Toad the Wet Sprocket Might Be ‘All You Want’ of ‘90s Music Nostalgia
Second chances are hard to come by in the unforgiving music industry. Yet Toad the Wet Sprocket is enjoying a comfortable resurgence, following a breakup in 1998 that ended a successful decade of hits. The quartet got back together for old times’ sake in 2006 and have been going strong since, with a recurring summer tour and even a new record under their newly-independent label status. The band with the notoriously quirky name will be hitting Bergen Performing Arts Center on August 23, with Rusted Root in tow, for a throwback evening of smooth '90s rock. And that categorization doesn’t bother them in the least.
“We are definitely known for being of the ‘90s. I hope we're remembered as being one of the bright spots,” Dean Dinning, Toad’s bassist says. The band’s 1992 hit “All I Want” peaked at number 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and was followed by “Walk On the Ocean,” “Fall Down” and “Something’s Always Wrong,” all of which charted through 1995.
“I look at people's posts on Facebook and Instagram after they've been to our shows, and they say, ‘Reliving our college days with Toad the Wet Sprocket!’ That's a wonderful thing,” says Dinning, 49. “It means that you've been the soundtrack to someone's life.”
Dinning says the band embraces its place in the annals of ‘90s nostalgia and appreciates how it’s kept them on the road. Their dedicated fan base even funded their latest album in 2013.
No longer under the cushy arm of their major record label Columbia Records, Toad took to Kickstarter to get their first album in 16 years off the ground. More than $260,000 later and with the status as one of Kickstarter’s most successful music campaigns that year, “New Constellation” was born.
Given that their fans enabled Toad to release a new album, Dinning has no problem playing the same songs for the fans they’ve been jamming out to for over 20 years.
“It's a great problem to have, to be known for a handful of great songs that people love,” the native of Santa Barbara, Ca., says. “I don't mind playing them every night because I see the reaction on people's faces when we start playing the songs and how much joy it brings them. That's what it's all about for me.”
Dinning is very much about the music and is grateful for the focus the band has maintained since they got back together. They owe their reunion to Counting Crows, who, while putting their own summer tour together in 2006, wanted the dismantled Toad to open for them. Since their desired opening act was not a unit at the time, Counting Crows took it upon themselves to get them back together, at least for their string of shows.
Recalling that time, Dinning remembers how easy it felt to get on stage again. “The fans never went away. The songs kept getting played on the radio. People kept using our songs in movies and TV during the time we broke up.”
A handful of summer shows doubled the following summer, until the next year, Toad was fully committed to a summer tour. Dinning says the band was feeling so good, the only thing missing was a new album. Then came “New Constellation” in 2013.
“We really appreciated what we had together, certainly more than we had at the time of the breakup,” says Dinning.
Looking back, Dinning says the split was perpetuated by “bad advice” from advisors, managers and friends. “We needed to realize how rare and special what we had was. A few years off on our own showed us that and made us appreciate what the band had created.”
Now on their own independent label, Abe’s Records, the band is enjoying their creative freedom. “We’re allowed to make the music we want to do,” says Dinning. Their creative openness and embracing of social media and music streaming services is introducing Toad to new audiences.
Next up, the band covers Roger Miller’s “Nothing Can Stop My Love” for a tribute album of the country legend’s work, featuring Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton.
“It’s one of the coolest things we have ever been asked to be involved with,” Dinning says.
Whether people see them as a band of the moment or another entry into the big business of ‘90s nostalgia, Dinning says Toad the Wet Sprocket is just happy to be here. “It was only a matter of time till this happened. It's nice we were able to stick around long enough to witness it.”
Toad the Wet Sprocket and Rusted Root will perform at the Bergen Performing Arts Center, 30 North Van Brunt Street, Englewood, NJ 07631, on Tuesday, August 23. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.bergenpac.org.