Toad the Wet Sprocket leaps back on bandstand
Who could have predicted Toad the Wet Sprocket would turn it all the way up to ’11?
The rock group that began in 1986 with four high school students and went on to produce several hit songs before breaking up in the late ’90s is making a comeback.
“We’re a band and all bands eventually turn into Spinal Tap,” said singer Glen Phillips, who is perhaps too self-deprecating be considered a rock star. In fact, the band’s early success created tumult by its members and fans.
“We all kind of figured we’d have stayed in college and done something else,” Phillips said. “We were all pretty shocked when we got signed and went on tour and were making a living at it. … We always felt like outsiders. We didn’t have the ego and we didn’t know how to promote ourselves.”
Toad the Wet Sprocket was signed by Columbia Records and in 1991 had the No.1 Billboard single “All I Want” from the platinum album “Fear,” which also had the hit song “Walk the Ocean.” The band did more than 300 shows in two years before Phillips’ overused throat needed surgery. It played during an time when Toad the Wet Sprocket’s sound was referred to as college rock, which later segued to alternative and finally to indie.
“We were in an era where being on a major label was not cool,” Phillips said. “Being on the radio was definitely not cool. There were a whole lot of rules about what credibility was. It was a very strange era.”
Fans liked to take ownership of the band, preferring to turn friends on to the music rather than having them discover it it on radio, Phillips said. The hit songs created a divide in the concergoers. There were the fans who were album fans, and there were singles’ fans, the “All I Wanters.”
A follow-up album, “Dulcinea,” also went platinum. It included the hit song “Fall Down.”
The group broke up in 1998.
Beginning a few years ago Phillips, Todd Nichols, Dean Dinning and Randy Glass would get together for an occasional gig.
“We were doing random weekends,” Phillips said. “It would start to snowball and people who weren’t us would try to push us ahead, and we would get all freaked out and pull back.”
Toad the Wet Sprocket did 30 shows in 2009.
“All of a sudden getting together and having fun became the new normal,” he said. “We took another year to make sure that that wasn’t a random occurrence. Now for the first time since we broke up, we’re making plans for the future.”
It’s something of a minor miracle that Phillips can even play guitar after slicing his ulnar nerve in his left arm on a broken coffee table in October 2008. He had intense shooting pain in his arm for a year. While his condition is much improved he can’t spread his middle and ring fingers and can’t use his pinky at all. He said his arm feels like it does when hitting the elbow’s funny bone – “pins and needles all the time.”
“I’ve learned to play with three fingers,” he said. “I can mute various strings.”
Phillips said he is proud and grateful to be able to perform, and he doesn’t take things for granted like he once did. That alone equals success.
“Success is a strange word because it’s relative and subjective,” he said. “It’s something you determine for yourself.”