As lead vocalist for the Toadies, Vaden Todd Lewis does a lot of singing ” and snarling, for that matter ” about rage, resentment and toxic relationships. His most famous song, “Possum Kingdom,” alludes to vampirism and, perhaps, murder.
But Lewis insists his lyrical obsessions are not an admission of psychosis.
“I’m definitely not a pissed-off, bummed-out guy,” he said in a recent phone interview. “It’s weird because people expect me to be. Maybe that’s why, because if I get pissed off I can write a song about it. And I also get to scream my ass off for an hour and a half a night.”
Still, it would be understandable if the Ft. Worth, Texas, native had a bit of residual anger rattling around inside him. The Toadies’ wild ride to rock stardom was cut short by record-label mischief. In 1994, the band seemingly burst out of nowhere with the debut album “Rubberneck,” a stripped-down onslaught of Nirvana-styled post-grunge. The record sold a million copies and boasted a hit single with the sinister fantasy of “Possum Kingdom.”
Then nothing. Interscope, the Toadies’ label at that time, mothballed the group’s 1998 sophomore effort. Some of that material eventually made it into “Hell Below/Stars Above,” a follow-up record finally released in 2001, but the damage had already been done. The Toadies had lost precious momentum by then, and broke up less than six months later.
But reunions are as much a part of rock ‘n’ roll as sex, drugs and illegal downloads. The Toadies have now reunited and are touring the country in support of their first record together in seven years.
The group’s reformation came about when the 43-year-old Lewis, who went from the Toadies to Dallas’ Burden Brothers, found himself with some downtime.
“I was pretty much just at home, climbing the walls like I’ll do when I’m writing music and not sure what I’m going to do with it,” he said.
“Then it dawned on me that a good chunk of the songs sounded very Toadies. So I called the guys.”
The result of that endeavor, “No Deliverance,” is a triumph of blistering, heart-pumping post-punk. Lewis and his bandmates ” guitarist Clark Vogelar, drummer Mark Reznicek and bassist Doni Blair ” sound as tight as a clenched fist, welding dirty Texas blues to a no-frills punk attitude. The Toadies will join People in Planes and Year Long disaster for a Friday show at Oklahoma City’s Diamond Ballroom.
“My wife describes it perfectly. She says it’s like the Pixies doing ZZ Top songs,” Lewis said.
“I think it’s just digging down to what got me started writing music in the first place. I wrote this whole record very quickly and we recorded it very quickly, and that was an asset for us. You go in and your objective is to write a song today, and it just comes out of you and you don’t second-guess it. In the studio, we did the same thing. There’s an energy there that you can’t just duplicate, and that’s kick-ass.”
It remains to be seen if the Toadies are back for the long haul. Lewis said he learned long ago the futility of trying to predict the music business. He does know, however, that there is an audience for the band’s straightforward sonic ferocity. Longtime fans have been waiting years to hear Lewis and company charge through such rousing rockers as “Tyler” and “I Come from the Water,” while younger audiences might know the group by the inclusion of “Possum Kingdom” on the “Guitar Hero II” video game.
“The bottom line is we know what most people are familiar with,” said Lewis.
“We do a good hunk of ‘Rubberneck,’ a good hunk of ‘Hell Below/Stars Above,’ and we scatter in four to six new songs. I don’t want to be the guy driving everybody to go back to the bar because they’re getting bored by the new songs.” “Phil Bacharach