Toad the Wet Sprocket Still Crank Out Vulnerable, Ego-less Alt Rock
Seventeen years ago, Toad the Wet Sprocket's infamous song "All I Want" was one of those inescapable songs on the '90s airwaves competing with the likes of Nirvana and Soundgarden. After a few more Billboard hits from their 1991 album "Fear" along with multiple albums following, the Santa Barbara-based group took an extended break from band life only to come back together in 2010.
October 2013 saw Toad hop to the forefront with their latest album New Constellation, an opportunity to return to their element while each band member still pursues solo careers.
"Starting into my 40's, I feel like this is the age where you reclaim some kind of hope and idealism, but with a little more experience under your belt," says lead vocalist Glen Phillips. "It's through this understanding that happiness is not something that you get by getting what you want, in fact, it's something you work at every day."
New Constellation reflects the chemistry Toad maintained in the '90s with a more alternative "adultish" outlook.
"For the first time, instead of just making another Toad record where we would write a bunch of songs and find the ones that fit, this album was a matter of saying 'what does Toad want to say?'"Phillips says. "It was a cool kind of different challenge to look at Toad and to ask what makes it itself."
Fate took form in a theatre class's production of "Our Town," at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, Calif. After bumming rides home from a then-Senior Todd Nichols, Toad's lead guitarist and vocalist, a then-freshman Phillips and Nichols started jamming in a garage in 1986 and the rest is Toad history.
"Toad was our first band, a pretty typical garage band who just got lucky, kind of thing," Phillips says. "It's really strange because none of us had that ego that usually comes with this job."
While the vast majority of music from the early '90s central sound focus remained on grunge and intensity, being a group of novices to the music scene, Toad's vulnerable state resulted in a more alternative sound route and oddly stable band chemistry.
"At that point, Elliot Smith had yet to come around and make "vulnerable" beautiful again," says Phillips. "He made it cool for people to realize that 'beauty' didn't mean you didn't have anything to say."
In their latest album, their original sound still remains intact and sheds a light on their life experiences post-'90s. The vocals, guitar and sound are consistent with their alternative roots making New Constellation an enjoyable but still honest piece that reflects on poignant life experiences.
"There's a way Todd writes his guitar parts, a way Dean and Randy play together and the way the vocals work together that we can kind of bring anything in and start sounding like Toad pretty quickly," says Phillips. "I think there was more of a consciousness about that. There's a certain automatic button saying 'that's Toad.'"
Toad the Wet Sprocket performs on Saturday at The Coach House. 8 p.m. $35. All ages. For full details, click here.
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