Vaden Todd Lewis assumed this whole music thing would only last a few years. Tops. More than two decades later though, Lewis is not only still around, but he’s still going strong as he leads his band the Toadies through their paces and into New York City Tuesday night for a gig at Irving Plaza as part of the Summerland Tour with Everclear, Fuel and American Hi-Fi.
And yeah, they’ll be playing “Possum Kingdom” and Lewis doesn’t mind one bit.
“I’m just shocked and surprised that people still give a damn, and it makes me happy,” he said. “It never gets old. As long as people get happy hearing it, I’m gonna be happy playing it.”
It’s always the 800-pound gorilla in the room because you don’t know if an artist is going to lash out when asked about the song that first pops into everyone’s head when they hear his or her’s band name. That’s a curse to some, even though for the Toadies, that song not only broke them back in 1994, but it still holds up today, as does the band’s entire catalog. Not many groups from that era can say that, but even if it didn’t, you get the impression that still playing music after all these years is all that matters to Texas’ Lewis.
“I figured this rock and roll thing, they’re gonna catch on that I have no idea what I’m doing,” he laughs. “They’re gonna figure that out sooner or later and I’ll get dropped. But what will always be there is that job managing that record store.”
Luckily the music gig worked out, because who can find a record store these days. Lewis is serious when he talks about his early ambitions though. Let’s just say he didn’t think he would still be playing music professionally 26 years after the Toadies formed
“No way,” he said. “I was pretty cynical about my own potential. I just figured I would do a record, it would come out, they would have to put me on a few tours, I get to see the States a little bit and maybe beyond, and then I would get dropped and I’d go back to work. Then I didn’t and here I am. It’s been a long, fun, crazy ride.”
And after a break from 2001 to 2008, they’ve come back stronger than ever, with a new record, Heretics, set to come out on September 18.
“The main thing that’s changed is my confidence as a songwriter,” Lewis said. “I feel pretty good about it, and there’s also the realization that I’m not curing cancer; I’m just doing music that I want to hear. Something as simple as that just takes the edge off and you can sit back and do what you love to do. Essentially, what it comes down to is that there are songs that I want to hear that nobody’s doing, so I need to go do those.”
It’s as simple and brilliant as that. And while some us feel that approach is largely missing these days, Lewis isn’t about to damn the whole music industry.
“I think everybody finds their own niche and what makes them click,” he said. “Everybody does their little job of ripping off people that they look up to, and I do that faithfully. (Laughs) But I try to put something on it that’s just mine, and hopefully that comes through.”
It does, and while they wait for the release of Heretics and a headlining tour in November, they’re on the road this summer and finding generations old and new enjoying the shows.
“It’s the most eclectic crowd that I’ve seen at a live show,” Lewis said. “There’s a lot of young faces, but there’s also people that are older than I am, which is hard to believe. And it’s cool. We try to talk to people at shows and get a bead on what’s going on, and some people say ‘I didn’t know who the hell you were, but I liked the song on Guitar Hero, so I came to the show.’ That’s awesome. And other people go, ‘either my dad, my brother or my sister wouldn’t stop listening to you guys, and so now here I am.’”
Beats working in a record score, I would assume?
“I just really enjoy the creation of it and every aspect of it,” he said. “I really like writing and going into the studio and making this idea turn into something tangible, and then going out and playing it live and seeing how people react to it. It’s always exciting. I joke about it being a job, but I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
The Toadies play Irving Plaza in NYC on Tuesday, June 23. For tickets, click here