FLEXIBLE and FRESH: Sponge

They just got tired of being out on the road mainly, and wanted to settle down a bit with their lives. As a band’s popularity goes up and down, you have to be able to make adjustments, and they really weren’t willing to do that anymore.

 

Detroit, Michigan has been the birthplace of many musical styles, most notably the Motown sound, the techno movement, garage rock, and of course, the Motor City madman himself, Ted Nugent. It is also the home of the alternative rock group Sponge, who were up near the top of the charts back in the mid-’90s with hits such as “Molly” and “Plowed.” After a minimally successful release in 1999, the band members faded into the background; taking some time off to work on side projects and to recharge some of Sponge’s creative batteries. Now in 2002, they have once again returned to the foreground, with some personnel changes and a brand new six-song EP entitled All the Drugs in the World, scheduled to become a full-length release in February.

Their recent tour with fellow Michigan resident Brian Vander Ark from the Verve Pipe brought Sponge to Washington University’s Gargoyle Room on December 5, playing to a small yet relatively enthusiastic audience. I spoke with lead vocalist Vinny Dombrowski and bassist Tim Krukowski after they wound down from a highly energetic set that undoubtedly made everyone in attendance aware of the fact that Sponge was back, in full force, ready to pick up right where they left off.

We haven’t heard anything from you guys recently; what have you been up to lately?

VD—Well, we’ve been doing some touring over the past few years, playing certain cities. We hadn’t really thought much about recording a new CD, we were pretty much just concentrating on the live dates. Then we changed our member lineup a bit, and once we got that solidified, and we got to the point where we were feeling comfortable enough, we decided to start thinking about a new record, but that really didn’t start happening until last year.

What happened to the Cross Brothers? They had been in the band since the very beginning.

VD—They just got tired of being out on the road mainly, and wanted to settle down a bit with their lives. As a band’s popularity goes up and down, you have to be able to make adjustments, and they really weren’t willing to do that anymore.

TK—Yeah, you can’t always sleep in a Motel 6. (Laughs) Sometimes you have to sacrifice a bit; you can’t go four-star all of the time.

So they were expecting the rock-star treatment, and didn’t want to settle for anything less?

TK—Yeah, it was either Motel 6 or nothing for them. We’re a bit more flexible than that, just because we know we have to be.

How do you feel the new lineup has affected the band’s overall sound?

VD—I really love our new lineup. I think everyone is playing the songs the exact way that they are meant to be played. For me, it’s a lot more fun now that it all feels new and fresh again.

What should older fans expect from the new CD—any major changes in direction?

VD—No, not really. We’re still writing what I think are really good songs—up-tempo, hard-driving rock songs. That’s what we’re still doing, and that’s what we’ve always done for a long time.

TK—I was a fan before I joined the band, so I have a slightly different perspective on that subject. To me, this new album has the same stuff that people connected with from the older material, especially on Rotting Piñata; it’s just been updated with new members and a new kind of energy.

Is it strange for your band to play colleges, considering that many of the students might not remember who you are and aren’t familiar with your hit songs like older crowds in clubs are?

VD—Not as much as you might think. We play a lot of all-ages clubs, and they’ll be a bunch of younger people right up front singing along with the words to our older songs. It’s an amazing thing for us to see that; it gives us a really good feeling.

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