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Q&A with Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips

Toad the Wet Sprocket plays Bayou Music Center on July 29.
Toad the Wet Sprocket plays Bayou Music Center on July 29.
Courtesy Photo

It's a good time to be a 90s rock band. Children of that decade - with kids, mortgages, and disposable income - pine for the days of their youth. That includes the music of their youth. So it comes as little surprise that the ongoing Counting Crows/Toad the Wet Sprocket tour - which plays Houston's Bayou Music Center on Tuesday, July 29 - is such a hot ticket.

In advance of the show, and being a child of the 90s myself, I recently spoke with Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips regarding the band's full-scale reunion, life as a working musician, and how the dynamic within the band has changed over the years.

CH: So, what's it like to be back with a new album and full tour for the first time since the late 90s?
GP: (The reunion) has grown naturally. If we were going to do a new album (last year's New Constellation), we knew we would have to follow through on it. So we waited until we knew we could follow through. There were times that if we'd have tried, it would have imploded. We gave ourselves enough space to get our groove back and not put too much pressure on ourselves. If we were going to bother to do it, we were trying to do it right ... The world has changed a lot since we broke up. We came up when labels were strong and you could take time and let a band grow. The business has changed dramatically.

CH: What's the crowd response been like thus far on the tour?
GP: It's been great playing with Counting Crows and to have their audience. We're not obscure, but we were never so big that a lot of new people are coming. We're trying to reach the old fans and show them that we're not going to disappoint them. For fans of the old stuff, and for the new record, people are stoked. They know the new songs, so I don't think we've disappointed them. We were worried about that, because you never know. It was great to release it and people said it was the record they hoped we'd make, not the record they were afraid we'd make. And frankly, since we're happier as a band, the audience can tell we're enjoying ourselves. They don't want to see a band who is phoning it in.

CH: What's the band dynamic like when compared to the 90s?
GP: Age is probably a big part of it. You learn what's worth fighting over, the basic life lessons that everybody gets. For a band that broke up in our 20s, the 30s are some intense years, especially as the economy struggled and got smaller. You have your career, and then that's gone in the way it used to exist. It's a real trip and it's happened in most industries. But that's what happens. You go in, you're good at something, and perhaps you get overcompensated for a minute and you think that's normal. Then something happens and you find yourself working for Kodak when you should have worked for Canon. It's not anyone's fault, just the way things worked out. But in your 40s, you get over the entitlement a bit and decide to take some responsibility for your own happiness. You work harder and take pride in who you are. As a band, we try to work hard and make our own happiness. It's not going to take care of itself.

CH: Is this a long term proposition?
GP: I don't know. I'm going to do another solo album, so I'm excited about that, get that creative side out. But it's about having Toad be a project instead of the only thing. That makes a huge difference ... We don't know the model yet; we can kind of do whatever we want. These days, if you're going to do a record, do it your way. The rules are off in this era, so we'll see.

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