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 by Emerson Hart and guitarist Jeff Russo, long-separated childhood friends who randomly crossed paths at a Los Angeles, California area pool hall in 1993. The pair quickly began collaborating on music writing, and soon added bass player Dan Rothchild, whom they met at venue named the Kibitz room. The final addition to the band was drummer Kevin Shepard, who was recruited at an L.A. venue named Masker's Cafe.
Hart later said the original choice for the band's name was Radio Flyer, but upon learning that name was unavailable, selected Tonic instead (the band later referenced the term Radio Flyer in their song "Top Falls Down"). The newly formed group performed gigs around the Los Angeles, California area prior to signing their first professional recording contract in 1995. Earning a reputation as a "relentlessly gigging" 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 No. 28 during the week of August 2, 1997. By February 2003 Lemon Parade's running total of albums sold had reached 1.3 million copies.
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. The year 1997 marked the band's first contribution to an original soundtrack, recording the song "Eyes of Sand" for the Scream 2 soundtrack. 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. Tonic also performed a cover of the song "Second Hand News" for the album "Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours." The band finished 1998 by contributing a live version of the song "Open Up Your Eyes" to 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". In 2000, Tonic allowed their song "Mean To Me" from their album Sugar to be released as a single from the soundtrack album for the Warner Bros. film Gossip, which was directed by Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim. The band appeared in the music video for the song, which featured clips from the film as well as actors from it, who seemingly appear to be interacting with the band via webcam as they perform the song.
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