By every marker of band mortality, Toadies should be deader than a pet rock. Runaway hit single from a debut album? Check. Overwhelming pressure to repeat the success? Check. Seven years between albums? Check. Eventual break-up? Check.
Guitar player Clark Vogeler, for one, saw little if any future for Toadies once they disbanded in 2001 – even with their biggest track, 1995′s “Possum Kingdom,” still ringing in everyone’s ears as a perennial on jukeboxes and rock radio. Vogeler left his mates in Texas and moved to California to work as a film editor.
He’s still there. But nowadays he’s a Toadie, too, and back into the groove of putting out records and playing new songs on cross-country treks. Toadies with opening act Helmet, another band of ’90s alt-rock vintage, play Revolution in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday. Toadies’ new album, Play.Rock.Music, comes out July 31.
Vogeler sounds as surprised as anyone at the occurrence of a Toadies second act. “It was a huge shock to us that people still gave a shit,” he says of the revival after six years of near-total silence. (The band played a handful of one-off reunion shows in that time).
Since regrouping, they’ve released three albums with a Texas-based label, Kirtland Records, toured smaller U.S. concert halls, and launched an annual hometown music festival, Dia de los Toadies, that turns five in August.
“Now we kind of have the freedom to be a band and do what we want to do,” says Vogeler. “In a sense we’re making up for lost time.”
Vogeler, singer-guitarist-songwriter Vaden Todd Lewis, drummer Mark Reznicek and bass player Doni Blair don’t figure to repeat the band’s dizzying first run. In some ways they wouldn’t want to. “It really fucks with a musician’s head, ” Vogeler says of the anxiety bred by the success of “Possum Kingdom.” “It really did take a long time for us to put that out our minds.”
They’re self-assured enough now that in 2010 they released Feeler, the album their original label, the industry giant Interscope, rejected as the first attempt at a follow-up to 1994’s Rubberneck. Vogeler guesses that Interscope “didn’t like it because it didn’t have ‘Possum Kingdom II.’” (Toadies’ second album, Hell Below/Stars Above, came out in 2001, after which Interscope dropped the band.)
Play.Rock.Music doesn’t replay “Possum,” either. But the band that wrote that creepy valentine – with its amorous, possibly undead, narrator and its retro, James Gang guitar crunch – hasn’t shed its basic approach: sinewy hard rock with enigmatic lyrics floated by Lewis in a style halfway between singing and incantation.
The first single, “Summer of the Strange,” is a slow-motion howl, with Smith describing what could be either the end of the world or another Texas drought: “And the air got heavy/But the sky won’t rain.”
With Play.Rock.Music completed, the band now has five studio albums to draw from in concert. But they don’t view that bounty of tracks as a reason to not play their most famous song.
“I joined the band in ’96 and there’s only been one show where we didn’t play it and I don’t remember why,” says Vogeler. “We know that’s half the reason people come out. We never get tired of playing it.”
Toadies. With Helmet and Ume, 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 25 at Revolution, 100 S.W. Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $27; all ages. Call 954-449-1025, visit jointherevolution.net or the event’s Facebook page.