You might assume that a band like the Toadies, which initially formed in 1989 and reunited in 2008 after a seven-year hiatus, would be stuck in its ways. But you'd be wrong. "Play.Rock.Music.," the band's fifth album, and third for independent label Kirtland Records (due July 31), represents a shift for the Fort Worth, Texas, act.
"In the Toadies, I usually write the songs," says singer/guitarist Vaden Todd Lewis from the road, where the band - rounded out by drummer Mark Reznicek, guitarist Clark Vogeler and bassist Doni Blair - is currently supporting Helmet through November. "I have them fully realized and the band gets them and we learn them and we go in the studio and record them. So we thought we'd do something different - go in the studio with [producer Chris "Frenchie" Smith] and just try to write on the fly."
Initially the aim was to take these songs, which were recorded during several Austin sessions with Smith, and put out an EP, with an original release date of May 8. But as the sessions progressed and the group's current tour took shape, the Toadies decided to expand it into a full-length and the release was pushed back to July. (The band's previous album, 2010's "Feeler," was a rerecording of its planned sophomore set, which Interscope shelved in the late '90s. 2008's "No Deliverance," which bowed at No. 59 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 39,000 to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan, was the Toadies' first release since 2001.)
"The beauty of this record is that I approached it like an EP," Lewis says. "In my opinion, an EP is a collection of songs that don't necessarily go together - and they don't need to go together because they're just a collection of songs. A record, for me, has a theme with highs and lows. This album falls into that [category]."
Tami Thomsen, the band's manager and GM for Kirtland, notes that the Toadies' 1994 single "Possum Kingdom" (which appeared on their Interscope Records debut, "Rubberneck," and was included on Activision's 2007 "Guitar Hero II" for Xbox) continues to receive extensive play on radio. However, getting new tracks into rotation takes effort. "Play.Rock.Music.'s" first single, "Summer of the Strange," was released on iTunes before the band had even finished recording the rest of the tracks, and a music video has been out since March, although Kirtland is only now really working the single. Lewis feels that there's potential for even more singles from "Play.Rock.Music." "I try not to be too much a part of that discussion but it's got catchy tunes on it," he says. "Stuff that sticks in your head."
Thomsen - who came into the picture while managing Lewis' other band, Burden Brothers, while the Toadies were on hold - thinks album sales and radio play are certainly important, but not imperative. "The first goal is to make a record that the band loves," she says. "When that's done, [our goal] is to sell records, get radio play, promote the band and further their career."
Lewis somewhat agrees. "Part of the beauty of doing this so long is I don't care," he says. "Of course I want people to like it and I'd love it if it gets played, but I don't care. We get to go on tour and people come to the shows and it's just fun. If it responds well on radio, great. But it is what it is." ••••