Massively successful band returns with new record

By Chris Jay 10/10/2013

For a brief and wonderful time, when one referred to local music, it didn’t just mean Ventura County. It actually meant the tri-counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. As hard as that is to believe now, bands from the three areas routinely swapped gigs and had followings outside of their respective cities.

Back in those glory days, the biggest band and, historically speaking, perhaps the biggest band  ever to emerge from the three counties was Santa Barbara’s Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Taking its name from an obscure Monty Python skit, the band formed as teenagers in the 1980s in Santa Barbara. With their often ridiculed name and looking more like computer techs than  rock stars, the band developed a following in the tri-counties based in most part on the strength of its songs.

Signing to a major label, with massive hits like “All I Want,” “Fall Down,” “Something’s Always Wrong” and one of the most haunting and gorgeous songs of the decade, “Walk on the Ocean,” the band carved out an interesting place in the modern rock radio landscape at the time.

The pride of Santa Barbara and Ventura, to a degree, Toad released a total of five excellent albums in the 1990s chock-full of lead singer Glen Phillips’ introspective and sometimes cryptic lyrics and the band’s distinctly melodic mellowish rock.

The musicians went their separate ways by the late 1990s and Phillips spent the early part of the next decade solo, frequently stopping at Zoey’s in Ventura. There were the occasional reunion shows for charitable causes, which recently morphed into short summer tours, and then eventually an announcement earlier this year that the band was recording its first album of new material in more than 15 years.

Keeping its connection to Ventura County, the full-length was recorded in Thousand Oaks and used fan funding to pay for the record and its associated costs.

While most bands are happy to come away with a few thousand dollars on a fan-funded campaign, the gentlemen of Toad the Wet Sprocket used Kickstarter to walk away with an astonishing quarter of a million dollars, proving that though the band’s fan base may not be at its early ’90s peak, it’s still incredibly loyal.

The record New Constellation is scheduled for release on Tuesday, Oct.15, and it will be worth the wait to the Toad fans who helped make it happen. The quality of the band’s writing hasn’t skipped a beat and there’s even a sense of laid-back California optimism, proving that the band, which still has all four original members, is having fun making music despite all members being well past the age of 40. 

To celebrate, the band has chosen to have its release show at Salzer’s in Ventura, harkening back to the unified scene it came from. It’s also a testament to Salzer’s staying power and popularity that a band of Toad’s size would pick the store over other options in its own hometown.

Yes, it almost feels like the 1990s all over again. Let’s just hope Ugly Kid Joe doesn’t follow Toad’s lead. Not all things musical that came from Santa Barbara at that time brought pride and respect to the area.

Toad the Wet Sprocket celebrates the release of New Constellation with a free performance and signing at Salzer’s Records on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 6 p.m.



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