The Toadies have been a fixture of the American rock scene since their hit release and first tour of Rubberneck in 1994, the first time they told us all they’d treat us well as their sweet angels… and so help me Jesus, they did. A no-bullshit anthem for the emotionally real journey of an entire 90’s rock generation, Rubberneck sang the truths of our sorrows and the joys of celebratory counterculture for the past two decades, and on its 20th anniversary, it’s making a grand resurgence that brings the Toadies back to where it all began and marks a departure from the garage door-pounding style we’ve grown up with.
So what’s different this time around?
For starters, the Toadies are busy brewing and consuming their own beer, writing off-the-wall super hero comic books, preparing a new record release and generally loving tour life again. I had the pleasure of chatting with drummer Mark Reznicek before their upcoming jaunt to Cincy; as a rock, beer and comic book lover, my curiosity grew by the minute.
CincyMusic.com: So we’re a huge beer community here, and we want to know: What’s the deal with your brew?
Mark Reznicek: Those guys at Martin House Brewery grew up in the Fort Worth area as fans of the Toadies. As beer drinkers, we were fans of their beer, so it was definitely a mutual-admiration society. We described what we liked in a beer, they made test batches for us to taste, and we settled on a red ale: Rubberneck Red, Toadies approved.
CM: That’s a pretty excellent side project. Can you tell us about Buzzkill?
MR: I wrote a comic book called “Buzzkill,” published by Dark Horse Comics. It’s about a superhero that gets his super powers from drinking alcohol and doing drugs (chuckles).
CM: Right on! What else is new with the Toadies? What are you excited about?
MR: There’s a lot to be excited about right now. We’re in the middle of Rubberneck’s 20th anniversary tour, having a lot of fun, getting really good, enthusiastic crowds.
CM: 20 years is a huge span of people and interests. With it being the anniversary re-issue of Rubberneck, how would you describe your sound? How are things different this time around?
MR: I heard someone come up with a formula once: one part Talking Heads, one part Pixies, and one part ZZ Top. That’s what the Toadies sound like. I think that over the years, some of the songs just kind of naturally evolved and mutated. When we were getting ready to rehearse for this tour, we all took a closer listen to the album, went over everything with a microscopic view of the songs, figured out how we had changed them over the years and tried to dial it in, get everything as close to the original arrangement when we recorded it. Revisiting and fine-tuning the songs like that is a blast, you know? Coming out, seeing all the excitement on everyone’s face when we play the album all the way through. It’s really cool.
CM: So what’s the most outstanding thing about being on tour again?
MR: Playing Rubberneck all the way through, coming out and hitting it one song after another… people really respond to it after all this time. It’s interesting to see younger faces, too; there are old-timers like us that have been listening for 20 years, but there are also a lot of younger people, maybe bringing their children, younger siblings, etc. It’s cool to see a mix of old and new faces.
CM: How would you describe your current tour so far?
MR: I guess the operative word is “fun.” We go on vacation, and at the end of the day get to play a rock show. We’re on tour with Supersuckers and Battleme; we’ve been buddies with the Supersuckers since the 90’s and did a couple tours with them back then. And Matt, the lead singer of Battleme, is an old friend of ours too, so it’s like hanging out with old friends and being on a three-month long vacation with all your drinking buddies.
CM: What’s been the craziest show you’ve played on this tour?
MR: Probably Seattle. They were - I don’t know what was happening that night - but they were crazy up there. At one point there was a garbage can crowd surfing, all kinds of drinks being thrown in the air, people fighting, climbing on stage and getting tackled by security. I love that stuff… I don’t want anybody to get hurt, but I’m relatively protected behind the drum set, so I have the best seat in the house to watch all the action.
CM: What do you look forward to the most about coming to Cincinnati?
MR: We’ve been playing Bogart’s close to 20 years; I think we might have played there on our first tour in ‘94, so it’s always cool coming back to a familiar venue. Oh, and Skyline Chili. Always gotta get some of those chili dogs.
CM: What’s your best memory here?
MR: I remember when we played at Bogart’s in ‘95 or ‘95, there used to be a place across the street called Sudsy Malones that was a laundromat, but also a bar that would have bands play too. During the day before our show, some of us went over there to do our laundry. While we were there, we saw our buddy, Tim, who used to be in a band called Brainiac. It was cool seeing a guy that we kind of knew from a band that we really liked, hanging out, and watching this band called Lazy that ended up performing. It was just a fun day, hanging out, doing laundry, drinking beer and talking to old friends.
CM: How would you describe the evolution of the Toadies over the past 20 years? What’s next?
MR: Over time, we’ve all just naturally gotten better at our instruments. We have a two-day rock festival in Texas every year called Dia De Los Toadies. On the first night, we’ve started doing a stripped-down show, not totally acoustic but with that kind of vibe. People really responded to it, so we recorded an album where we took some of our old songs, deconstructed them and played them in a different format. We also composed new songs in that style, and picked a few covers that fit too. It’s kind of a departure for the Toadies: it’s not a loud, fast and heavy rock record, but somehow the essence of the band comes through and it still sounds like the Toadies.
CM: What do you really want people to know about the Toadies?
MR: That we’re still together, out there and doing it. I see things online saying, “Oh I didn’t know the Toadies were still around,” so in one way looking back at the 20th anniversary of this album it’s about making sure that people see our name, and know that we’re still hitting it hard.