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Posted April 21, 2014 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

The Toadies: Singer Vaden Lewis still has things to say

Toadies, photo by Matt Cooper
Toadies, photo by Matt Cooper

Released at a time when the Pixies and Nirvana had broken the door down for alternative rock acts, the Toadies’ major label debut Rubberneck quickly topped the charts thanks to the catchy single “Possum Kingdom.” The rest of the release sounds much more frenetic than “Possum,” but that didn’t deter fans. When its follow-up, 2001’s Hell Below/Stars Above, bombed, the group disbanded. But the Toadies reunited in 2007 and the band has been going strong ever since. Singer Vaden Lewis recently phoned in from his Forth Worth home to talk about the group’s current tour.

Talk a bit about the band’s formation. Was there a good music scene in Fort Worth?
Yeah, there was a lot of bands. There was a good music scene. There wasn’t a good club scene. It was all guerilla clubs. You open up a warehouse and play shows until the police come. That kind of thing. There was tons of good music and tons of good bands.

You released a few cassettes before signing to Interscope. How did the label catch wind of you guys?
We did a two-song cassette ourselves and then we did an EP on Grass Records, which eventually became Wind-Up, which signed Creed and all that shit. The EP went out and one of the distributors really dug it. He got ahold of somebody who was up and coming at Interscope and we were off and running.

Was it a post-Nirvana thing?
I guess Nirvana was happening at the same time. I was way off the radar with those guys. I was more into the punk scene. I didn’t get into grunge until after the fact. I don’t know what the people at the label liked about it but they heard something there so that was good for us.

What was it like to make Rubberneck with a significant budget?
It was nuts. These three or four hippies bought this nice place in Mendocino. We just hung out up there and smoked tons of pot and had tons of fun. It was relaxing. The album was a reflection of the catalog at that moment. We recorded in ’93. Some of the songs we had been playing since our first show in late ’89. One or two were that old. We had only been playing “Backslider” for a short time.

What about “Possum Kingdom” connected with the crowd?
I do not know. You know the drill. I was kind of over that song by the time we got signed to Interscope. Other songs were getting more favorable response from crowds. I thought it was a fun song and we would move on and do other stuff. The label wanted it on there and the producer wanted it on there. Once it took off, I have never tried to pretend to understand what makes people like certain songs because I don’t want to try to write the same song over and over. I don’t want to be that guy. The writing I feel the happiest with is writing that I’m blissfully unaware that anyone else is every going to hear it. Everything is about timing. If I had to take it apart, it’s a crossover between metal and what would become grunge. Everything went from Guns N’ Roses to the Pixies in a heartbeat. It’s a nice middle ground.

Even the Butthole Surfers had a hit.
Yeah. Exactly.

What broke the band up?
It was a number of factors. There isn’t any one thing. The overriding reason was disappointment in general with people in the business.

I’ve been fucked over, sued, ripped off, stolen from and let down by people who I considered close to me. I thought, ‘There’s something wrong with this business and I want to get out.’  I got out of it and I just realized that those people just suck. I love doing music so I needed to get back into it.

What brought the band back together?
In 2007, we formally got back together. It’s just like riding a bike. As far as the band dynamic goes, it was fine. I had the record written, for the most part. We went in the studio and that part came back naturally. We were surprised that there were people who still wanted to hear us after so long. In general, people have a pretty short attention span. If you don’t keep waving the flag, they stop paying attention. But not only were there were people but there are more people around than when we left. It’s been a refreshing experience.

You’ve been playing the album Rubberneck in its entirety for its 20th anniversary?
Correct. It’s cool. It’s not like we hadn’t played the songs. There are some we play more than others. We know the relevance of the record. We started off with playing it in order. We would play it in sequence from front to back and then take five and see if anyone wanted to hear more music. If you buy a ticket to hear Rubberneck in its entirety, there you go. We got into rehearsals and we started taking the songs apart. We got a kick out of trying to nail the parts. That changed a little bit and then after the first couple of shows we left the stage after playing Rubberneck. We came back out and nobody had gone away. We play Rubberneck and then we stay out there and play more songs. It’s been a really positive experience.

What is the band’s future?
I still love doing it so why not keep doing it. I love it and people still come to shows. As long as those two dynamics are there, why not? I still have things to say.

Upcoming 2014 Tour Dates 

April 23

April 24

April 25

April 26

April 27

May 7

May 8

May 9

May 10

May 11

May 13

May 14

May 15

May 16

May 17

June 12

June 14

Royale – Boston, MA

Irving Plaza – New York, NY

Stone Pony – Asbury Park, NJ

Theatre of the Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA

Black Cat – Washington, D.C.

Brewster St. Icehouse – Corpus Christi, TX

Josabi’s – San Antonio, TX

House of Blues – Houston, TX

Homegrown Festival – Dallas, TX

Tipatina’s – New Orleans, LA

Exit Inn – Nashville, TN

Masquerade – Atlanta, GA

The Ritz Ybor – Tampa, FL

Culture Room – Ft. Lauderdale, FL

House of Blues – Orlando, FL

Diamond Ballroom – Oklahoma City, OK

Stubb’s  – Austin, TX


Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.