By BRIAN BINGAMAN
A reunited, older and wiser Toad the Wet Sprocket is coming to SteelStacks in Bethlehem.
Taking their name from a Monty Python skit, the introspective folk-rockers from Santa Barbara, Calif., were in the right place at the right time — as alternative music was gaining mainstream acceptance in the early ‘90s — and scored hits with songs like “All I Want,” “Walk on the Ocean,” “Good Intentions” (from the “Friends” TV show soundtrack) and “Fall Down.”
After the band broke up in 1998, lead singer Glen Phillips worked with members of Nickel Creek and recorded and performed as a solo singer/songwriter. Guitarist/songwriter Todd Nichols and bassist Dean Dinning (the nephew of “Teen Angel” singer Mark Dinning) formed a band called Lapdog, and the diminutive Randy Guss continued on as a session drummer.
“We needed more space; needed to grow and mature,” commented Phillips, who at the time of the breakup had two young daughters at home and another on the way. “We were completely different people, as far as our personal relationships go. Toad formed when we were in high school (in 1986) — I was a freshman and the other guys were seniors.”
Reconvening for occasional reunion shows over the past decade, then agreeing last year to a more committed reunion; Phillips said he was nervous about recording “New Constellation,” the band’s first studio album in 16 years.
“You know how bands get back together, and they (already) said all they have to say?,” he said, not naming any names, and hoping that his own band wouldn’t get lumped into that category.
Enlisting the services of producer Mikal Blue (Colbie Caillat, Jason Mraz, Five For Fighting, One Republic) and crowdfunding the new album via Kickstarter, they opted not to tinker with the Toad the Wet Sprocket sound, defined by three-part harmonies and Nichols’ guitar work.
“It’s how we play together. U2 still sounds like U2. It’s still Bono’s voice. Edge is still doing the same guitar stuff — a hollow-body guitar run through a delay,” he said.
And yet …
“If you put the old (Toad) records on and listen to the new one, it isn’t a retro record,” Phillips said of the themes of the new songs. “The vast majority of fans feel like we made the record we were supposed to make.”
As for what you can expect to hear in concert, Phillips promised both new and old, including fan favorites like “Windmills” and “I Will Not Take These Things For Granted.”
When asked if he thought he’d still be singing songs from Toad the Wet Sprocket’s most successful albums, “Fear” and “Dulcinea,” 20-23 years later, Phillips was humble and said he’s surprised he didn’t end up going back to college.
“I thought when we got signed (in 1988) we’d get dropped (by Columbia Records) in two years. I felt like I didn’t have the kind of ambition and ego that it takes to make it in the entertainment world. I didn’t trust the media; I didn’t trust MTV,” he confessed.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Toad the Wet Sprocket in concert.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. June 29.
WHERE: Musikfest Cafe at SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way Bethlehem.
INFO: Call (610) 297-7100 or visit www.artsquest.org.
Follow Brian Bingaman on Twitter @brianbingaman.