Toad the Wet Sprocket broke up in 1998 after more than 10 years together and five studio albums. Now, they’ve re-formed with a soon-to-be-released sixth album. They are playing at Track 29 this Friday, July 12.
I recently talked with frontman Glen Phillips about his time in Toad, their new album and getting the band back together.
How did you guys form Toad the Wet Sprocket? You guys were friends in high school, right?
Todd and Randy, the guitarist and drummer, have known each other since they were 5. They met Dean in middle school, and I met them when I was a freshman in high school and they were all juniors. I was 14. Todd lived a couple of blocks away from me and had a guitar, and we started writing songs together.
Are you guys working on a new album?
We have a new album. We played on occasion. We would get together and do some shows and remember why we broke up, and then a while ago, we were playing shows and suddenly remembered why we got together and having a lot more fun. It just seemed like the right time to make another record. So yeah, we have a new record. It’s called "New Constellation," and we’re just wrapping it up right now. We started a Kickstarter campaign for it on June 1 to get it out to our fans first and releasing it on vinyl and cooler versions of it for that crowd. I’m very excited to have a new thing to play live.
Why did you guys break up? Was it any one thing in particular or a series of things?
It’s a whole bunch of stuff. I can’t really say. Any band that stays together long enough will become Spinal Tap.
I was watching a YouTube video of you guys performing "Know Me," which is one of my favorite songs. It seems like it’s pretty personal. A lot of your songwriting seems personal.
Yeah, it’s pretty personal. I was probably 15 or 16 when I wrote that song. "Mom, you don’t get me," is exactly what that song was. When we first came out, we were babies. The first couple of records were incredibly raw. I don’t know if they were really good, in the sense that we didn’t really know what we were doing. But they’re very honest. A lot of bands were more refined than we were, and we certainly weren’t refined, but we were honest and revealing. I think it’s hard for me to listen to those albums because nobody really wants to revisit their 15- or 16-year-old self.
Could you talk about the difference through the years, in songwriting, the themes in albums, from when you were just starting out and when you guys got huge?
We never really got huge. We did well for a minute. Then we got better, and then we broke up. We always tried to write from the heart, before it was cool and certainly before it was OK for a nerd to do it. We were in a time when people were competing really hard to be edgy and cool and sensitive. We did our own thing during all of that. We try to be honest. We’ve learned more, grown more. It’s a whole different world now. We just try to write from an honest perspective.
What musician or band made you want to form your own band?
When I first met Todd, I was listening to a lot of Rush and Ozzy. My middle school years were very hard rock, metal, thrash. And then I had The Beatles and The Doobie Brothers growing up. I knew The Beatles inside and out, which kind of lays the groundwork. There was R.E.M., Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Elvis Costello and then the punk thing in high school. There was all of that thrown in there. And current stuff … I love the new James Blake record; Alt-J’s "An Awesome Wave" just blows me away. It’s good to have a record you can listen to all the way through multiple times. It’s a great time for music right now.
Can you talk about some of your most recent side projects?
I did a solo record that came out last September called "The Coyote Sessions" that was kind of an experimental record of songs that didn’t really belong on any other record. My side project right now is Toad. I’m loving the record we made. I’m really excited about it.
Which Toad album are you most proud of and why?
Of course the new one, "New Constellation." Of the old ones, I would say "Dulcinea." It had a really good vibe. I’m proud of the writing on it. I’m proud of how we pulled it off. But I’m really excited about the new one. I’m really curious about what people are going to think about it.
Charlie Moss writes about local history and popular culture, including music, movies and comics. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 9:07 a.m. on 7/9/13 to correct a typographical error: Alt-J's song is "An Awesome Wave," not "An Awesome Way," as originally reported.