• Aimee Spencer Tiemann

THE MANY FACES OF VINNIE DOMBROSKI

Inside the life of a rock front man


Photo by: Michael Spleet

Vinnie Dombroski is the epitome of youth. No really, the man NEVER ages.


Just like his music - it never gets old.


ASK HOWARD STERN


SiriusXM’s king, Howard Stern, fawns over Dombroski's band Sponge, and its biggest hit “Plowed.” As Dombroski recently told Variety, longtime listeners of the “The Howard Stern Show,” know of the uber-famous talk show host and author’s obsession with the band.


Although Stern readily admits he still can’t decipher the lyrics of the song, he invited the band this past November to perform on his show. As Dombroski told Variety, the stars aligned as the band was ramping to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their mega-hit album Rotting Pinata.


25 YEARS OF ROTTING PINATA


We wrote a ton of songs prior to making the album,” Dombroski recollected. “But it was songs including ‘Plowed’ and ‘Molly,’ that pushed the album into over 500,000 copies sold.”


Stern’s interest created a recent resurgence this year, with “Plowed” being streamed more than 4 million streams on Spotify in the past few months.


“’Plowed’ was a quick write. I was living on the east side of Detroit, out shoveling snow, and the lyrics and melody came to me all at once,” Dombroski shared. “I finished shoveling and went inside the house to grab a guitar and hammer out the chords. I made a call to our recording engineer that same night and recorded the demo track.


“(Guitarist) Mike Cross wrote and played the iconic guitar riff and the song was done. It’s basically the same version on the Rotting Pinata album, however, we recorded the track prior to having our record deal with Sony.”


As the album continued to gain momentum, the band’s visibility on big stages grew.


“One of our first big shows I recall was a big European festival called ‘Pukkelpop’ in Belgium,” Dombroski said. “A great line up of bands, but oddly, I was unfazed by it at the time. It was the same feeling as when Sponge played at Tiger Stadium with Kiss and Alice in Chains. Apparently, I was a young, cocky idiot.”



It’s a far cry from when, at the ripe of age of 13, Dombroski first set foot on stage at a church festival. It was just him and his neighbor, Lee, in a band called The Cryptons.


“I thought it was pretty cool when I got on stage for the first time with Lee,” Dombroski said. “But I had no idea what I was doing. We were a two-piece band. Lee played guitar and I played drums.”


FROM BACK TO FRONT MAN


Dombroski may have started at the back of the stage behind a drum kit, but it wasn’t long before he leapt to the front of the stage as a singer.


In fact, Austin Chronicle called Dombroski “one of rock’s most mesmerizing front men.”


“Not sure being a front man is ever a good idea,” Dombroski laughed.


MULTIPLE MUSICAL PERSONALITIES


The charismatic singer now wears many musical hats. Over time, Dombroski's different personas have revealed themselves in myriad ways.


Of course, he has Sponge.


But Dombroski also has a honky-tonk, Johnny-Cash-ish band called The Orbitsuns.


Then there is the gasmask-wearing, hard-hitting rock of CRUD. It’s been described as music “that grinds out an aural and visual assault that makes you beg for more.”



These multiple outlets continually feed Dombroski's creative cycle.


“It keeps things fresh,” Dombroski said. “When I’m on the road doing a ton of Sponge shows, a small part of me is also itching to perform with The Orbitsuns or write new CRUD music.”


Here’s a funny story about Vinnie. At one point along my journey I was tasked with creating the finale for the Detroit Music Awards. I came up with the idea of “The Many Faces of Vinnie Dombroski.”


The board wanted to know if I could make it happen. I called Vinnie. He hesitantly agreed.


I’m so glad he did. He brought in Detroit music legends to recreate his musical visions live on stage and his performance was legendary.


ZEN MASTER?


When I started writing this post, I went to social media to ask fans what they wanted to ask Vinnie. A question that continued to show up was, “How long has Vinnie been doing Tai Chi?”


His response:


“Ha! I’ve never done Tai Chi,” Dombroski said with a chuckle. “I used to goof around during a show and hand people a large invisible beach ball that we began to call the Tai Chi ball.”


Dombroski credits skipping rope to keeping him mentally and physically fit on the road.


FIVE LESSONS DOMBROSKI’S LEARNED SINCE THE RELEASE OF ROTTING PINATA


  1. No matter what, do exactly the music you want to do! Only because it’s leaping out of you. I can say, for the most part, that’s what we did.

  2. You can’t do this shit for no other reason than the music.

  3. Clear liquor on show days. Brown liquor on off days.

  4. Never let your band follow a kid or an animal act.

  5. It’s always better to be the front man, because no one sees your shoes when you’re the drummer.


BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN


Sponge hits the road again this December, kicking off the Working Class Tour with The Nixon’s in Washington D.C.


“We haven’t toured with these fine fellas since the ROAR TOUR in 1997,” Dombroski said. “That tour featured Iggy Pop, Reverend Horton Heat, Sevendust, The Nixon’s, and The Bloodhound Gang.


“This time around, we’re likely to focus on The Beer Sessions music. Just a blazing up-tempo set – with the hits, of course.”


Playing “Plowed” for more than 25 years should seem like a breeze, right? Not exactly.


“It stays interesting night after night because it’s still a challenge,” Dombroski said. “I’m still trying to get it right!”


See Vinnie get it right (Try? Yeah right!) at one of the many stops on the Working Class Tour.


Keep tabs on Sponge, The Orbitsuns, and CRUD here:

facebook.com/spongerocks

facebook.com/orbitsuns

facebook.com/cruddetroit

©2019 by Aimee Spencer Tiemann