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.