So named in honor of a sketch by the Monty Python comedy troupe, Toad the Wet Sprocket's mellow, melodic folk-pop sound made them one of the most successful alternative rock bands of the early 1990s. Singer Glen Phillips, guitarist Todd Nichols, bassist Dean Dinning (the nephew of '50s hitmaker Mark "Teen Angel" Dinning) and drummer Randy Guss formed the group in 1986 in their native Santa Barbara, California. After honing their skills in area bars, they entered a nearby studio in 1988 and recorded their debut LP, Bread and Circus, in just eight days at a cost of $650. Originally sold as a homemade cassette in Santa Barbara record stores, the album made its way to the Los Angeles offices of Columbia Records, which signed Toad only after agreeing to the band's request to reissue Bread and Circus in its original form, without any alterations or remixes. The somber Pale, produced by Marvin Etzioni, followed in 1990; after years of persistent touring, Toad the Wet Sprocket's commercial breakthrough followed with 1991's Fear, as the single "All I Want" -- quite nearly left off the album -- became a Top 20 hit. Another single from the LP, "Walk on the Ocean," was also a success. Three years later, Toad returned with Dulcinea, which generated another Top 40 hit with the single "Fall Down"; In Light Syrup, a collection of unreleased material, appeared in 1995.
They were putting the finishing touches on their sixth album, Coil. As Toad headed into their twelfth year as a band together, time and patience began catching up to them.
"We started when I was 16," said lead singer Glen Phillips. "So we needed some time to figure out what we were doing. We'd ask, 'is anybody having a good time here anymore?' And there'd be no answer."
"None of us cared enough about it,” said guitarist Todd Nichols. "We were just going through the motions."
By the time Coil was released in late-1997 and singles "Come Down" and "Whatever I Fear" landed on the charts, Toad the Wet Sprocket decided to call it quits. The group split in July 1998; their Greatest Hits collection was promised for later that year, but didn't appear until November of 1999 as P.S.: A Toad Retrospective.
So Toad the Wet Sprocket dropped off the face of the earth, reappearing only in the form of side projects. Todd Nichols and bass player Dean Dinning, for instance, formed the independent band Lapdog.
"Lapdog is my project," said Nichols. "So I had to make every single decision, which is a lot different than Toad, which is a group democracy."
Phillips found himself embarking for the first time in his life on a solo career, a situation that was dramatically different from Toad the Wet Sprocket, according to the singer/songwriter. Phillips released a solo album, Abulum. Darker and moodier than Toad’s music, Phillips finally managed to get the good reviews that Toad never received. But it was not the commercial success that Toad could count on. “It is a beautiful record, and it will age really well. I wanted to do something that really focused on the voice instead of the pleasant arrangement around the songs,” Phillips says. “But it didn’t have anything you could ever dream of playing on the radio. It was aiming at being non-commercial. It was a way to distance myself from the industry. That chip—or whatever it was—is now off my shoulder.”
Phillips knows he intends to continue his solo career. As for Toad’s future, though, Phillips is more circumspect.
“The shows have been great so far,” Phillips says of the reunion. “It’s been a lot of fun. Beyond this tour, though, there aren’t any plans right now. We’re going to see how it is without adding a lot of expectations to it.”
In February of 2003 Toad began a 24-city tour, covering most of the US. Toad will be joined on the tour by Alice Peacock and Bleu on the first half of the tour, then Wheat and Bleu will finish up the run. All tickets will be available through Toad’s website and Ticketmaster.
"Reuniting has given me a greater sense of pride about what we did accomplish," Phillips says. "I'm very proud of what Toad was, and it's been wonderful to see how much people love these songs. The depths to which people care about these songs is really rare."