Toad the Wet Sprocket is comfortable with the pace of success

May 13, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

When Toad the Wet Sprocket hit the road in support of its 1991 album, "Fear," the band expected to do fairly well. It was Toad's third album, after all, and by that point the quartet had built a fairly sturdy fan base for itself.

"We had started a mailing list on the first record, where people could sign up for free, and we'd send out little cards saying where we'd be playing," says bassist Dean Dinning, over the phone from Los Angeles.

"We had toured so much that we had a little following in a lot of the places we played. So through touring, by Christmas time -- the record had come out in August -- we had broken the 100,000 mark in sales. Just by touring.

"Things were growing at a rate that we really liked."

Then came the breakthrough. Radio and MTV started playing the song "All I Want," and suddenly, Toad found itself with a Top-40 hit. Nor did it stop there. The single's follow-up, "Walk on the Water," also ended up a pop smash. Before the band knew what had hit it, "Fear" had gone platinum.

Given all that success, did the group feel pressured to make an equally commercial fourth album?

Not at all, answers Dinning. "They weren't really breathing down our necks, listening for the next single," he says. "They were really just concerned with letting us produce a complete album that we were happy with.

"They didn't even hear the demos for the record. We didn't make any demos. Our A&R [Artist and Repertory] guy from the record company just came up and heard us play the songs through in their half-completed form in rehearsal one day. He said, 'Well, keep on going. I'll come up to the studio when you're up there.' They have faith in us."

Besides, Top-40 success is no guarantee of a long-term audience. "It's a very temporary and fleeting thing," Dinning says. "So it's more important to us to make a record that stands on its own. We try to take every song to its full potential."

With its fourth album, Toad goes even further. Although it would be overstating it to say that "Dulcinea" (due out May 24) is a concept album, the band did draw from a central concept when writing some of the songs.

As well-read rock fans know, Dulcinea was the name Don Quixote gave to Alonza Lorenzo when he was looking for a lady to whom he could dedicate his quests. That impulse had a strong resonance for the members of the band.

"We wanted that as the title because we kind of felt a little bit like Don Quixote in some aspects," Dinning explains. "He had to create a Dulcinea out of this hag, Alonza, to inspire him to chase his dreams and fight windmills.

"We've been finding, with our generation, that people as they start to get older realize that all the goals they had in life when they were younger, gradually get met and turn out to be false. Some of the songs on the album, like 'Something's Always Wrong' and 'Windmills,' talk about never being satisfied with where you are, and setting some point in the future where everything's going to start happening.

"You need to create a Dulcinea to keep you going. The temptation would be just to sit on the couch and wait for something to happen."

HFStival

When: Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Where: RFK Stadium, Washington

Tickets: Sold out

Call: (410) 880-4338 or (301) 306-0991 for information

Hear the Toad

To hear excerpts from Toad the Wet Sprocket, call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7738; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6239 after you hear the greeting.

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