Early 90’s Folk Pop Rockers Return to Anthology

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 11:56

An Interview with Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket

By Casey Pukl

One of my all-time favorite bands of the 90’s has to be Toad the Wet Sprocket. With hits like “Walk on the Ocean”, “Fall Down”, and many more, it’s no surprise that these guys have been around since the late 80’s and are still going strong. After some much needed time off, the band has regrouped, and is finding the fun in touring and recording again.

I had the chance to catch up with singer/songwriter Glen Phillips last week and get the latest info! Read on to find out what they’re working on, how they’re keeping it fun, and just what they’re looking forward to most about returning to Anthology!

CP: What have you guys been up to lately? I saw pictures of you guys in the studio on Facebook recently!

GP: We’ve been kind of casually in the studio lately working on a new album. We’ve all been kind of wrapping it around other stuff we’re working on, which is new for us. We find whenever we start things up again, people tend to force us into… I don’t know. They kind of force it to move faster than it would naturally, and that can be really uncomfortable. This time, we’ve kept it under our own control and kept it fun, kept it light. We’ve built up a bunch of songs we’re really proud of, and we did some more drum tracking last week. So far we really like what we have!

CP: Are you guys doing this independently at this point, or are you with a label? 

GP: Yeah, there’s no label and no management at this point. It’s awesome and it’s not. I’m not a great webmaster (laughs) so we’re realizing that there are certain jobs that it would be really nice to have other people doing (laughs). But then again, sometimes even when you have management, those things don’t get done or I end up doing then anyway, so it’s just as well.

CP: You guys have been around for over twenty years now, and you’ve really had a chance to see the music industry change. There is a ton you can do now without a label or any major support. Do you see this as a benefit for you guys?

GP: Probably. It’s a strange era, and even within the band, we’ve all had various exposures to how much things have changed and how much they haven’t. With Toad, you can kind of get back on the train and there’s a crew, and things are really taken care of to a degree. But I’ve also spent a fair amount of time by myself in a compact car booking my own travel, settling my own shows, and so I have a lot of perspective on both how it was and how it actually is now. The great thing is that we have a fan base where all we really have to do is knock on their doors. At least we know that there are people who would like it if we knocked on their door. It’s about figuring out how to use the social media and the new toolkit in a way that’s effective.

We’re still looking around for partners in that who can both talk the talk and walk the walk. There’s a lot of lip service about how much things have changed, and then there are also a lot of really deeply ingrained habits aren’t questioned about how you bring music to people and how the industry should work. It should be interesting. We’ll see how it goes.  

CP: Has your writing process changed at all over the years?

GP: The writing process has changed more than anything because I’ve had so many different projects. I’m writing differently when I write for Toad than when I’m writing for my solo projects because I know I have two other voices and a drummer. I know it’ll be a rock band (laughs). I’m not thinking about rock bands when I’m writing solo because I can’t afford to tour with one.

Some of my side projects are very different because I’m writing for a specific voice or specific players and sounds. Then there are times when I’m co-writing with different people, and that changes too. I have to give myself assignments. The fuel when I was in my twenties was just pure ego. I was trying to write well, but I wasn’t asking too many existential questions about what I should be writing or what it needed to mean. At that time, I really never had to struggle that much. I started a band in high school, we got signed, and I never had to think about it. It was like, ‘Oh, I get to do this for a living!’

Now, if I’m feeling a little bit more down, I can think, ‘Is anyone ever really going to hear this?’ (Laughs). That can get in the way, so adding co-writers, different projects, that can really help because it gets me out of my head and back into just writing. 

CP: When you’re writing for Toad, do you usually write with the band, or write on your own and then bring it in?

GP: With Toad, the way it has traditionally worked and is really working with this is that I write about half the songs myself and bring them in. This time around I’ve been doing a lot of things starting with beats and rhythms and really writing from an energy point of view. I think if I don’t consciously try and write from a high-energy place, I wind up being pretty mellow. So consciously starting from a place that’s high energy and thinking about harmonies and counter melodies, which keeps it up.

The other half of the Toad stuff always came from Todd, our guitarist. I would sometimes add lyrics or a melody or some other part. About half the music is Todd and Dean, our bass player, and then I come in at the end and sometimes with parts. But then the other half is my songs.

CP: What precipitated this decision to go back into the studio after all these years?

GP: I think the main reason was that we thought we could do it and actually enjoy it. There had always been pressure before, and I had always felt wrong. About three years ago, we got together and played thirty shows, which was the most we had played in a year since we broke up. But we had a great time. We really broke up for all the right reasons (laughs), and it was definitely the right thing to do. We needed to step away.

But we finally got past the history, and then the year after that we did thirty more shows to make sure it wasn’t a fluke (laughs), and those stayed pretty mellow. Last year, we decided we could take on a little more. I committed, and we all committed to seventy something shows, which is a whole lot for us. This year I’m back to touring solo, and I really love it. I consider solo to really be what I do. That’s my job, that’s my future, that’s what I can control. No matter what, even if gas is $10 a gallon, I can still get on a bike and tour by myself (laughs). I’ll make it work.

But having Toad be something we can all still visit and really enjoy, and then get to do some new songs so we can feel like a real band again instead of like a nostalgia project, is great. The strange thing with Toad was playing things that I had already done fifteen years ago. It felt strange. It’s been really cool to take it on again. As long as we’re keeping it light and fun, it works really well for us. If we keep it more independent and guided by our interests and our joy, then it works. Our real challenge with Toad is keeping the team from returning to the grind. That will make us not want to do it.

That’s the weird thing about making a living making music. It’s not like we’re making millions like something like Aerosmith. With us, that’s not involved. We actually really have to want to do it (laughs).

CP: What are you most looking forward to about returning to Anthology?

GP: I think there were garlic fries, or were they truffle fries? They were really good (laughs). It’s a great place to play. We love San Diego. It’s a cool room, sounds great. It’s always fun to do a double header. It’ll be a great time.

Special thanks to Glen for his time! Don’t miss out on this awesome evening of melodic pop rock!

Toad the Wet Sprocket on Spotify

WHAT: Toad the Wet Sprocket
WHEN: Thursday, May 24, 7:30 & 9:30 pm
TICKETS: $12-$57 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile