Ray Rokicki, Geoff Jania, and Robert Harrison, were members of Chicago’s most notorious rock band, American Motherload. They had years of songwriting, recording, and live experience, amassing a backlog of music deep enough to put out as many double albums as there were in the ‘70’s. But they had a new vision after losing their singer: To combine the sound in their heads with a Rockstar.
Who better to fit the bill of Rockstar than Jessica Robinson, who burst onto the scene as a top 10 finalist on CBS's Rockstar:INXS, and won a legion of fans with her rock steady performances.
The result is an amazing mix of influences and experiences capturing the vibe of hard rock and metal laid down by the pioneers - Led Zeppelin, Bad Company and Black Sabbath. It's also steeped in the shimmering sounds of their contemporaries such as Stone Temple Pilots, Guns and Roses and Alice in Chains.
Is it 2009 or 1979? Is it new or is it old school? Is it time to crack open a beer or get the hell out of the way? HighGlossBlack is the new black. Here they come, you'd better be ready.
Check out our performances: www.youtube.com/highglossblack
Jessica Robinson-lead vocals
Ray Rokicki-Lead Guitar
Geoff Jania-Bass Guitar
Self-titled EP available for purchase at www.highglossblack.com
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By Matt Kuhnen For RedEye Published April 30 2009 Jessica Robinson of the band High Gloss Black...By Matt Kuhnen
Published April 30 2009
Jessica Robinson of the band High Gloss Black is no stranger to the spotlight.
When the Chicago native left college in 2001 to appear on the WB's "Popstars," she quickly learned that she didn't want to be the next Spice Girl. In 2005, she gave reality TV another chance, auditioning for CBS' "Rockstar: INXS."
"I loved INXS' 'Kick' album when I was younger and my cousin saw a flier for the audition in the bathroom of a bar here in Chicago and really encouraged me to go for it," Robinson told RedEye. "This was after the 'American Idol' craze, which I thought was a little cheesy. I felt that this was something I would actually fit into."
Robinson held her own during the competition, finishing in the top seven and meeting guest judges such as Dave Navarro from Jane's Addiction and Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray. "It was a really great experience and I had a lot of fun with it."
Being a true rocker at heart, Robinson didn't want to conform to an industry push to make her another pop princess.
"I got a few offers after the INXS show, but it wasn't anything that I really wanted to do," she said. "I didn't want to pigeonhole myself into being another Kelly Clarkson."
Robinson recently teamed up with the Chicago rockers formerly known as American Motherload to create High Gloss Black, a blues/hard rock/acoustic-infused band. Guitarist and songwriter Ray Rokicki said the band searched through more than 200 applicants for a lead singer who could communicate the band's vision on stage.
"High Gloss Black represents a classy yet dark vibe," Rokicki said. "In the last two years we have been working on material for a new singer knowing we were going to have a completely different attitude and vibe than what American Motherload was.
"With Jess on board, the music has become a little more radio friendly yet it still possesses the heavy moments that any rock 'n' roll fan would like. It's got everything from acoustic moments to really aggressive moments."
High Gloss Black came out swinging with the heavy-hitting single "Barriers," and is working on a six-song EP set to drop by mid-June. The band plans to follow with a tour, then go back into the studio to record their first full-length album.
"This is a band that is going be unlike anything someone has probably really seen, because there aren't a lot of heavy hitting female fronted bands out there," Robinson said. "It's a good mix of a little bit of everything that rock has to offer. ... It's just going to be a straight up rock 'n' roll show!"
Jonathon Brandmeier: April 30, 2009
Featured live on Jonathan Brandmeier's morning show,WLUP-FM, 97.9
HighGlossBlack shines with reality-show singer, region connection
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HighGlossBlack shines with reality-show singer, region connection January 1, 2010 BY BOB KOST...HighGlossBlack shines with reality-show singer, region connection
January 1, 2010
BY BOB KOSTANCZUK, (219) 648-3144, BKOSTANCZUK@POST-TRIB.COM
Jessica Robinson isn't a celebrity yet, but she did make an impression on a national television audience by finishing in the Top 10 of CBS' "Rock Star: INXS." The 2005 reality series was a talent search for the next lead singer of INXS, the popular Australian band from the 1980s known for "Need You Tonight" and "New Sensation." Hailing from Chicago, Robinson is now singing lead for HighGlossBlack, a hard-edged quartet featuring bassist Geoff Jania of Hammond and Gary-born guitarist Ray Rokicki, who was raised in LaPorte.
Jania and Rokicki -- along with drummer Robert Harrison -- were playing together before Robinson entered the picture.
If you go
Who: HighGlossBlack, with Beyond Words and Praise the Fallen
Where: The Warehouse, 391 W. U.S. 6, South Haven; 764-9273
When: Tonight; Beyond Words (9:30 p.m.), HighGlossBlack (11 p.m.) and Praise the Fallen (12:30 a.m.)
Admission: $5, starting at 8:30 p.m.; must be at least 21 years old to enter
"We were previously known as American Motherload, and we were looking for a new singer," Jania related.
When Jania and company found Robinson, the name of their band was changed to HighGlossBlack -- a sleeker moniker.
"We weren't specifically looking for a woman or specifically for a man," Jania assured. "We were just looking for a singer that had an original vocal style."
Tonight at The Warehouse in South Haven, Robinson will front HighGlossBlack as it rolls out muscular music that mimics the feel of classic Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, while also channeling the more contemporary sounds of Alice in Chains and Guns N' Roses.
HGB is no cover band.
Self-generated material is definitely preferred, according to Rokicki, who succinctly described the 15-month-old enterprise he's in: "I'd say it's kind of a bluesy-based, hard-rock outfit."
Robinson's contribution certainly provides a spark.
"She's very soulful, very bluesy," Jania said. "And her having been on national television certainly doesn't hurt with the name recognition."
But the bass player said Robinson's stint on network TV was not the reason she landed the gig with HighGlossBlack.
"At the end of the day, we were looking for the best person we could find for the job, and she was it," Jania explained in a recent phone interview.
Both Jania and Rokicki cite HGB's teamwork in regard to collaborative songwriting.
"We're in the midst of finishing a full-length CD right now," Rokicki said.
A summer release is being eyed for the project that is expected to predominantly feature HGB's own songs.
A six-track disc has already been issued by the band in an EP (Extended Play) format.
Hard-rockin' HighGlossBlack revisits roots
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Hard-rockin' HighGlossBlack revisits roots BY TOM LOUNGES - Times Correspondent | Posted: Friday...Hard-rockin' HighGlossBlack revisits roots
BY TOM LOUNGES - Times Correspondent | Posted: Friday, January 1, 2010 12:00 am
A respected hard-rock group last decade was American Motherload. The Chicago quartet shared stages with major artists, toured nationally, and released critically acclaimed indie CDs.
The band also had deep region roots. It was formed by former Lakes Of The Four Seasons guitarist Ray Rokicki and Hammond bassist Geoff Jania.
When their lead singer departed in 2007, the three remaining members tried to keep things going.
"We had at least 150 online submissions and inquiries from all over the country and we did live auditions with about 70 of them without any luck," recalled guitarist Ray Rokicki. "We wanted someone with that bluesy, hard-rock, Paul Rodgers' (of Bad Company) kind of voice to continue in the direction we had been going. But mostly what we got were screamers and growlers."
Drummer Robert Harrison, who joined AM in 2006, proved to be the link between the past and future.
"Robert's mom knew Jessica Robinson's mom through work, somehow. She told us about Jess and told Jess about us," said Rokicki.
The Chicago-bred Robinson appeared on WB's "Popstars" in 2000. She came home, fronted aptly titled covers band Cover Gurl, then appeared on CBS's "Rock Star: INXS."
Though Robinson didn't become frontwoman of the Australian band, she placed eighth in the competition and fielded lots of offers.The one she pursued: the role of lead singer for HighGlossBlack.
"She impressed us right out of the gate and we knew we wanted to work with her," said Rokicki.
Deciding they had spun their wheels long enough, Rokicki, Harrison and Jania left the past behind. HGB was born in October 2007. Months were spent writing songs and rehearsing.
"Our first public show was in May of 2009 at the Double Door, where American Motherload used to play a lot of shows," said Rokicki. "We didn't know want to expect, but our first time out we had more than 400 paid (admissions), so that was a great way to start."
The group has performed only a smattering of live dates.
"I've got to tell you, we are all very excited about finally getting to play back in Northwest Indiana," said Rokicki. "The Jim Beam Warehouse is the old McCool's, and that was the site of our last live show there with American Motherload. That was our home base club in the region, so it's a great place to start with this group."
HGB have a six-song demo CD recorded at Creature Feature Studios in Hammond, owned by former Sgt. Roxx guitarist Bob O'Connor. "Geoff and I produced with Bob engineering," said Rokicki of the late Spring sessions.
People catching HHB live can expect to hear mostly original songs that marry classic hard and modern rock. Influences include Black Sabbath, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots. Hear their music online at highglossblack.com.
Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. Email Tom Lounges at email@example.com
HighGlossBlack (with Beyond Words and Praise The Fallen) at 10 p.m. tonight
WHERE: Jim Beam Warehouse, 391 West Route 6, South Haven
COST: $5, 21 and over
FYI: (219) 764-9273
HGB can do anywhere from 30min to 1hr 15min...depending on situation.
set includes all original material, and usually one cover thrown in for good measure.
HGB has several covers to choose from such as Led Zeppelin, Ozzy and other classic greats.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.