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Members include Mike Cross (born in Detroit, MI), guitar; Tim Cross (born in Detroit), bass; Vinnie Dombroski (born in Detroit, 1962), vocals; Charlie Grover (born in Detroit, December 1967; joined band, 1995), drums; Joey Mazzola (born in Detroit, c. 1962); and Jimmy Paluzzi (left band, 1995), drums. Addresses: Record company--Columbia Records, 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404.

It's a classic music industry tale: musicians who have been struggling for years at success in the business are suddenly "discovered" and considered an "overnight sensation." "This doesn't feel like an overnight sensation to me," Vinnie Dombroski told Rolling Stone. Dombroski is the front man for the band Sponge, who exploded onto the music scene in 1994 with their debut album Rotting Pinata. The five members of Sponge have worked hard to find their place in the spotlight and know that in this fickle world they could just be a flash in the pan. However, they plan to be much more than that.

Sponge hails from Detroit, Michigan, a city that for a while bred many star musicians. But as Dombroski explained in Circus, "There's a real lack of opportunity [in Detroit]. Because of that people turn to music as a form of sustenance." That's exactly what all of the members of Sponge did starting in the mid 1980s. Growing up in the same working-class area, they've known each other most of their lives, although they played in different bands on the local scene.

As a band, Sponge's roots go back to the late 1980s when the Cross brothers--Mike on guitar, Tim on bass--and Dombroski, on drums, were in a band called Loudhouse. "The music was nothing like what we're doing now," Tim told Addicted to Noise's Gillian G. Gaar. "It was a lot heavier, a lot more obscure; we were springing off in different directions trying to find ourselves. But we just never did."

Loudhouse signed with Virgin Records in the early 1990s, but was dropped from the label after only one album. That was five years of hard work," Dombroski told Steve Appleford of Rolling Stone. And Tim admitted to Gaar, "That was a pretty low point in my life." Loudhouse gave it one more try, going back into the studio to record an album, but they disbanded before it was far off the ground.

Sponge guitarist Joey Mazzola, also a Detroit native, spent five of the hardest years of his life on the Los Angeles club circuit. When he decided to return home he hooked up with Dombroksi, with whom he had played earlier in his career. Almost a year after the Loudhouse breakup, around the end of 1992, Mazzola sat in on a jam session above a Detroit drugstore with Dombroski and the Cross brothers. The four clicked and Sponge was formed. Since Sponge had already formed before actually finding a singer, Dombroksi filled in at the mike temporarily. "And to my and my brother's amazement, and to Joey's as well," Tim enthused to Gaar, "it was like, 'Man, this guy sounds great! We don't need to look for a singer, let's look for a drummer!'"

Drummer Jimmy Paluzzi was added to the line up and the band began sending out their demo. Record labels were immediately interested. By October of 1993 Sponge was recording Rotting Pinata, although they didn't even ink their deal with Columbia Records until December of 1993--the label was so enthusiastic about the band, they fronted the money for recording before plans were final.

Rotting Pinata was released in 1994. Their first single, "Plowed," caught on very quickly. MTV put the video for the song in their "Buzz Bin"--videos by new artists whom the cable network finds worthy of developing a "buzz" for. Popularity formed on the basis of that video, making the song a top track on Alternative and Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio. The single "Molly" soon followed, and the album eventually went platinum. They had a relentless touring schedule in support of Rotting Pinata, which delayed their follow- up album until 1996.

However, by that time, drummer Jimmy Paluzzi had been replaced by another Detroit native, Charlie Grover. As the young band's style began maturing during constant touring, it became apparent that Paluzzi's style was no longer in sync with the band's. Grover, who blended in more smoothly, joined Sponge in early 1995.

The 1996 album Wax Ecstatic "was going to be this whole concept through song of the experiences of this fictitious type of character," Dombroski told Circus's Vinnie Penn. It was to have a "Memphis-type slant, a la old Stax Records, Memphis-sounding R & B, Al Green meets Ziggy Stardust." The band eventually abandoned the project, deciding it was too confining. Several of the songs did remain, however, placed among an entirely new set of tunes.

Rolling Stone's Jon Wiederhorn noted that, with Wax Ecstatic, "the group is making an effort to shatter the grim-faced grunge image that shoe-horned Sponge into the same category as acts like Bush, Everclear and the Verve Pipe...the music is more daring and mature this time." And RIP's Tom Lanham wrote, judging by Wax Ecstatic, "The pop strategies of Rotting Pinata...won't prepare listeners for the sheer sonic delight of this sophomore disc."

With all the praise from critics, however, Wax Ecstatic did not explode among fans as Sponge's first album had. But even with Rotting Pinata selling so well, and long before the release of Wax Ecstatic, the band knew that big labels count numbers. As Dombroski told Gaar, "Well, make no mistakes. We need to sell more records."

Sponge would just like to keep making music until they're old men. Dombroski confided in Music Connection, "I don't want to give off the impression that I think that we've made it.... We've come a long way, but we've got a long way to go." But Sponge does have confidence in their abilities. Dombroski went on to say, "I think that whatever this business can do with us, wherever it'll take us, it'll all happen as long as we've got the tunes. And we have got the tunes!"


Sponge's Career

Band formed in Detroit, MI, c. 1993; signed with Columbia Records, 1993; released Rotting Pinata, 1994.

Famous Works

Further Reading


Sponge Lyrics

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 14 years ago

Kicked out of the band for signing autographs???? never heard that

almost 14 years ago

Sponge has come a long way!! They still Rock to my ears!

over 14 years ago

Jimmy Paluzzi was kicked out of the band for wanting to sign autographs. He liked the one on one contact with the fans, while the other band members wanted to project a "harder" image.