Saturday's BestFest headliners the Toadies were in town fairly recently, and they should be back soon when they promote their next album. In the mean time, however, we'll have them here this weekend, and we're hoping that a lot of you will join us to bask in their unique and slightly off-putting lyricism, mixed with '90s-era grungy alt-rock. First though, a little history from our side.
Rocks Off first heard The Toadies years and years ago on mainstream radio in the back seat of our mom's Suburban during our mid-week commute to middle school. We knew nothing of the band, but the building bass riffs, scratchy guitar and lyrics we couldn't quite understand (but were pleased to see raised our mother's eyebrow) peaked our interest. Later in life, having learned that the band was Texas-based, we were ecstatic.
So, given the chance to speak with drummer Mark Reznicek was something of a childhood dream come true. That being the case, we apologize if our Q&A seems a bit giddy.
Rocks Off: Firstly, and we apologize for having to ask this, but we were begged to do so... Do you really come from the water?
Mark Reznicek [Laughs]: Well, I think all of us do, according to the song.
RO: Since the five-year hiatus, from 2001 to 2006, during which time you played with the country-western band Eleven Hundred Springs, did the band's dynamic change? What was it like getting back together?
MR: There wasn't a whole lot of change. We all kind of kept in touch and, from time to time, would see each other. A few times, Todd (Lewis, Toadies vocalist/guitarist) came out and saw me play with Eleven Hundred, and I saw his band, the Burden Brothers, a few times, and ran into Clark (Vogeler, guitarist) a few times when we would be on tour and stop in L.A.
So it wasn't like complete strangers reuniting or anything. Actually, It was pretty cool how everything kind of fell back into place. We just kind of picked up where we left off.
I guess the one thing that did change was that we have a new bass player, Doni Blair, and he brought a lot of enthusiasm. We've known him since the '90s. He was in this band called Hagfish, who were kind of big around this area. He's been a friend and fan of The Toadies ever since then. So for him, it was kind of a dream come true playing with the band. And having that enthusiasm was infectious for all of us.
RO: Did you bring any country-western style back with you? Will we hear any of that on the upcoming album?
MR: I really learned a lot playing country music. I had never really played it much before I joined that band, and there are different styles you have to master to do country - swing, train beats, stuff like that. Even on our last album we did when we first reunited, No Deliverance, I definitely brought some of the new stuff I learned and whipped it out. Now that I have that under my belt, I can mix and match it with my other old tricks. Everything is a learning experience, you know?
RO: You re-released the original version of Feeler last year after Interscope Records denied its initial release in '97. What's the response to the album been like?
MR: A lot of the old-school fans who had already found it lurking out there on the Internet were really excited. We actually rerecorded a lot, because we had trouble tracking down the masters of the original recordings from '98, and we were never totally happy with the performance anyway. And the way it was recorded wasn't really... Well, It was unfinished at the time, so we decided we should finish it. We needed a little closure on it.
RO: The Toadies have quite a following in Houston. Ever considered relocating here? How can we convince you? Have you tried the tacos we've got here? Mmmmmmmm!!
MR: I like to visit Houston a lot, but I have friends and family up here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, so I'll probably stay up here, at least for the foreseeable future.
RO: As you look back over the years, has radio consistently helped the band connect with new fans, or has it been more hit-or-miss or worse?
MR: I think, overall, it's been a big help, because you can't really turn on a rock station anywhere in the country on any given day and not hear "Possum Kingdom" at least once. It's weird that that's still the one song of ours that everyone knows, even though they may not know it's The Toadies.
We'll sing, "Do you wanna' die?" or "My sweet angel," and people will go, "Hey, I didn't know that was a Toadies song!" And whenever we come out with something new, most radio stations will give whatever our latest single is at least a few spins.
It helps us to connect with new fans, but I think a lot of it is word of mouth, the Internet, parents and older brothers and sisters passing it on, saying, "Hey, this is what I listened to, and isn't it cool?" That was my musical education, because I have three older brothers [Laughs].
RO: Have you all gotten tired of performing "Possum Kingdom," "I Come From the Water" and "Backslider" yet? Does watching fans sing along, go crazy and play air guitar to songs you've written ever get old?
MR: It really doesn't get old. In a sense, when we get to some of those songs, I can almost turn off my brain and just play it totally from muscle memory, and that way I just get to enjoy the crowd's reaction. And there aren't too many better highs than people dancing and singing along to one of your songs. I don't think it will ever get old.
RO: At the risk of dismantling the Pulp Fiction-esque "What's in the briefcase" aura surrounding "Possum Kingdom," we've heard rumors that it's based on a true story. Is there any truth to that?
MR: I don't think it is. Possum Kingdom is a lake up here, about two hours west of Fort Worth, and it's a really cool, scenic lake. I think Todd's family used to go camping out there pretty often when he was younger, and they would sit around the campfire and tell ghost stories.
I think he just made up a spooky, creepy story, but I'm not sure there's any truth to it. But I think there's a little more truth to another song, "Tyler," though it may just be an urban legend or something that Todd heard... A stalker kind of story.
RO: As a whole, how's the new record going? Do you have a tentative release date?
MR: We've been working on it. We're going into the studio in the middle of October to do some recording, and it's still kind of taking shape. But I think we're hoping to have it done and released by springtime, that way we can tour throughout the spring, summer and fall of next year.
RO: And we assume there will be a Houston stop on that tour, correct?
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MR: Oh yeah, always.
The Toadies play BestFest's main stage 8:45 p.m. Saturday at the Midtown Superblock. See bestfesthouston.com for complete info and to buy tickets.