Earlier this week, ahead of the re-release of Toadies’ classic Rubberneck (out April 1st), I had a chance to speak with lead singer Vaden Todd Lewis over the phone. We discussed everything from the band’s early days to touring Rubberneck again to future projects and everything in between.
Hi. How are you?
I’m good, thanks. How are you?
Doing well, thanks.
Good, good. My first question has to do with the Rubberneck reissue. What exactly made you want to do that?
Well it seemed like a good idea. People still liked the record, and it’s been years and so it seemed like the thing to do. It seemed like a good idea to put it out with some other songs.
You guys are doing a tour in support of the album. How is that going so far?
It’s been going crazy well. All the shows are…I think one show so far didn’t sell out, but it’s real close. It’s been great.
How have the fans been reacting?
Really well. It’s just been great.
You’re playing the album in its entirity every night on the tour, right?
Yeah, we’re kinda doing the whole album and then we play some other songs that are not as old.
What do you think is the biggest challenge playing the Rubberneck songs straight through?
Well, I don’t know. We’re really striving to make it like the album. I never thought about it until these rehearsals, but, you play the songs for 20 years and they start to morph. There’s just little slight variations in how you play it, and some of those songs were pretty new when we recorded them, so it’s been interesting going back and trying to nail them. We’ve been trying to nail the performances to be as close to the album as possible. That’s been the coolest challenge to try to match tempos and just picking patterns and little fine-tuning minutiae.
Now, for the openers, you chose the Supersuckers and Battleme, correct?
What made you pick those two bands?
We’ve toured with the Supersuckers before and they’re just great guys. They have a new record out, and so does Battleme. We’ve never toured with Battleme, but we’ve done some shows with a band called the Lions, which was a band prior to Battleme. And yeah, both bands have new records out, and it was just fortunate timing working with both of them.
Even though you guys split up, you’ve been back since 2006, which is almost 10 years. How does it feel to be a part of a band that’s been around for so long?
I don’t know, it’s just weird. I don’t really think about it until…it’s cool. We have a great rapport with each other. I guess that’s been the biggest upside to being in a band, is you kind of read each other’s minds with everything from being on the bus to performing to writing songs. It’s all kind of a short-hand that exists once you’ve done this for a long time.
Are you guys working on any new material?
Yeah, we actually just finished tracking a record. Actually, let me back up. This is gonna seem like I’m fishing around for the answer for just a second. We’d been doing a festival…this year will be the eighth year. And like four or five years ago, we’ve done a set where half of it is a chill set. We take the songs and not just play them with acoustic guitars, but try make them something different, like reinvent them with mandolins, keyboards…we try to throw a new light on the songs. It’s been a huge challenge. After doing that for so many years, we thought it’d be great to do a recording of this in a controlled environment, i.e. a studio. So that’s what we did. I guess we started in December or January, we headed to LA. So it’s not technically new material; it’s a retrospective of our career with a real strange approach. We’re trying to work up potentially a few songs for that so it should have some new songs as well. It’ll probably come out in September. I really want to do a nice tour, a seated tour for grownups. A show that I would like to go to. (laughs)
If you could pick one moment, what do you think has been the high point for the band or yourself?
You mean my whole career?
Uh…High point…oh jeez, I don’t know. We have a lot. It’s just been a crazy ride. This tour, selling out LA has been a high point. Yeah.
Okay. That’s definitely great. What do you think is different about being in a band now versus being one in the 90s?
For me personally or just in general?
You could do both. Either or.
I don’t think much has changed in general. People still go in a van and still play shows. The instruments that they play vary from year to year, but it’s still basically four or five people that smell bad in a van. I don’t think that will ever change. As far as me personally, I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m older now, so it’s more about how to take care of yourself. For example, when we first hit the road in ’94, for the first two years, we did over 250 shows.
Yeah. That’s pretty insane. I’m glad I did it, but I can’t do that anymore. I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve got a family and a dog and life that I like to be a part of. So we try to limit it to three weeks on, one or two weeks off, that sort of thing. So things are a little more normal. That’s the biggest change for me, just learning how to do it and survive and keep my family.
You did some other projects when the band broke up for a while. Did any of those sounds influence the Toadies when you guys got back together?
I can’t think of an example, but I can’t see how it didn’t. That band…this band (Toadies), I write the music. More often than not I’ll have a completed idea, like the whole song. I’ll program drums and make my way through a guitar solo in the dark to show them where it goes, and everything’s done. Then we’ll come in and that’s the song and then we just record it. In the Burden Brothers, it was more collaborative where everyone was pitching ideas. There’s a few songs where I didn’t write anything. I would just let them write the music and words and everything. So that was more of a collaborative project. Everyone contributes to Toadies and there’s no “my way or the highway” mentality
Okay. Is it different at all being in the band for the second time? Has anything changed?
No, it’s like riding a bike. We have our dynamic, and it came right back. The interactions with the band…it’s been great.