In the cottage industry that is the 90’s rock nostalgia circuit, certain acts hold up better than others. While the cynical among us may say that being the world’s most relevant 90’s band is akin to being Tottenham’s best summer signing, there is something that elevates many tours beyond depressing cash grabs. When I saw Toadies play Irving Plaza on April 24, there was none of the “can you believe we used to like this LOL” that gives some of their peers’ shows a distasteful Flavor of Love vibe.
Toadies, touring on the 20th anniversary of their platinum-selling album Rubberneck, are packing 1,000+ venues with adoring fans every night. Most of the crowd at Irving Plaza was beyond psyched to hear their favorite Rubberneck tracks — it took just two songs for everyone around me to realize that the band was playing the album front-to-back.
What is it about Toadies that pushes the band’s sell-by date to 2030? I think its a mix of heavy overdrive guitar that has largely disappeared from the airwaves, irresistible hooks (“Tyler” sounds a whole lot like “Where is My Mind” — not an insult), and creepy-without-sounding-forced lyrics. While milquetoast ditties get boring after 20 years, phrases like “behind the boathouse / I’ll show you my dark secret” will always unsettle.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with the band’s drummer Mark Reznicek. Reznicek was engaging with an uncommon degree of self-aware perspective. He also lived up to his reputation as one of rock’s true characters and foremost raconteurs.
Dead Curious: Toadies is now in its second iteration [the band split up in 2001 and reunited in 2006]. What was behind the decision to get the group back together?
Mark Reznicek: Short answer – money [laughs]. It felt like the right time. Vaden [Todd Lewis, Toadies lead vocalist and guitarist] was in a band called Burden Brothers and had written a batch of songs. He said, “I wrote these songs and they sound like Toadies songs and I wanted to see if you guys wanted to get together, record them, and start doing this again.” The time seemed right and we went for it.
DC: I’m from Houston and I remember seeing Toadies at Buzzfest [day-long festival in Houston put on by alternative radio station 94.5 The Buzz]. Do you have any favorite memories – or any memories at all – of Buzzfest?
MR: This is the one that was at the Woodlands Pavilion? One time we were playing there and sitting in the bus and looking out the window and there was this female artist – I think her name was Moe [ed note: After looking at old Buzzfest lineups, I believe Mark is referring to Poe, who played along with Toadies at Buzzfest II in 1996] – and just as we looked out the window, a gust of wind came up and her skirt blew up and we saw her underpants [laughs]. That’s my memory from Buzzfest.
DC: It must have been a hell of a time.
MR: You asked!
DC: In all your years on tour you have probably seen your fair share of venues. What is your favorite venue that you have played and why?
MR: First Avenue in Minneapolis one of my favorite venues. It’s the place where Prince and the Revolution filmed the Purple Rain movie so it’s cool from a historic standpoint. They host touring acts every night of the year so they get it, and everything runs really smooth. The PA is good, monitors are great – just a good venue.
We just played there 4 or 5 days ago so its fresh in my memory. I’m sure there are other ones.
DC: What is the best advice that you have ever been given about life in the music industry?
MR: Save your receipts is one [laughs]. On one of our first tours we heard the advice that if you get a bunch of beer that isn’t cold yet – you can spin it on the ice for a minute and it will be cold enough to drink.
DC: Wouldn’t that shake up the beer too much?
MR: No, no, you just let it sit on the ice and spin it slowly. Its like when you make ice cream, you spin the bucket to make it freeze. That’s probably the advice that’s come in the most handy in all the years. The one minute spin.
DC: The past few years have seen a huge wave of 90’s nostalgia. Have you noticed a change in the makeup of your crowds in recent years?
MR: This tour has been advertised as the 20th anniversary of Rubberneck. Crowds are bigger than on our past one or two tours. Online I notice people saying things like: “What the hell, Toadies are playing tonight? I didn’t realize they were still out there doing it.” Its cool to see the mix of old school fans and really young people in their 20s who were little kids when the album came out. Maybe they were turned onto it by their parents or older siblings. But we have a pretty good mix of folks, and everybody’s having fun.
DC: Following on the 90’s revival theme: What are some contemporaries of yours that you would like to see get back together? Any bands that you felt didn’t really get the attention (critical or commercial) that they deserved?
MR: That was a good question. There are some bands from Texas that we were always big fans of that are getting back together – Brutal Juice was one. Theyre from Denton. We did a couple of tours with them in the 90’s and they were on Interscope [record label] with us. They’re recording a new record.
Another one that I was a big fan of can’t reunite because they have a member who died — Brainiac. They were a band that the rest of the band and I held in high regard in the 90’s. They were about to get signed to Interscope when lead singer Tim Taylor died in a car wreck. They were amazing. A member of Brainiac started another band called Enon. I would love to see them get back together and play some shows?
Does Filter ever play shows anymore? [ed note: yes] I remember playing a couple of shows with them and thought they were pretty cool.
The 90’s in retrospect was a really, really good era for rock music on the radio. I don’t think its ever been as cool since. Once the boy bands and the manufactured pop bands took over radio in the late 90’s and early 2000’s its never really gone back to rock and roll on the radio. Its become more of a niche market for some reason.
DC: I’ve noticed the same thing. I grew up with modern rock on the radio – The Buzz in Houston would just play cool music all the time. The equivalent now would probably be playing Mumford and Sons or something.
MR: Plug that fucking guitar in and start rocking [laughs]. It’s possible to rock with a mandolin but nothing beats a Telecaster plugged into a Marshall amp.
DC: By now, it’s probably difficult to change people’s perceptions of you as a band. That being said, are you ever tempted to do anything completely off the wall and shake things up?
MR: It’s weird that you would ask that because as a matter of fact we just recorded an album that is kind of a departure. We do a 2 day festival in Texas called Dia de Los Toadies. On first night of the festival we do a stripped down, partially acoustic, chilled out reworking of some old songs plus some covers. For this album we have 2 or 3 new songs and we did them in that style. It sounds like Toadies but isn’t loud and fast hard rock. It still has the creepy vibe that we seem to have a reputation for. It’s a departure but it still sounds like us. Hopefully people will be pleasantly surprised and not turned off.