Glen Phillips talks royalties, rerecording hits and reforming Toad the Wet Sprocket
Between fathering three children and anchoring three bands, Glen Phillips, 40, says he’s finally “committed” to making another Toad the Wet Sprocket album. The foursome behind ’90s pop-rock hits like Good Intentions and Something’s Always Wrong split in 1998, reuniting sporadically for tours and one-off shows, without concrete plans to make another record, until now.
Toad is rerecording select songs from its catalog for licensing purposes, and the band plans to make its long-awaited followup to 1997’s Coil. This week, the band reportedly booked a date at the Ritz Ybor on May 1. But first, Phillips stops at St. Petersburg’s Hideaway Cafe on Friday for a solo performance (click here for details), then hops aboard the Cayamo Cruise in Miami with his other band, Works Progress Administration.
We reached him at his home studio in Santa Barbara.
I see you’ve got a handful of Toad dates coming up.
Well, nothing’s permanent. But I would say right now we’re committed. When we broke up, we had really, really good reasons: we were not getting along, it was not healthy, it wasn’t good for anybody. In 2009, I think we did maybe 30 shows, which was a lot for us. And we all had a good time. Something shifted, basically, and so we were able to start talking about the future. We did some more shows in 2010 just to make sure that 2009 wasn’t a fluke.
When might we expect album number six?
We’re kind of slowly edging towards the idea of doing a new project again in a year or so. As far as breaking the ice for us, we’re working together in the studio again and working creatively outside of just playing shows. It’s been a really low-pressure way to do that. There’s been a ten-year gap or something, and so we’re getting to kind of check each other out again and be relaxed.
And you’ve been revisiting and rerecording some songs.
Crowing and Brother were both just kind of deadingly slow on the original versions. And we’ve been having kind of having a solo section in the middle of the song Windmills when we play it live. That’s actually what I’m working on right now. It’s just got a little more space to breathe. The main advantage for us is that if somebody wants to use one of the songs (for licensing), they don’t have to go through a phalanx of Sony lawyers any longer.
You’re at the grocery store and you hear All I Want over the loudspeaker. How much do you get paid per play?
It’s probably worth a little less than a cent to me every time. But if it happens a few hundred times, it’s a buck. (laughs) I think people are really willing to support live music, and they understand the importance of that. The interesting part is that, on the recorded side of it, it’s kind of now culturally accepted that all music is free. It’s still not free to record, and it’s still not free to distribute. I can sell probably $5,000 worth of records now, so if I make a living I’ve got to do it by going on the road.
How do you do that after 25 years with Toad?
I was 14, I was a freshman in high school. The rest of the guys were all seniors, and Todd (Nichols, guitarist) and I lived a couple of blocks away, picked up some guitars, and started working on songs. The first crowd you choose when you’re in high school is not necessarily the same people you normally hang out with. We’re a pretty motley crew, so with getting back together there’s work to be done. We just kind of rediscover each other, and try and forget the history a little bit.
How will the four of you approach the album process this time?
We’re going to plan on getting together and actually jam as a band, which is something we — strangely enough — never did. For the first time we’re going to try writing that way.
-- Patrick Flanary, tbt*