Even though it was only 16 years ago, in the realm of recording technology, 1997 might as well be the dark ages. It also happens to be the last time early alt-rock greats Toad the Wet Sprocket were in the studio.
The band all but disbanded following its fifth studio release, "Coil," but would occasionally play one-off shows and short tours in the early to mid 2000s. These flirtations with reuniting were almost always accompanied by questions about producing another album, but lead singer Glen Phillips says the band resisted the temptation to record just to push out product.
When time and maturity made an actual reunification possible, Phillips says, the band considered working on a new project. But by 2010, the digital recording train was several stops down from where they'd gotten off.
"We'd only done two songs that weren't done to 2-inch tape in our careers," he says, referencing new material folded into a 1999 greatest-hits compilation.
As they worked on "New Constellation," to be released in September, Phillips says, the digital tools now available made it easier to collaborate again.
"We get along pretty well now, but bands are intense," he says, laughing. "Working in the modern studio environment ... allowed us to breathe a little and not feel pressured, not feel like we were breathing down each other's necks the whole time."
Friday, July 12, Toad the Wet Sprocket will perform at Track 29, playing material drawn from the upcoming album and its back catalog.
In 1986, Phillips, guitarist Todd Nichols, bassist Dean Dinning and drummer Randy Guss founded Toad the Wet Sprocket -- the name is a reference to a Monty Python skit -- in Santa Barbara, Calif. After a pair of under-the-radar releases, the band hit its stride in 1991 with the platinum-certified "Fear," which yielded two of the band's best-known songs, "All I Want" and "Walk on the Ocean."
Despite not playing together regularly for years, Phillips says the band's distinctive midtempo sound bridging adult contemporary and rock was easy to reacquire.
"There's a way the vocals blend and a way Randy and Dean lock in as a rhythm section. There's Todd's tone and the way he plays guitar," he says. "Those are really just signature things. You put them together, and as soon as we play a song, it sounds like a Toad song."
Although "New Constellation" will not be publicly available until late summer, backers of the band's Kickstarter campaign to fund its production received early copies last week. Although he's noncommittal on the future of the band, Phillips says the album was definitely worth approaching deliberately.
"I feel like we made a great record, and I'm really proud of it," he says. "If we go out on this note, I'll be really happy, and if we do more, I'll be really happy."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...