even without them.
“We know how to do this,” Dombroski explains. “We do the sound check and have a great dinner. Then we have a great gig. We don’t get too carried away with partying, and then we get up and to the next town and play another great gig.
“So, yeah, we know exactly what to do now. And we always have a good time.”
Sponge performs with Hellen, South Normal, Whitey Morgan and Bull Halsey at the 5th Annual Just Let Me Breathe benefit Saturday (March 15) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Proceeds go to the Rock CF Foundation. Call (248) 399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com. Sponge is also playing March 29 in celebration of releasing its new album, “Galore, Galore,” at the Ritz, 24300 Hoover Road, Warren. Call (586) 756-6140 or visit www.myspace.com/theritzrockbar.
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