LIQUORBOX! Leads 90s Alt. Rock resurgence in ToledoWritten by Brian Bohnert | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Russian novelist Tatyana Tolstaya once said “For us, the best time is always yesterday.”
And with Green Day, No Doubt, Soundgarden and the Smashing Pumpkins leading the 90s Alt. Rock resurgence with new albums and updated material, that couldn’t seem any more true.
Spearheading the nostalgia-charged renaissance on a local level is Toledo-based Alt. Rock quintet LIQUORBOX! And, after a lengthy hiatus, the five-piece rock group recently followed up its February reunion show with a concert at the Omni on November 3.
The all-ages show featured opening performances from two of the area’s well-known local bands, Snake Head Ritual and Aftermath, with the returning LIQUORBOX! serving as the evening’s esteemed headliner.
“Rossford” Ron Zuchowski, lead vocalist for LIQUORBOX!, said there were nearly 500 people packed inside the venue, including a slew of fellow musicians. The presence of his artistic peers was a positive sign of the ever-evolving music scene in Toledo, he said.
“There were a lot of musicians from other bands in attendance and it was very friendly,” Zuchowski said. “It makes great sense to attend each other’s shows, and I get the feeling that some of the acts in town are finally working together to create a scene.”
Founded in 1995 by Zuchowski, Ron Wood (Lead Guitar), Shane Craig (Bass Guitar) and Marty Horvath (Drums), LIQUORBOX! arrived at a time when grunge and alternative bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and the Smashing Pumpkins were at the height of their popularity. The presence of those prominent bands proved to be an early influence on the group’s style.
“It’s really a combination of everything we grew up liking. It’s rock and roll but it’s our particular rock and roll,” Zuchowski said. “Sure, we say we’re alternative rock, but to me alternative isn’t a particular style; alternative means that it’s something different than the tried and true, in-the-box songwriting. We feel open to trying different rhythms and off tunes. It’s our own style.”
LIQUORBOX! spent most of the 1990s performing in and around the Toledo area, working various clubs and bars, and even releasing its own debut four-song EP on a cassette tape.
“We started in ’95 and we played a bunch of shows and had a really good time, but then life just sort of happened. We had families,” Zuchowski said. “We got together once in a while for a few shows and then eventually, everything started to click. When we made the decision to get back together, we we’re in a place where we felt that we have the time to devote to it and it all seemed to come together. It just seemed like the right time.”
Prior to coming together and forming LIQUORBOX!, Zuchowski said each member of the band played in various cover bands, achieving moderate success touring around the United States.
“We had a great deal of success individually in those other bands and it was cool hopping on the bus traveling around the country, but it wasn’t ours,” Zuchowski said. “It wasn’t an expression. It wasn’t our expression. We wanted to create art, our own art.”
LIQUORBOX! caught its first big break when one of the group’s members signed them up for a performance competition at a local club in 1997. Similar to “Battle of the Bands,” this contest proved to be both a blessing and a curse for the up-and-coming rockers.
“I never really liked contests like that,” Zuchowski said. “I always thought it was just a way for club owners to get a bunch of bands to play at their places for free. But, we did it and we won, and we got to open for Pantera, Helmet and Biohazard. So, it did do us good, but it also alienated people … All the sudden everybody hates you because you won a stupid contest.”
It was at that time when Zuchowski and his band mates saw a decline in the comradery once dominant in the area music scene. Cut-throat competitions and larger-than-life egos prevented a lot of talented people from working together and enjoying each other’s music, he said.
“A big part of the local scene was that we all admired each other,” he said. “I have the mentality that I don’t want to compete with anyone else. Music is not a betting sport and I feel bands put on the best shows when they work together and collaborate in a positive way.”
The group reunited in 2012 when Zuchowski began attending Owens Community College. Majoring in Music Business Technology, he came back into contact with Owens instructor, Christopher Stoll, who suggested the group record an all-new song to aid students in the production process.
Stoll served as the group’s producer in the 90s when working at Audio Matrix Recording Studio.
“It was actually his idea for us to get together and record a song so students could see what the process is like and learn the ins and outs,” he said.
In an effort to bring something new to the band’s sound, the group brought in guitarist Brad Hamilton to fill the fifth spot the group desperately wanted shortly after reuniting. LIQUORBOX! Lead Guitarist Ron Wood said the dual-guitar threat brings an edgier sound to the group’s repertoire of music.
“He brought something completely new,” Wood said. “He adds more depth and texture to the band and the way he plays is so much different from the way I play. He’ll add a chord to a song that never even crossed my mind.”
LIQUORBOX! is currently at work on a new album. Aided again by Stoll as producer, the members of the quintet currently have eight of the 12 songs recorded and Zuchowski said the group hopes to have the untitled, forthcoming album finished and printed for a spring release.
“As a vocalist, I tend to do a number of takes. So, we should have the recordings done by the end of the year, but what holds us up is the mixing,” Zuchowski said.
As a primer for the new album, Wood said the quintet has included two new tracks on the set list for forthcoming shows: “Dirty” and “We Will Kill.”
“We’re very excited to get them out there and see how they do with the fans,” Wood said.
At the Nov. 3 show, Zuchowski said both new tracks were well received by the crowd; a good sign as the group finalizes the rest of the new tracks.
“‘We Will Kill’ came off beautifully,” he said. “We had to endure some technical difficulties but all in all it was a successful venture.”
With the group’s first full album in the production stages and the prospect of many headlining gigs in the coming months, Wood said he looks forward to what the future holds for his group that never seemed to lose its chemistry.
“From the moment we turned on the amps and Marty started his beat it was like we were right back in the pocket,” Wood said. “It was beautiful. It was like we never quit.”