Itís been seven years since Tonic released their third record titled Head on Straight, an album nominated for two Grammy Awards. Tonic then promptly disappeared. A google search of Tonic now brings up "tonic is the first note of a musical scale in the tonal method of musical composition." Has it been that long since "If You Could Only See" was the most played rock song in 1997?
Things change in the music business, but that hasnít fazed Tonic from trying again. Tonic is back. Having had seven years apart to play with other musicians and pursue other interests, the band felt like the time was right to cut another record. A self-titled album is due out in April and a single from the CD is expected to be released in March.
Guitarist Jeff Russo said they are still deciding on what single to release, but a summer tour is definitely in the works. When the CD is released, Russo believes fans will see that itís the groupís best effort to date.
"We really wanted to make a solid record. We had a lot to live up to as far as were concerned from our last record which we thought was really great. I think we really pulled through for each other," Russo told Alternative Addiction during a recent interview.
"This was a true collaborative effort from all of us and it really, really is apparent in the record. In my opinion it may be the best record weíve ever made, just in every way you can think about. Itís a really super cohesive record. The songs are strong in my opinion, the lyrics and the sound, and the way the record came together. Weíre playing better than weíve ever played before. It just feels good. I think thatís the bottom line, it just feels good."
The Tonic reunion comes as a bit of a surprise for Tonic fans. After Tonicís "Take Me As I Am" was nominated for two Grammyís, the grind of touring relentlessly since they formed the band in 1993, left the guys needing some space.
Lead singer Emerson Hart put out a solo album titled Cigarettes and Gasoline, and said he was no longer doing "Tonic records." Russo formed a band called "Low Stars" and Dan Lavery, the bassist, joined the Fray. It seemed everyone was content with their new endeavors. But still, there was that itch. In 2007 lead singer Emerson Hart called Russo and asked if they could get together.
"It was like we picked up right where we left off. It feels better now than it has before because we got some time away from it. At the end of the last record, we had been touring and making records for seven years straight," Russo said. "You just need a break. Itís the same reason why you quit your job and get another job. We didnít want it to get stagnant. It wasnít like we broke the band up. Everyone just went to their own corner and did their own thing. We figured when it was time to get back together it will happen."
"[Emerson] called me and said, Ďwhy donít we go have some sushi.í We hadnít talked in a while. It was like, ĎHey whatís going on, kids and this and that. Want to get together and do some songs?í"
After talking, Russo and Hart found they missed Tonic and decided to go on tour in 2009. They released a Greatest Hits record and announced they were working on new material.
"We all just wanted to take a break. It was a much needed respite from something that had been going on for a very long time, and it shows very much in our new record," Russo said. So much has changed since they last recorded together, but Russo says Tonicís sound wonít be drastically different on the new record.
"I donít really know whatís going to be that different. Itís a Tonic record. We didnít want to reinvent the wheel. Weíre just trying to do our thing. You know what Iím saying," Russo said. "We werenít trying to do a whole totally different vibe. We wanted to make a record that is very much Tonic, and I think we get that."
So donít look for a dance mix featuring Beyonce. Tonic doesnít play to the current pop crowd. Their music comes from inside. It doesnít change with the current top 100 countdown. In fact, when asked what he thought were the bandís best work, he reluctantly revealed some tracks that never made it on the radio.
Russo says the band plays the song "Mountain" better now then they did when they recorded it, and called "Soldierís Daughter" a great representation of who they are as a band. He singled out the title track from their second record "Sugar" as one that heís most proud of, and calls "Love a Diamond" the perfect ending to the second record. As for their third record, the songs "Count On Me" and the title track, "Head on Straight," were Russoís more memorable tracks.
"Usually there is one song on the album that I wonder if it should have made the record," Russo says. "But there isnít one song on this record that I would fast forward over."
Tonic may be high on their latest release, but times change and fans move on. Will Tonicís fan base be receptive to this record? When asked what would make this record a success, Russo said by the number of people who come to see their live show.
"A good judge for how well a new record does is certainly not the amount of records sold because people just donít buy that many records. Iíd say a good judge whether or not itís doing well is how many people are coming out to see us play," he said. "You can download the songs 99 cents. You canít buy a live show. Even if you get a live DVD, even if you get a bootleg, youíre not buying what you could experience if you go to a show. Thatís why the live business, even thought it might be rocky, itís still going to do somewhat well for artists that are good that can play, because people want to go out and be entertained."
For Tonic fans the wait is over. Prepare to be entertained.