Cherry Monroe
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The best kept secret in music

Press


Cherry sweet with a rocking beat

By BEN GREINER
Staff Writer
October 21, 2004


Rocks Like: Story of the Year, Dashboard Confessional

When vocalist Matt Toka met Cherry Monroe, he knew it was love at first sight. Rather, when he met the guys with whom he'd ultimately form the band Cherry Monroe, he knew the meeting was meant to happen.

Toka, who had been in a few moderately successful bands in the past, was looking to get back into the music game. A record producer friend introduced him to a trio known as the Velvet Idols in February 2004, and since then, the band has been inseparable.

Jason Levis, David Saltzman and Ryan Harris, the original members of the Velvet Idols, weren't sure at first if adding Toka was a good move. However, after a two-day jam session, they named Toka their new lead singer.

With the addition of guitarist Frankie Bennett, the group had a fuller, more refined sound; they were now complete. One thing wasn't right, though -- their name.

"We didn't want to be the Velvet Idols anymore, because of Velvet Revolver," drummer Levis said.

At first, the group toyed with the name Cherry Valance, a character from the S.E. Hinton novel, "The Outsiders." Realizing this could create problems with licensing rights, they changed Valance to Monroe -- in honor of the late actress and pop culture icon Marilyn Monroe. Voila! Cherry Monroe was born.

"We've been going 110 miles per hour ever since," Levis said.

The band's work ethic is nothing short of amazing. After being signed to Cleveland-based label Rust Records, the members of Cherry Monroe promoted themselves at a hellish pace.

"When your label is small like ours, you have a lot on your shoulders," Toka said.

Walking down Forbes Avenue in Oakland, clad in leather shoes that put O.J. Simpson's infamous Bruno Maglis to shame and donning hairstyles with spikes so pointy they could cause mortal wounds, Toka and Levis hand out fliers and CD samplers to Pitt students. They're promoting their self-titled debut album.

The very friendly, very personable duo approaches students while smiling.

"Show this Saturday," they say. "We have a new CD in stores."

"I'm a pretty personable person," Toka said. "I'm not afraid to expose myself."

Exposure is not the problem; however, overexposure might be. Toka recently had a run-in with police after he mooned a group of people. He laughs about the incident now. Clearly, he's just a kid at heart who wants to have fun and play rock shows.

"Our goal is to try to make [music] our life," Toka said, referring to the future of his band.

If the new album is any indication, music can be their lives. With 10 tracks covering topics from broken hearts to lost opportunities, it is perfect for today's misunderstood youth.

Fans will surely find themselves singing along with the lost-love ballad "At the Stars" -- "You're so predictable / and I'm outside your house drunk and screaming at the stars." Here, Toka's vocal prowess is made known; his range is simply amazing.

The up-tempo "Bandages" will strike a chord with anyone who's been hurt in a relationship -- "I love her, love her madly / But she treats me oh so badly / Leaves me in bandages."

The whole disc is surprisingly good -- especially for a band that can't even say it's been together for the better part of a year. Harris and Bennett provide some talented guitar work while Saltzman's bass lines are the backbone of the album.

Is Cherry Monroe punk? Emo? Rock? Whatever it is, the group surely has it down. For a band with this much talent early in its career, there's no telling what the future holds. But for now, these 20-somethings just want to rock your world.

Cherry Monroe will be holding a CD release party this Saturday at Mr. Small's Theater in Millvale. The all-ages show is $10. Also appearing will be local acts Further Down, Luca Brazi, The Yards and Liquafly. For more information, check out www.mrsmalls.com or www.cherrymonroe.com.

- The Pitt News


Music Preview: Cherry Monroe rocks with guitars and attitude
Friday, October 22, 2004

By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Cherry Monroe is not the story of five guys who grew up together working toward their dreams of pop stardom.

Rather, it's in the Tommy James and the Shondells mode of an Ohio rocker finding his band in the Pittsburgh area.

In this case it's 20-year-old Matt Toka of Youngstown, who came to Pittsburgh to work on demos with producer Brian Campbell. While on a break from recording last winter -- Toka had gotten his tonsils out -- Campbell happened into a bar and thought he found a match.

"He said, 'They're like a whole band of Matts,'" Toka says. "A whole group with the same attitude, the same drive, the same creativity."

The band was Outbound, one that was actually doing mostly covers, from Lenny Kravitz to Lynyrd Skynyrd, while mixing in a few originals.

"We were totally uninterested at first," says drummer Jason Levis. "As time progressed we realized our band wasn't going anywhere -- we weren't writing any new originals -- so we called them and met at the studio, and we were blown away by his voice."

The Outbound singer, Levis' brother Ryan, left the band (moving on to Waking Matthew), leaving Toka with drummer Levis, guitarist Ryan Harris and bassist Dave Saltzman. They later added Youngstown guitarist Frankie Bennett and proceeded to work on their self-titled debut, which dropped Tuesday on Rust Records, a Cleveland-based label that previously tried to break Sin-O-Matic with Atlantic Records.

Cherry Monroe's debut is radio-friendly, guitar-driven modern rock fronted by an anguished young singer with a touch of emo in his voice and plenty of songs about heartbreak, fast and slow.

"I was into everything," Toka says of his influences. "Bob Dylan inspired me lyrically; you can hear probably a lot of the Cure and Dashboard Confessional -- he writes love songs that are just awesome. I draw from that."

The band's name -- a combination of Cherry Valance from the Coppola film "The Outsiders" and, of course, Marilyn -- and glammy look indicates they are ready to play the role of rock star.

"We're trying to stand out a little bit and do things a little over the top," Toka says. "We'd like to have a live show that gets recognition. We want to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We're inspired by Lenny Kravitz -- he's a total rock star, he walks in a room and just lights it up. We try to dress over the top, act over the top and try to apply that to our live show."

In addition to the label, Cherry Monroe has one guy in its corner who's been there and back: Donnie Iris, who happens to be Levis' uncle. He hasn't made many musical suggestions -- like overdubbing the vocals 60 times -- but has helped the band stay on course.

"My uncle's pretty mellow," Levis says. "He's one of those guys who just want to chill and hang out. He just said, 'If you love what you're doing, keep at it.' My parents would get upset with what we're doing, think we should have jobs. He was the one who was saying, 'Let them go, they've got something good going.'"

Now it's up to radio and rock fans to decide
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Cherry Monroe signs deal
Friday, December 10, 2004

By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Cherry Monroe, a rock band made up mostly of Pittsburghers, has signed a contract with the Universal Music Group.

The band formed earlier this year when 20-year-old Youngstown, Ohio, singer Matt Toka, while working on demos here, recruited three members of the Pittsburgh band Outbound (guitarist Ryan Harris, bassist Dave Saltzman and drummer Jason Levis, who is the nephew of Donnie Iris).

They later added Youngstown guitarist Frankie Bennett and released a hard-driving self-titled debut in October on the Cleveland-based label Rust Records.

When it quickly sold out of its first pressing of 5,000 copies, Cherry Monroe got the attention of the labels.

"We had every major and their brother call us the last few weeks due to Soundscan," says Ken Cooper, band manager and president of Rust Records. "Most of the labels were interested, but Universal came pretty hard. They came forward with paper three days after a showcase in New York."

Cherry Monroe's contract is a guaranteed two-record deal with an option of three more and a three-single-release guarantee. There is also a video budget.

The band's debut will be remixed and released with two new tracks added. The plan is to go to radio in February with the single "Satellite" and have the full CD in stores by April.

"It's their flagship modern rock band for '05," Cooper says of Universal's commitment to the band.

Universal is the world's largest music company, encompassing such labels as Interscope Geffen A&M, Island Def Jam Music Group, DreamWorks, Lost Highway, MCA Nashville and Mercury and featuring an artist roster that includes Jay-Z, Eminem, 50 Cent, Sheryl Crow, blink-182 and Shania Twain
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Ready to rock

October 21, 2004

It’s rare when a Pittsburgh band shows up out of nowhere sounding so polished and radio-ready, but Cherry Monroe – with members from Youngstown and Pittsburgh – does just that. The band’s got a catchy, candy-coated rock sound somewhere between the mall-punk of Sum 41 and Guns ‘N’ Roses, with a super-emotive singer, photogenic style and more than a few love songs for the ladies.
- Pittsburgh Tribune Review


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Cherry Monroe signs deal

By Scott Mervis
Friday, December 10, 2004

Cherry Monroe, a rock band made up mostly of Pittsburghers, has signed a contract with the Universal Music Group.

The band formed earlier this year when 20-year-old Youngstown, Ohio, singer Matt Toka, while working on demos here, recruited three members of the Pittsburgh band Outbound (guitarist Ryan Harris, bassist Dave Saltzman and drummer Jason Levis, who is the nephew of Donnie Iris).

They later added Youngstown guitarist Frankie Bennett and released a hard-driving self-titled debut in October on the Cleveland-based label Rust Records.

When it quickly sold out of its first pressing of 5,000 copies, Cherry Monroe got the attention of the labels.

"We had every major and their brother call us the last few weeks due to Soundscan," says Ken Cooper, band manager and president of Rust Records. "Most of the labels were interested, but Universal came pretty hard. They came forward with paper three days after a showcase in New York."

Cherry Monroe's contract is a guaranteed two-record deal with an option of three more and a three-single-release guarantee. There is also a video budget.

The band's debut will be remixed and released with two new tracks added. The plan is to go to radio in February with the single "Satellite" and have the full CD in stores by April.

"It's their flagship modern rock band for '05," Cooper says of Universal's commitment to the band.

Pitt News
Cherry sweet with a rocking beat

By BEN GREINER
October 21, 2004

Walking down Forbes Avenue in Oakland, clad in leather shoes that put O.J. Simpson's infamous Bruno Maglis to shame and donning hairstyles with spikes so pointy they could cause mortal wounds, Matt Toka and Jason Levis hand out fliers and CD samplers to Pitt students. They're promoting their self-titled debut album.

The very friendly, very personable duo approaches students while smiling.
"Our goal is to try to make [music] our life," Toka said, referring to the future of his band.

If the new album is any indication, music can be their lives. With 10 tracks covering topics from broken hearts to lost opportunities, it is perfect for today's misunderstood youth.

Fans will surely find themselves singing along with the lost-love ballad "At the Stars" -- "You're so predictable / and I'm outside your house drunk and screaming at the stars." Here, Toka's vocal prowess is made known; his range is simply amazing.

The up-tempo "Bandages" will strike a chord with anyone who's been hurt in a relationship -- "I love her, love her madly / But she treats me oh so badly / Leaves me in bandages."

The whole disc is surprisingly good -- especially for a band that can't even say it's been together for the better part of a year. Harris and Bennett provide some talented guitar work while Saltzman's bass lines are the backbone of the album.

Is Cherry Monroe punk? Emo? Rock? Whatever it is, the group surely has it down. For a band with this much talent early in its career, there's no telling what the future holds. But for now, these 20-somethings just want to rock your world.


Daily Kent Starter
Rust Records gives new bands the respect they deserve

Jon Dieringer
10/14/2004

For the Rust Records’s debut release, Cooper said Cherry Monroe was picked because it was a humble group that didn’t exhibit big egos — it seemed like the perfect choice.

The decision seems to have paid off. Weeks before the release of its album, the band has already built a considerable buzz.

“College radio has been exploding for these guys,” Cooper said.

Cherry Monroe has already been picked up by industry tastemakers CMJ and is currently being spun on 80 radio stations. MTV2 has also expressed interest in the band, and in November, its first music video is scheduled to begin playing on the channel.

Cooper attributes the band’s early success to its widespread appeal — he says fans of every band from Switchfoot to Bright Eyes should enjoy Cherry Monroe and its unique image.

BG News
Hot new rock band, Cherry Monroe, releases debut CD

By Chelsea Howard
October 14, 2004

Cherry Monroe's CD, "Cherry Monroe" includes songs of heartbreak and deception. Lead singer Matt Toka said many of the songs were based on his past experiences in relationships.

"The songs were inspired by relationships I have had in the past few years and everything I experienced through them ending," Toka said.

Even through all of the pain and struggle that the failed relationships have caused him in the past, Toka is optimistic and looking forward to the CD release concert tonight, as this is Cherry Monroe's first CD.

"I haven't been able to sleep at all!" an excited Toka exclaimed about tonight's event.

Adding to Toka's excitement and sleep deprevation has been a lot of positive advance buzz about the album.

Cherry Monroe released the album to college r - Rust Records


Discography

Cherry Monroe - Self Titled 2004 Rust Records

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Cherry Monroe has always existed. But Matt Toka just had to find it. He knew it was there. An outlet for his darker side. A way to exorcise the metaphors of lost love, and to find it again. But he had to search.

The catharsis came in the middle of a bleak winter as winds cut across the Penn-Ohio line. With roots in Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Columbus and Cleveland, an unexpected group gathered in from former mill towns to see if something might still be burning. During an all-night jam session, Matt tuned in. The others turned on. And together they proceeded to drop out and spend the next two days huddled around a singular mic, heating up and melting away Matt’s ruminations on life and love to the bare bones.

With nothing but acoustic guitars and bongos, Matt, guitarist Ryan Harris, drummer Jason Levis, bassist Dave Saltzman, and guitarist Frankie Bennett vented and manipulated. Constructed and destroyed. What emerged would be the raw materials and demos for Cherry Monroe’s debut album: Ten songs hammered out and fused together around the core element of burning love.

Forging their own sound and style, Cherry Monroe takes a couple Les Pauls through some Marshall stacks to generate a loaded set of distinct songs: From the churning and propelled self-blame of the opening track ‘Gone’ to the denial of ‘Painkillers,’ from the slow burn of ‘Crazy Love’ to the sugar-induced chorus of ‘Can’t Explain’—this is a band that prominently displays its love for all things rock while still infusing its own stylish sensuality into chords of fractured love and damaged goods.

Surging from a battered ego and broken pieces, Matt’s lyrics say everything you’ve felt about love, and hoped you could forget. And now with Cherry Monroe, he has found his outlet: “It’s time to take the center stage / Soak the scene with gasoline / There’s a fire that’s got the best of me.” After a winter of searching that gave way to finding, it may be time for Matt and Cherry Monroe to take that center stage—and if we move in close and listen, their fire might get the best of us.

The Name
Cherry Monroe’s name is taken from two female images from American pop-cultural history—one well known, the other less so.

“Cherry” is the more obscure reference from the red-haired character named Cherry Valance in the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film, “The Outsiders.” The story is about a group of guys from the wrong side of the tracks, on the edge of society. Cherry belongs to the town’s privileged and pure mainstream, ordinarily closed to all outsiders, beyond their reach. But intrigued by their raw and poetic sides, she comes into their world, and they get into hers. Fascinating and attractive, Cherry embodies what the band wants to break through and take hold of through music.

“Monroe” immediately evokes the legendary Marilyn—the icon of glamorous beauty and sexuality that pulsates across the decades. Like her rousing image, the group pours its own kind of sensual energy into its sound and stage performances with as much intensity as they can flesh out.

With this distinct style of rock, together “Cherry Monroe” is laying it all out to see how far their desires can take them.