Tonic is an American post-grunge rock band that has earned two Grammy-nominations to date. Formed in 1993 by Emerson Hart and Jeff Russo, later members have included Dan Lavery, Kevin Shepard, and Dan Rothchild. Signed to a recording contract in 1995, the band released their debut album Lemon Parade in 1996. The single "If You Could Only See" reached #11 on the Billboard Airplay Hot 100, and Lemon Parade itself reached platinum status. Following 1999's Sugar and 2002's Head on Straight, the band went on hiatus beginning in 2004. The band became active again in late 2008 and early 2009, embarking on a national tour and releasing a greatest hits compilation as a prelude to a new studio recording.
The record as a whole is full of the heavy, distortion-laden Tonic sound, and guitars that make them who they are.
?Music critic Shawn M. Haney reviews Lemon Parade for All Music Guide
Tonic was founded in 1993 singer/songwriter Emerson Hart and guitarist Jeff Russo, who were childhood friends. The band added bassist Dan Rothchild and drummer Kevin Shepard, and performed gigs around the Los Angeles, California area prior to signing their first professional recording contract in 1995. Earning a reputation as a "rentlessly giging" band, Tonic played over 300 shows in less than two years during the mid to late 1990s. Teaming with producer Jack Joseph Puig, Tonic released their debut album Lemon Parade on July 15, 1996. Music critic Shawn M. Haney said of the album that, "The record as a whole is full of the heavy, distortion-laden Tonic sound, and guitars that make them who they are." Singles for the songs "Open Up Your Eyes" and "If You Could Only See", were released in 1996 and 1997 respectively. The single "If You Could Only See" received the honor of being Rock Radio's most played song of 1997, and Lemon Parade as an album reached platinum status. Music videos were created for the songs "Open Up Your Eyes," "If You Could Only See," and "Soldier's Daughter." The Lemon Parade album spent 57 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart, reaching a peak of #28 during the week of August 2, 1997.
The year 1997 also marked the band's first contribution to an original soundtrack, recording the song "Eyes of Sand" for the Scream 2 soundtrack. Dan Lavery replaced Rothchild on bass in December 1996, and around this same time period drummer Shepard ceased full-time activity with the band for family and personal reasons. Continuing their work on film soundtracks into 1998, Tonic recorded the song "Flower Man" for The X-Files: The Album, and performed a cover of the song "Everybody's Talkin'" for the Clay Pigeons soundtrack. Also in 1998 the band released a live version of the song "Open Up Your Eyes" for the charitable album Live in the X Lounge. On March 1, 1999 the band released the now out-of-print Live and Enhanced CD, which featured an acoustic version of "If You Could Only See" and the previously unreleased music video of "Soldier's Daughter".
Sugar and later work
...there are no bad songs to be found anywhere on the entire album, each one bearing its own redeeming qualities, whether a driving beat or a tenacious scrap of melody...
?Music critic Mathias Sheaks reviews Sugar for All Music Guide
The band returned to the studio to self-produce their second album. Released on November 9, 1999, the album title Sugar shared the same name as the fifth track on the recording. The creative and collaborative process spanned several geographic locations including Austin, Texas, and a 15,000 square foot mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana, where actual recording for the album was performed. "Knock Down Walls" and "You Wanted More" were charting singles released off the record, with the latter having first appeared on the soundtrack to the movie American Pie. Sugar was put together as a three-piece, as Shepard was no longer a part of the band. The drummer for the album was Peter Maloney although Joey Waronker filled in for the single "You Wanted More". Music videos for the songs "You Wanted More" and "Mean to Me" were created as part of the album's promotion. Tonic appeared on the television shows Late Night with Conan O'Brien and "The Martin Short Show" in late 1999 as part of additional promotion. Sugar spent eight total weeks on the Billboard 200 chart, reaching a peak of #81 in its first week of release.
A cover of the song "East Bound and Down" for the King of Hill original television soundtrack rounded out the group's output for the year 1999. The band later contributed a performance of "Mean To Me" to the fourth installment in the charitable Live in the X Lounge album series.
Tonic took a break from constant touring and recording, time which Hart used to, "...make sure the next record would be coming from fresh eyes and ears" after he moved to a new home in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2002 the band began collaborating with producer Bob Rock on their next studio recording. In contrast to the "exhausting" experience of self-producing Sugar, producer Rock's "laid-back efficiency" and Hawaii studio location provided a welcome change. The resulting studio album, Head on Straight, was released on September 1, 2002. The album featured the single "Take Me as I Am". While still billed as a three-piece band, Joey Waronker performed much of the drumming on "Head On Straight," and the band also utilized drummer Kevin Murphy for some live performances during this time period. The band also enlisted the help of Keyboardist Will Holis. Hart and Russo both also played piano and Rhodes synth respectively on the record. Head on Straight charted on the Billboard 200 for one week, where it was #141.
In 2003 the band received two Grammy nominations, one for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Take Me As I Am", and one for Best Rock Album. While the band's activity began to diminish, they participated in the annual The Rock Boat music-themed cruise, performing there in 2004 for instance. Also in 2004, the band took a break from touring and recording together.
After Tonic went on hiatus, all three members began working on other projects unrelated to Tonic. Lead guitarist Jeff Russo's band Low Stars had a self-titled CD available at all Starbucks locations and their first single, "Calling All Friends" was the theme song to the ABC TV show What About Brian. Lavery had been writing songs for numerous projects including feature-length movies, such as The Passion of the Christ and Elektra. At one point Hart's biography on his Myspace page proclaimed he had officially parted ways with the band, saying, "My attraction to African Elephants has put a rif between me and my band mates." Hart's solo album Cigarettes and Gasoline was released on July 17, 2007 through EMI-Manhattan. In March 2007 Dan Lavery began playing bass on tour for The Fray.
We've been doing different things for the last 6 years, and we all decided that we missed rocking.
?Tonic bandmember Jeff Russo comments on the group's reactivation in 2008.
In an article posted on Alternative Addiction, it was confirmed that Tonic is planning a reunion tour and new album in 2009. "We're getting together to write some new material," Russo said. "Over the last 6 months or so we've been talking about it. We've been doing different things for the last 6 years, and we all decided that we missed rocking." Most of the telephone interview conducted between Alternative Addiction and Jeff Russo can be heard at the end of the article.
Hart announced at a Sixthman Event in Atlanta that a new Tonic record and reunion was in the works, and Tonic played their first show in over two years on September 13, 2008 at Blarney Island in Antioch, Illinois. As part of the band's 2009 tour, a greatest hits compilation titled "A Casual Affair:The Best of Tonic" was released. The album featured live versions of the songs "Irish" and "Sugar" in addition to an acoustic version of "You Wanted More." During a concert in Sacramento at the California State Fair on August 24th, 2009 Hart announced the band is returning to the recording studio on October 1st to lay down all new material for an upcoming album.
Emerson Hart - Lead and Backing Vocals, Rhythm acoustic and Electric Guitars.
Jeff Russo - Lead and Rhythm electric and acoustic Guitars, Backing Vocals, Rhodes, String machine, and Slide Guitar.
Dan Lavery - Bass Guitars, Backing Vocals, Rhodes, Piano.
Pete Maloney - Drums