THE SPONGETONES (Charlotte, NC)
Big Stir Records is far beyond honored to welcome THE SPONGETONES to our artist roster. Power Pop Hall Of Famers with over forty years of recording and performing history to their credit, the North Carolina-based band can be described without exaggeration as legends of the guitar pop form. Consisting today of the trio of accomplished singer-writers – JAMIE HOOVER (guitar), STEVE STOECKEL (bass) and PAT WALTERS (guitar) – who've crafted their Merseybeat-inspired sound since well before their classic 1982 debut BEAT MUSIC, joined by new drummer ERIC WILLHELM (allowing the beat to continue after the untimely passing of longtime member Chris Garges), THE SPONGETONES enter their fifth decade as a band and recording concern with new music on the way via Big Stir. After all this time, THE SPONGETONES, it turns out, have plenty more to say – and play – in their continuing demonstration of the endless well of possibilities inherent in the three-minute pop song when crafted and performed by masters of the form.
Ask anyone who's closely followed the evolution of hooks-and-harmonies-based guitar rock from its beginning to the present: THE SPONGETONES are deeply embedded in the history of power pop music. Their run of early '80s records was warmly reviewed by the likes of Rolling Stone and Billboard upon release, but perhaps even more impressive is their omnipresence on compilations surveying the classic keystones of the genre. From Yellow Pills to Poptopia! to Children of Nuggets, the 'Tones are on all of them, and they feature just as prominently in any journalistic survey of the power pop heyday. And there's a longevity and depth to their catalog that few of their contemporaries can match, with twelve acclaimed albums and a bounty of timeless (and oft-covered) tunes like “Have You Ever Been Torn Apart” (recently recorded for a single by The Flashcubes), “(My Girl) Maryanne,” and the frequently-anthologized “She Goes Out With Everybody,” which The A.V. Club has declared “the best Merseybeat song ever written and recorded by an American band.”
The Spongetones story begins in 1978 at a time when rock and roll hung in the balance between corporate pablum and punk rock fury, but like their Southern forerunners Big Star before them, the individual talents who formed the band had something more basic and heartfelt in mind. The band's sound is often compared to the music of the early British Invasion (and Merseybeat in particular), so it's no surprise that they originally coalesced for the simple joy of playing tunes by The Beatles and other '60s UK legends of their youth for a one-night performance at a Charlotte, NC nightclub, originally with Jake Berger in the slot that Jamie Hoover was soon to inherit, and drummer Rob Thorne who'd go on to play on every studio record. That they would go on to build a palpable buzz and global following is doubtless due to the happy accident of bringing together three talented and focused songwriting talents in Hoover, Stoeckel and Walters. It was with all three contributing songs and the band in peak form as a performing unit that the classic debut album Beat Music and the near-perfect EP Torn Apart were delivered, vaulting The Spongetones to front of an impressive class of jangling, tuneful and energetic guitar-pop bands emerging from the American South.
Glowing reviews from high profile music magazines followed, and as their audience grew, The Spongetones performed at larger venues, opening up for The Kinks, The Hollies, Rick Springfield, among others, touring as far away as LA, New York, and Tokyo. More recordings followed, on various labels including Sony/Japan JVC/Japan, Black Vinyl Records (the famed label founded by and for Shoes). Throughout the years since, The Spongetones, unlike too many of their contemporaries, have managed to hold on to the precious chemistry they had at the start, and although there hasn't been a studio album since 2009's Scrambled Eggs, the members have all been active with collaborative and solo projects, including Hoover and Stoeckel's duo work as Jamie and Steve and Stoeckel's recent acclaimed solo debut The Power Of And on Big Stir Records. And The Spongetones have continued to deliver the goods as a live act, up through and beyond their recent Fortieth Anniversary Concert in their hometown of Charlotte.
A professional recording of that rapturously-received show will serve as the basis for the next chapter of The Spongetones' story with Big Stir. But beyond a document of the band's onstage prowess – and a de facto greatest hits platter that would be the envy of any power pop combo of any vintage – there will be new studio recordings and, most essentially, new songs keeping the band's legacy sound firmly in the here and now. "The Spongetones are without a doubt the finest example of pure, unadulterated Beatlesque joy to emanate from the indie pop underground," declared Goldmine Magazine in 2006. That was true at the start, and remains so today. Stand by for more news as Big Stir Records bring you just what we, and you, love the most: beat music, as purveyed by one of its prime practitioners: THE SPONGETONES.