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Ex-Sponge guitarist took long path to new MC Roads band

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2021

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When Mike Cross left the band Sponge in 2000, he wasn't sure what his next move in music would be.

He certainly didn't expect it would be more than two decades before he made it. But at that point the guitarist had established some goals he felt were paramount.

"I didn't want to be a guitar player for another band," explains Cross, 56, who's just launched a new group, MC Roads, releasing the hard-rocking single "Call It What You Want" and more coming before an EP release later this year. "I just made a promise to myself that if I'm gonna go back out I'm going to learn to sing my own songs. That, to me, was the next step.

"I didn't intend to take such a long break, but life got in the way. Then I got an opportunity, and I took it."

The path to MC Roads revealed itself only during the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cross, who resides in west Oakland County with his wife and two dogs, had gone into a family business after Sponge ("Nothing exciting," he says) but also kept his hand in music, producing demos for other acts as well as writing and doing a bit of playing live — but nothing as extensive or grueling as his nine years with Sponge, which included three studio albums and international touring.

"I played some parties and volunteered to do some things," says Cross, who began playing guitar in fifth grade and taught lessons — up to 70 a week — as teenager. His first national exposure came via the band Loudhouse, which also included Cross' brother Tim on bass, in the early 1990s. It morphed into Sponge by 1992, and two years later that band released its gold-certified debut "Rotting Piρata," fueled by the hits "Plowed" and "Molly (16 Candles Down the Drain)."

"I did the private business for a little while, but the passion for the music just kept knocking on the door," says Cross, who left Sponge because of "creative and business differences" but rejoined the band for a 2018 reunion at the Detroit Music Awards. The documentary "Searching For Sugar Man," about the happenstance career of Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez, further stoked Cross' ambitions. "I'm watching this movie, thinking, 'I should start pursuing this again.' I was gonna do a cover band, maybe mix in some originals."

But the pandemic provided the extra bit of rocket fuel. "You find yourself with all this time — and I was like, 'What better thing to do than to get my music together?'" Cross recalls.

The first step toward MC Roads was guitarist Bobby G, who he met while haggling over a piece of music equipment on Facebook Marketplace. "I've always liked the sound of two-guitar-player bands and told him I could use some help," Cross recalls. "When he got into the fold it was like, 'Let's go!'" G brought in drummer Dearl Poore. bassist Rik Latta was hired to play on demo sessions and wound up joining full-time.

Backing vocalist K.K. Scofield, meanwhile, answered Cross's Facebook ad and made a quick impression even though she'd never sung professionally. "She shows up in spandex pants, knee-high leopard boots, feathers in her hair — I was like, 'Hey, I think she's the one!'" Cross remembers with a laugh. "She's got the heart for it. She certainly has the voice."

MC Roads — he felt Mike Cross Road sounded too much like a blues act — signed with Golden Robot Records in Australia, which released "Call It What You Want" earlier this month. A couple more singles are due out during the summer before the five-song EP "No Nostalgia," produced by the band and mixed by Chuck Alkazian at Pearl Sound, arrives in September. Former Loudhouse frontman Kenny Mugwump has been helping Cross make videos for the new material, as well.

"I'm constantly writing, and I have another group of songs that we're kind of refining as well," Cross says. "This group of (EP) songs fits together like a glove. They were all kind of recorded around the same time and tells a little bit of a story — 'Hey, this is who I am....'"

Despite the title, Cross is fine with MC Roads' songs kindling a bit of nostalgia, either for his work with Sponge or the various influences that crop up in the band's music.

It's got a little bit of a nostalgic feel, but then again not," explains Cross, who's also anxious to put MC Roads on the road. "I'm all for encapsulating the influences and paying homage to all the great music that I learned from, but let's forge ahead and do our own thing. I'm not trying to follow a certain path or anything like that, but I've been blessed by some cool music and great influences around me.

"And I'm having a ball."

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