For fans, there’s nothing better than when a favorite band gets back together. That’s certainly the case for Toad the Wet Sprocket devotees. After close to 15 years apart, the Santa Barbara group not only released an excellent album, New Constellation, but they also hit the road for an extended tour, playing well over 100 shows around the U.S. as headliners and as the opening act for Counting Crows. And now they are bringing their music home (well, to Solvang, but close enough) for a concert that will also serve as a fundraiser for the Santa Barbara Birth Center’s Birth Subsidy Fund, which provides financial assistance for those who cannot afford the services offered by the nonprofit.
I recently chatted with frontman Glen Phillips about the Toad reboot, how things have changed, and how they’ve stayed the same.
How is Toad different this time around? We all have a lot more life under our belts, and we were able to choose to come back to this rather than have fate make it occur. When we got signed [in the ’90s], it was total luck. We were all going to go to different colleges and break up. And the next thing, we were like, “Oh, we got a record deal. We’ll get dropped in two years; let’s try to do it.” … Now that we’re here again, we decided to look at what we are, what do we actually sound like, what are our strengths, what do we want to say [with our music].
Music reviewers have commented on a newfound hopefulness in this album. I feel like the place I’m in now is realizing that happiness is not about getting what I want, but it’s a practice. … The songs are still mostly like “I’m sad, I’m sad,” but I feel like there is some angle on them that is a little less navel-gazey and a little more like “… and you probably are, too.” [Laughs.] The intention is a more shared experience. If it’s just about me, I increasingly feel that’s just narcissism and I should do something else with my life. If I’m going to do this, it should be useful. It still needs to mean something to me, but I’ve got to keep in mind, “Is this a selfish exercise, or is this something that can be a tool for somebody else; could it be worth it for them?”
Did you slide right back into a working groove musically? Yeah, we just sound like Toad. We kind of can’t help it. [Laughs.] It’s a pretty automatic thing. There’s nothing else we can do, and I like what we do. But it was really fascinating to see how effortless it was for us to just do the Toad thing. … We didn’t want to make a record that was nostalgic — we have enough of that working for us already. [Laughs.] … It took a while to put songs together, and I wanted to make sure that if we were going to do a record, it had soul and had spirit and that the songs were worthy of putting out. I feel like we managed to do that.
What’s your favorite song on the record? Probably “Golden Age.” And if I’m going to choose a song that’s [very] Toad, I think “California Wasted” is that. … We could have put out product at any point, but we did an album that I think everybody in the band really loved and cared about and is proud of. And we got to do the tour. … Usually, at the end of the tour nobody wants to see each other, but [this time] everybody gave each other a hug. It shouldn’t have been possible, but the fact that it is the four of us and that we managed to make that record and do that tour and still smile and have a decent time doing it is pretty remarkable.
Toad the Wet Sprocket plays Saturday, October 11, at the Solvang Festival Theater (420 2nd St., Solvang). For ticket information, call (805) 686-1789 or visit solvangfestivaltheater.org.