It is a few months away, but the excitement over Flannel Nation is high! The brand new ‘90s celebration festival coming to SoCal in August features Everclear, Soul Asylum, Filter, Fastball, Sponge, Cracker, and Candlebox.
AUGUST 13, 2022
San Pedro, California
From the same company that gave us Like Totally Fest and So Cal Hoedown, we know Flannel Nation is going to be a blast. OC Music News will be catching up with the bands in the months ahead, and this week, we enjoyed speaking with Sponge front-man and founding member, Vinnie Dombroski.
The Detroit rock band formed in 1992 and exploded into the mainstream thanks to their “Rotting Pinata” album. With the massive success of “Plowed” and “Molly (16 Candles),” Sponge was all over MTV and modern rock radio stations. The album hit number five on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, and stayed on for 40 weeks, eventually becoming a platinum album.
Their follow up, “Wax Ecstatic,” also got them in the top ten and landed in quintessential ‘90s movies “Empire Records,” “Chasing Amy,” and “Mall Rats.”
In August 2021, Sponge released their ninth studio album, “Lavatorium.” It kicks off with the amazing “Stitch” and spends the whole time reminding you of the ‘90s, but with a modern twist. Dombroski gives us the details on touring and new music.
Traci: Where are you right now?
Vinnie: Well, back in Detroit. We were on the West Coast last week. We’re off this week and out to Colorado next week for a few days.
Traci: I saw you are going back and forth across the US this year.
Vinnie: The fellas in the band told me last week, “Do the agents ever look at a map when they book these things?” (laughing) We’ve been doing it for so long; we’re accustomed to the drive. It’s kind of all over the place, but at least we got to work.
Traci: How have the shows been since the pandemic eased?
Vinnie: Like nothing ever happened! I still think that some folks are apprehensive about going into a venue or a large crowd, and some of the brave souls that have come out to gigs that we talk to can be a little nervous at times. Other folks are just like what pandemic has never happened, which is good to see. People have a certain level of comfort after everything is said and done.
Traci: What do you do when you’re touring and you have a day off?
Vinnie: Any of my days off on the road are just completely taken up with catching up with bookkeeping, writing checks, advancing shows. That’s the day off! If I have time to go do anything, it would be to sit down and play cards with the fellas, if I’m really lucky to do that, or go to a baseball game if I’m super lucky.
Traci: As somebody who was a DJ at rock stations in the ‘90s, I cannot tell you how many times we’d play “Plowed” and the phones lit up with, “What’s the human wreckage song?” There’s a few songs I will never forget because they’re so memorable from the audience excitement.
Vinnie: Right. I mean, you ever find yourself going, “I’m just tired of hearing this song.”
Traci: But it is a good memory! People were passionate about it, and the wonderful times during the ‘90s. For me, it definitely ramped up during 2020. The ‘80s and ‘90s were a simpler time, in my head. (laughing)
Vinnie: Understood. When we did Howard Stern’s show, I think that was 2019. Howard had a whole list of his favorite songs that he was asking artists to cover, different ‘90s artists. We recorded Stone Temple Pilots song in the studio. When I looked at that list in its entirety, and spent time just listening again as opposed to, like, hearing it on the radio, I’m going, “Wow. Very cool era of music.”
Traci: Which Stone Temple Pilot song did you do?
Vinnie: We did “Vaseline.”
Traci: On “Lavatorium,” I definitely hear Scott in you.
Vinnie: Maybe it’s just a subconscious tip of the hat. The world is a little bit darker of a place without Scott wheeling around. I got to tell you, just revisiting his performances. Looking at his live performance, I just go, oh, man, it was just good. It was too good to let go. He was great. Fantastic. So, yeah, the world is a little bit darker without Scott.
Traci: I’m not sure if I can word this properly, but there were parts of the album that sounded ‘90s, but it wasn’t the “oh, this sounds old and used.” It sounds like fresh ‘90s. Not dated, but nostalgic maybe. I really think the new album is a brilliant CD and I think you guys did a fantastic job.
Vinnie: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. We can’t escape the ‘90s sound. It’s funny you bring that up too, because I’m involved in this other project called The Lucid and people say it sounds like a metal band with a ‘90s singer. So no matter what I do, the ‘90s thing is just what it is that we do. We’re proud of it and it just ain’t going to go away.
Traci: With Flannel Nation, I had several friends flip out because it was their favorite ‘90s bands. It’s such a great line-up.
Vinnie: It’s funny because they’re talking to us about a headliner; there’s one more band besides Everclear. I think Everclear certainly is a fine headliner, but apparently they’re going to add someone else. I don’t know who that could be, but I’m excited to find out.
Traci: I tried to find out and the promoter said he was under a legal thing and can’t tell me. (laughing)
Vinnie: That kind of stinks. But I’m in. (laughing)
Traci: You’ve played with Everclear, Soul Asylum, and Fastball before. Who else?
Vinnie: We toured with them all.
Traci: So you guys all got along, right? There are no rivalries?
Vinnie: Everybody’s cool. There’s no issue that grown-ups can’t handle. You want to be a kid about it? We have problems, I guess. (laughing)
Traci: Going back to “Lavatorium,” was that something you came up with during lockdown, or was it already in the works?
Vinnie: We had a deal in place to make a record with Cleopatra prior to the lockdown, so that deal was signed in fall 2019, and then we had not started on the record. We were still touring right up until the pandemic locked everything down in March of 2020. We were on the road but ready to make the record, and then we got shut down. So, yeah, it was a record made during the pandemic, but it was kind of put in motion prior.
Traci: Bands are releasing songs when they want to now and not necessarily worrying about a record. Is that something you would like to do? Or do you like the cohesiveness of an album?
Vinnie: We have done that kind of thing in the past. I think we released a single called “Uber and a Fifth,” and I think it’s fun. However, I certainly like, as you said, the cohesiveness, the focus, the project, the process.
Traci: You mentioned your other project, The Lucid, and then you’ve got Diamondbuck.
Vinnie: Oh, the Diamondbuck. Absolutely. That’s a riot!
Traci: Explain that one.
Vinnie: I loved country music, old school country music for many, many years, and put a band together in Detroit called The Orbitsuns, probably about 22 years ago, 23 years ago. As a matter of fact, the original drummer from Sponge is a drummer in The Orbitsuns, Jim Peluzzi. So we’ve had that group and have made several records, but I found myself with a ton of songs that didn’t quite fit on The Orbitsuns album. So I decided to get the Diamondbuck thing going. The Diamondbuck project has two full-length records. The second one was released on vinyl. It’s not even released digitally yet, but I have two of those records. It’s just a lot of fun. It’s just more left of center, old school based country music.
Traci: Exploring all your tastes.
Vinnie: I try. I love that music. I just love that style of music. Yeah, it’s done for the love.
Traci: What are you doing the rest of this year? Touring all summer, and any other projects coming up?
Vinnie: We definitely are spending a lot of time with the shows. We just got a ton of shows booked in June. May is pretty rock solid, with the exception of one weekend between Sponge and going out and doing The Lucid dates. So, yeah, we’re pretty rock solid for now and I can only imagine that it’s going to get busier towards the end of the summer as well. We’re really lucky, and I’m really looking forward to Flannel Nation. That’s going to be a great day. Although we go on early, we’ll hang around and get a chance to see all the other bands play. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Traci: Who else will be there with you?
Vinnie: Tim Patalan, who’s produced many records with us, he’s playing bass on almost everything. We’re out there doing live now and so thrilled to have him playing because he’s one of the tip top bass players in the whole world, as far as I’m concerned. Dave Coughlin on drums, just a kick-ass rock and roll drum player. Of course Andy Patalan on guitar, Tim’s brother, and Kyle Neely on guitar. Just a blazing guitar soloist. He’s louder than a jet plane.
Traci: Well, I can’t wait to see and experience it all then! What should we do to prepare?
Vinnie: We have the new record, “Lavatorium,”we’re on Spotify and our site, so look us up! We’re out there. We’re still doing it!
It was an absolute pleasure to talk to Vinnie and he is such a fantastic person to chat with; I could have harassed him for hours. Check out Sponge’s new album and go back to the “Plowed” days so you are ready to see them live at Flannel Nation, August 13th at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.
OC Music News will have more interviews with the Flannel Nation bands and we’ll keep you posted on the secret headliner announcement…