Cherry Monroe pop out of Cleveland and onto Universal

Allison Bugg

Mohawks; fur coats and fuzzy navels were all the rage when Cherry Monroe played New York’s Mercury Lounge last month. Catch the band at Youngstown’s Southern Park Mall this weekend.

Credit: Andrew popik

The boys of local band Cherry Monroe are riding high less than a year after releasing their debut album.

The band, shortly after joining forces with independent record label Rust Records, has recently been signed to Universal Records. Even more intriguing is the fact that the group just formed in May of last year and has reached a level of so-called stardom in a very short period of time.

Lead singer Matt Toka said the most satisfying thing for the band is the response from fans.

“We have really enjoyed this whole process, and I feel like we relate to our fans through our music,” he said.

The alternative, pop/rock band Cherry Monroe includes guitarist Ryan Harris, guitarist Frankie Bennett, drummer Jason Levis, bassist Dave Saltzman and Toka on vocals.

The group burst onto the music scene with the release of its debut and self-titled album Cherry Monroe in October, which sold more than 5,000 copies. The disc hit the top 10 in Youngstown and the top 100 in Cleveland while college radio stations nationwide began playing its tunes.

“I think the success of our first album in Youngstown and surrounding areas is what drew Universal in,” Toka said. “We’ve built a huge fan base, and the reaction from them is amazing.”

The band is now bracing for a new release on Universal Records, set for July 12.

“We’re on a short regional tour to promote our new album,” Toka said. “It’s nice to see that our hard work is paying off.”

According to a recent press release from Denise Kozlowski of Rust Records, Cherry Monroe is scheduled for a 32-city mall tour this fall, sponsored by Simon Properties and Hot Topic fashion line.

As for now, the band is playing Saturday at Jillian’s in Southern Park Mall in Youngstown. The rockers have chosen this location to shoot live performance footage, which they will use for their first Universal Records video.

Toka said the group continues working on new material and is looking to book larger tours around the country later this year.

“We’re all very excited, getting ready for the album to be released,” he said.

In the meantime, he said the band’s staying focused on its current tour and staying positive about the future.

Cherry Monroe’s first album is available at all Best Buy and F.Y.E. stores, and the Universal CD will be in stores everywhere. For more information, go to

Contact local music reporter Allison Bugg at [email protected].