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Cherry Monroe stakes out its own niche



Published: Thu, October 28, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



Love is the theme of Cherry Monroe's debut album, which is in stores.

By DEBORA SHAULIS

ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

Music lovers know how many ways bands can be categorized. Alternative rock. Metal core. Pop-punk.

Cherry Monroe has its own way of describing its sound.

"We're glam-alternative," says lead vocalist Matt Toka, formerly of Youngstown's West Side and now of Canfield.

Cherry Monroe guitarist Frankie Bennett also is from the area, having grown up in Austintown and currently residing in Boardman. They and the rest of the band -- guitarist Ryan Harris, bassist Dave Saltzman and drummer Jason Levis, all from greater Pittsburgh -- are preparing for a CD release party Saturday night at McMenamy's in Niles.

The band's debut recording has been in stores since Oct. 19.

Toka and Bennett believe Cherry Monroe's sound is what distinguishes its music from the rest of the pack. Asked to define glam-alternative, "I think the vocals are a little different," Toka said. "We pull from The Cure a lot," which means there's a British, Euro-pop influence.

"Our image, too, is a little over the top, a little more glam," Bennett added. Toka cited Guns 'N Roses and Aerosmith as inspirations.

Exploring love

One other distinction is that this album carries a theme. Toka wrote all 10 songs about aspects of love -- one-sided crushes, bad relationships, bitter breakups and moving on.

"It's something that everyone can relate to," he said. "I've dated a lot of women. I've broken hearts and had my heart broken."

"The album kind of tells a story," Bennett said.

Cherry Monroe was formerly called The Velvet Idols, until the Scott Weiland-fronted group Velvet Revolver began to make national waves earlier this year. The switch was made last June.

As for their musical histories, Toka was a member of Blue Euphoria. Bennett played in Cyrus and Dear Violet, the latter of which featured vocalist Ken Cooper. He's now executive vice president and a partner at Cleveland-based Rust Records, Cherry Monroe's label.

Six bands will perform Saturday -- including another Cooper-led band, Sinomatic, which was signed to Atlantic Records a few years ago. That's being described as a one-time reunion in support of Cherry Monroe.

Toka said Cherry Monroe will play a 40- to 45-minute set. So far, the band has been performing and getting radio play in the Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Akron markets.

Toka and Bennett believe the timing is right for Cherry Monroe to shoot for stardom. "The bands that are getting signed are from the Midwest, not Los Angeles anymore," Bennett said.

shaulis@vindy.com




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