Toad the Wet Sprocket heads to Ridgefield Playhouse
Named for an obscure Monty Python skit, Toad the Wet Sprocket was one of the major alternative music bands that hit it big in the 90s. This year is a milestone for the band, which is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its platinum album, “Dulcinea” (1994), which contained hits like “Fall Down” and “Something’s Always Wrong.” 2019 also marks the 30th anniversary of the band’s first album “Bread & Circus.” After breaking up and reuniting more than 10 years ago, the band has continued recording and touring. Toad’s summer tour, which will support the Sierra Club in its mission “to explore, enjoy and protect the planet,” brings the band to the Ridgefield Playhouse Aug. 25. We talked with singer/songwriter Glen Phillips about the tour and the band’s evolution.
Andrea Valluzzo: Toad started out very much as an indie band. Did it take you by surprise when the alternative boom hit and you had a lot of pop success?
Glen Phillips: It was all very surreal. We were just a small band, it was the first band really any of us had been in. Even getting a record deal was a surprise and beyond that, that anyone got the records was a greater surprise. It’s not how I expected to live my life but was a very welcome detour.
AV: Which song or record are you most proud of and why?
GP: The record “Dulcinea,” just because I think we’d learned more about songwriting and record making by then. And that was a real choice to make a record that wasn’t over-adorned. We wanted it to be that every song could be played live exactly as it was on the album so we really limited our palette in a way that brought out the best in the band.
AV: What inspires your songwriting?
GP: It’s kind of wherever my focus is, so sometimes it’s intensely personal or sometimes I am going through a major life change and I kind of use songs as a letter from my future self to help me find my way. These days I’m reading The Overstory and The Secret Life of Trees and thinking more about the environment. I am finding it hard to really turn my gaze from too far away from human extinction. The planet is going to do fine, give it another few hundred million years and there will be wondrous new species that have evolved and created a new atmosphere after we have torched this one. Life has an amazing way of regulating the planet.
AV: You’ve said that you didn’t enjoy playing “All I Want” back in the day because it was a hit song. How does it feel now?
GP: It feels great playing it today. We were children of the 90s and the 90s were this weird period where the punk rock attitude and college music was music that was really indie in spirit but became mainstream. Getting signed on a major label was like ‘Oh, maybe that’s selling out.’ Many of us had a pretty poor reaction to that. There was this wanting to be seen and put records out but at the same time wanting to feel invisible and special and not mainstream. At the same time, “All I Want” paid for our lives and still pays for a lot of my life. It has helped us to make all kinds of music that brought a lot of people happiness and on top of that it’s a song about the fleeting nature of happiness.
AV: Tell me about your work with the Sierra Club. What are you hoping to do?
GP: We are hoping to do whatever little bit we can. They are about wildlife preservation and preservation of forests — preservation of the lungs of the planet. Anything we can do to kind of slow down and think and ask and see if it’s not too late. At the same time, I recognize my own hypocrisy in stepping on a bus and burning fuel. I’m trying to figure out how to do more good while doing less harm.
AV: What can audiences expect at this show?
GP: These days, honestly, the shows have been really joyful. The band has gone through some changes in the last year. We have been really grateful to bring music to people and I think that feeling on stage is really translating to audiences. Music is such a wildly beautiful thing. It’s so wonderfully transient. I think that’s what I love about it. It’s like a kite. You capture it for a little bit and it blows around and then it’s gone.