Back when video games topped out at 64 bits, the Toadies would never have guessed that one might resurrect their career someday. But the inclusion of "Possum Kingdom" in the Guitar Hero II set list seemed to be the perfect precursor to the Texas outfit's return. Fourteen years have passed since frontman Vaden Todd Lewis first haunted radio waves with his Do you wanna die? mantra. Despite band breakups, label woes and plastic guitars, the Toadies still sound toady as ever on their new album, No Deliverance.
The Pitch: How is the on-the-road dynamic with the Toadies now that you've re-formed?
Vaden Todd Lewis: It seems like all bands are very similar in that you get on the road and it becomes pretty clear within a few weeks that we're all in this together, and if you're not with us, then fuck you. It's a tightknit family.
No Deliverance debuted pretty high on the charts with little publicity beforehand. Were you surprised?
My attitude for this record was, I've got these songs, I feel like they're kick-ass, so let's do a record. Now I've learned how to do a record the way I want to do it with the company that I want to do it with. I don't care if anyone buys it. I just want to do a record that I'm proud of. And to have that happen and have that response just blew me away. It's just nuts.
The Toadies' sound doesn't seem to have changed much in the last 15 years.
By taking so much time away from the Toadies and doing the Burden Brothers for two years, I was able to step back and figure out what the difference was between the two bands and what it was that defines the Toadies. I wasn't trying to remanufacture a sound. It was just in me, and I just had to focus on it to get it out.
As with the Burden Brothers, the Toadies are on the Kirtland Records label. Are you happier on a smaller label?
There's nothing similar to a major over there. Once I got Mark [Reznicek, drums] and Clark [Vogeler, guitar] on-board to come do a record and put down the lives they've moved on to for at least a year, then the next call was to the label, and they said "OK, let's do a record." I don't think they'd even heard all of the demos by the time we went into the studio. It was totally artist-controlled down to the last minutiae. I didn't realize how hands-off they were until it came time to pick a single.... They just totally trust our judgment. It's been a really good experience.
Years ago, there were rumors that Feeler [the band's second album, which was rejected by Interscope] would eventually see an official release. Is there any truth to those?
We're trying to wrangle that still. It's been an ongoing label headache and we're still ... it's just a load of shit. We've made generous offers to buy it from [Interscope], and it just speaks to what's going on at the majors these days. This could be money coming in, but they just don't care. We're still trying to generate a dialogue with them, and it's just been uphill all the way.
Are you seeing a lot of younger kids in the crowd thanks to Guitar Hero II?
Not, like, tons — it's just cool to have anybody come up to you to say, "Hey, man, I learned your song on Guitar Hero and never heard of you, so I went and bought all of your albums." That's happened a few times. That just kicked ass. It's a whole new world from when I started this job. I call it a job — my career.
How do you feel about all of these changes in rock these days?
Change is healthy. I'm excited about it. What's going to happen next? Already Guitar Hero, which is becoming an outlet for singles. That's just exciting. It's such a big fuck-you to the major labels and to the way the business has been run for God-knows-how-many years. It's invigorating.
Do you miss record stores?
I spent a lot of years working in a record store. A big experience in my life was walking into a record store in Fort Worth and saying, "I'm getting tired of what I hear on the radio. What can I hear that's new?" They told me all about the Talking Heads [saying,] "Here's one you'll probably dig." I bought it, and it changed my life.
How do you feel about the Internet's role today?
It's changed the concept of music. I'm going to date myself. Back in the day, I used to work the 45s. If people liked the 45, they'd go buy the whole record. It's come back full circle.
Speaking of coming back full circle, you recently played the first Día de los Toadies at Possum Kingdom Lake. How did that come about?
We came up with that — more specifically, our management did — and this falls under Shit That Doesn't Happen When You're on a Major. [We] were sitting in preproduction for the record and we came up with this idea: Let's do a Texas show once a year that's our own. We can promote it ourselves. We can choose the openers. It'll be our own thing. We called the label, and less than 10 days later they came back with, "What about doing it at Possum Kingdom Lake?" It was perfect.
What's your connection to the lake?
When I was writing Rubberneck, I would go up there for holidays. I have some family that has a little fishing cottage. It's kind of like a trailer. "Cottage" sounds nicer. Anyway, it's right on the lake.
What's next for the Toadies?
The overall plan for the band is to do the tour without killing ourselves and let it run its course.