Vaden Todd Lewis – Vocals, Guitar
Clark Vogeler – Guitar
Mark Reznicek – Drums
Doni Blair – Bass
“It was a very weird, trying time,” says Toadies singer-guitarist Vaden Todd Lewis of the band’s rearview bummer: the post-Rubberneck rejection of Feeler. After selling a cool million copies of their 1994 debut album, the band proffered demos upon demos of their new joint only to be rebuffed and re-rebuffed. Finally the label greenlighted studio time to produce Feeler.
“We got approval,” says Lewis, “spent months recording, somewhere in the process of handing over the masters to get mixed, it got unapproved. So we went back to the drawing board.”
Such behavior would seem counterintuitive, considering this was a platinum-selling band whose Rubberneck singles, such as the so-wrong-it’s-right “Possum Kingdom,” still ruled alternative rock radio. While Feeler couldn’t find a champion at Interscope, the Toadies played a few shows, then hunkered down for two years to write “before they finally let us record again,” says guitarist Clark Vogeler. In 2001, five long years after the Rubberneck tour ended, they finally released Hell Below/Stars Above. But five months after the band hit the road, they parted company. Drummer Mark “Rez” Reznicek hooked up with Eleven Hundred Springs, but guitarist Clark Vogeler and Lewis were inclined to ditch music altogether.
Less than a year later, the Toadies dropped No Deliverance and hit the road. Buoyed by potential renewal, the band was elated to find they’d not only retained their old fan base but, even in their absence, gained more. Over the ensuing 18 months, at nationwide sold-out shows—including gigs at Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the Toadies learned younger audiences had been exposed to their music via parents, older siblings, the continuous spins of "Possum Kingdom" on rock radio across the country, Guitar Hero II (“Possum Kingdom” is on the Xbox 360 version of the game,) multiple motion picture soundtracks and television shows like Sons of Anarchy.
While gobbling up new music, fans demanded more—including renewing calls for an official release of Feeler. Of course by now Feeler had found its way onto the Internet. Fans already knew its manifold charms, and were as puzzled as the band at the label’s reticence. No single? No hits? Huh? “These were the songs we played live,” says Rez. It might’ve been an eclectic mix, encompassing “different styles of heavy rock music—some fast, heavy punk rock songs and some slower, kinda mid-tempo stuff, but I’ve never really been able to figure out what the beef was.”
Listen to the demos of Feeler and you’ll be just as confused. Songs like “City of Hate” are classic Toadies—crunchy-tense and catchy-weird, darkly warm and impossible to resist. Maybe none of them match the disturbed passion of “Possum Kingdom,” but they all fit alt-rock radio like a glove, whether it’s 1998 or 2010.
The Toadies, however, wanted the songs to reflect their dozen-year improvement as musicians. To that end, they took the songs back into studio, planning a stopgap EP to tide over fans until the next full-length, but the project “mutated into a bigger plan,” according to Rez. “We wrote down all the songs that we had recorded in the original session minus the ones that appeared on Hell Below/Stars Above, and then we added some other old songs we never actually recorded.” The original EP became a nine-track LP, and the Toadies pumped these up sonically until Feeler felt right.
Now the Toadies are free to be the band they were supposed to be the first time out. Unencumbered by someone else’s vision, they’re able to look positively at the future. “After the success of Rubberneck,” recalls Vogeler, “we were glued to the ground, struggling against all these forces. It was a miserable time. But now we’ve put out two albums in two years as opposed to two in seven years. We’re free to be as creative as we wanna be, and that’s a good spot for the band to be in.”