Toadies play prickly hard rock punctuated by jagged riffs and misanthropic lyrics. Led by frontman Vaden Todd Lewis, the Toadies are usually dismissed as a one-hit wonder because of their lone breakthrough single, 1995’s “Possum Kingdom,” but the band’s punk-style rock songs made them a snarling remedy to the more commercial sounds of the 1990s’ grunge and alternative-rock superstars.
Toadies formed at the dawn of the ‘90s in Fort Worth, Texas. At the time, the group consisted of singer Todd Lewis (or Vaden Todd Lewis), guitarist Charles Mooney, bassist Lisa Umbarger, and drummer Guy Vaughan, who all worked at the same record store. Toadies went through several drummers over the next few years until Mark Reznicek joined the lineup in 1991. Mooney exited the group before Toadies released their first major label album, replaced by Darrel Herbert.
A Debut With a Bad Attitude:
Toadies signed with Interscope Records after playing a gig on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Then in 1994, the band put out the bad-attitude Rubberneck, which featured several songs from earlier self-released efforts. Though clearly indebted to the Pixies, Rubberneck distinguished itself by incorporating blues rhythms and a rumbling bottom end, giving the impression of a taut roadhouse band with better production values. The single “Possum Kingdom” helped boost sales of Rubberneck, but, as per norm on the album, Lewis was singing about dark matters, telling of an obsessive love affair that might lead to murder.
A Long, Long, Long Delay:
Rubberneck’s platinum sales should have been a promising sign for a new band, but Toadies ran into difficulties with their follow-up. Label unhappiness delayed their sophomore disc for several years, until finally Hell Below/Stars Above arrived on shelves in 2001. Released seven years after Rubberneck, Hell Below entered a marketplace that was completely different than the one that had embraced Toadies. With new guitarist Clark Vogeler, who had replaced Herbert, Toadies returned as dark as ever, but without a clear crossover smash in the vein of “Possum Kingdom,” Hell Below sunk like a rock.
Calling It Quits:
Later in 2001 while Toadies were touring to support Hell Below, bassist Lisa Umbarger told the rest of the band that she was quitting. Soon after, the band announced their breakup, releasing a live album called Best of Toadies the following year.
Working on Side Projects:
Even though Toadies were no more, the members continued pursuing creative endeavors, albeit separately. Guitarist Clark Vogeler worked as a film editor. Bassist Lisa Umbarger played in a band called Tile. Frontman Todd Lewis teamed up with Reverend Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley in a group called the Burden Brothers.
Getting the Band Back Together:
Toadies reunited, without Umbarger, for a few reunion shows in 2006 and 2007. When the Burden Brothers shut down operations, Lewis started focusing his attention on Toadies again. The band released No Deliverance
in August 2008, but the album couldn’t recapture the commercial success of Rubberneck
, peaking at No. 59 on the Billboard
album chart. (Ironically, Rubberneck
only got as high as No. 56.)
'Feeler' ... at Last:
In 2010, Toadies returned with Feeler
, a new album that was also an old album. Initially planned as the follow-up to Rubberneck
was rejected by Interscope, and the band went back to the drawing board. The group decided to revisit the material, re-recording some of the songs while adding new material.
Vaden Todd Lewis – vocals, guitar
Mark Reznicek – drums
Clark Vogeler – guitar
Key Toadies Songs:
“Push the Hand”
Hell Below/Stars Above (2001)
Best of Toadies: Live From Paradise (live album) (2002)
No Deliverance (2008)
Vaden Todd Lewis, discussing the mood of Hell Below/Stars Above.
“A lot of what comes on this record is from growing up kind of. It is just figuring out who I am and getting comfortable with who I am, and not being so f***ing paranoid all the time. I feel pretty good about what is going on in my life, and I think it makes a big difference in my creativity.” (Silent Uproar, April 2, 2001)
Clark Vogeler, on the secret to good music.
“Music is best if it’s a little bit dangerous, if it gets your mind going and your blood flowing.” (Fort Worth Weekly, August 13, 2008)
Vaden Todd Lewis, on the making of No Deliverance.
“I wouldn’t say this record was written hastily, but I will say I was on fire … I just sat at home with my Garage Band program, and I started knocking songs out.” (Artist Direct, August 15, 2008)
Vaden Todd Lewis, on some of the weirdness that’s gone on since the band reunited.
“Now at our shows, people say, ‘My mom told me to see you guys!’ That’s bizarre.” (Artist Direct, August 15, 2008)
- The name of the record store the band members worked at was called Sound Warehouse, which has since closed.
- As a film editor, Clark Vogeler has worked on reality shows like Project Runway and Last Comic Standing.
- Lewis and Umbarger have not been on good terms since she left the band, although she supposedly remains friendly with the other Toadies members.