For those who were musically coherent in the early ’90s, Toad the Wet Sprocket may evoke memories of cruising with the windows down listening to “Walk on the Ocean,” a poignant TV show moment with a backdrop of “Something’s Always Wrong” or a first kiss to “All I Want.” The band has grown up a lot since then, said lead singer Glen Phillips, and with a new album and a new tour, they’re giving it another try.
Waiting for the right time
“We’d been playing together again for a little while,” Phillips said. “We took a five-year full stop and had, here and there, kind of come back and realized we weren’t really ready yet.”
Phillips said there was always a lot of pressure from the outside to keep it going, but the band didn’t end on the best note the first time around.
“I always felt like it would be good to get together and make it work again and do things on a more positive note,” he said. “Enough time passed that we thought we wouldn’t only survive it but thrive in it. Doing the greatest hits recording was a toe in the water to see how we got along in the studio. It finally felt like the time.”
The band released “All You Want,” a collection of new recordings of fan favorites, in 2011 before making the commitment to another album with entirely fresh tracks. Some of the songs on “New Constellations” are in a classic Toad vein and could have shown up on any of the band’s records, Phillips said.
“There’s a few elements about what we do that we can’t really help,” he said with a laugh. “The funny thing about a band is you get together and play the songs and it’s strange. I bring in a song and it’s a Glen song, and I bring it to Toad and it becomes a Toad song. There’s a way that we speak to each other that’s automatic.
“And I think ‘New Constellations’ (the title track) — there’s a new wave in it. It’s not an utterly modern song; it still sounds like us but takes in some of the vocabulary that’s been going on in the past 15 years since we broke up.”
For the fans
Toad the Wet Sprocket chose to take the crowd-sourcing route for “New Constellations,” rather than label hunting or fronting the money themselves. The Kickstarter campaign was wildly successful, with the band raising $264,762 from an original pledged goal of $50,000. More than 6,300 people helped back the band to create the new album.
“It’s been awesome,” Phillips said. “We’re extremely happy about it. Crowd sourcing is an amazing new tool; we’re really grateful to have that opportunity in front of us. It used to be that you’d have to go out and get a record deal, and if you did it yourself, it’s hard to distribute a record.”
Modern tools make it easy, Phillips said, especially if you already have an audience or fan base to step in and start working.
“We’ll have distributed the records to the people who care the most about it,” he said. “We’ll be in the black and be able to start promoting it, and even if we go to a label and do a licensing deal, we’ll be on our own terms and not be in the hole from Day 1.”
When the band started in the early ’90s, the CD was still new, and many people would buy a cassette for the car and a CD for home. Phillips said now, with the advent of digital music, maybe one in 20 people actually buy an album, so the band wanted to give back to the fans who were supporting them by purchasing their music.
“Those who care more about it understand that they are the patrons, and they are kind of happy to offer more, and we are happy to offer more back to them,” he said.