The name Toad the Wet Sprocket was inspired from a sketch by British comedy group Monty Python that mentions Rex Stardust, the lead electric triangle player of the fictional band. Years after the sketch aired, a band from Santa Barbara, Calif., would take the unusual name into 1990’s rock ’n’ roll history.
Unfairly lumped into the one-hit wonders and grunge outfits of the era, the gentle instrumentals, swaying beats and pleasing vocals of Toad the Wet Sprocket have become some of the most recognizable tunes to come out of the ’90s.
The quartet’s melodic repertoire will be on full display at Tussey Mountain on July 27, perhaps providing the ideal soundtrack for the venue’s trademark picturesque sunsets.
“Outdoor shows are one of the best ways to experience the band,” bassist Dean Dinning said. He added that he’s excited to perform at Tussey, saying, “State College was always really good to us back in the day.”
Throughout the ’90s, the group was all over the radio with its hits “All I Want,” “Walk on the Ocean” and “Good Intentions.” After a hiatus through most of the 2000s, the group is back together on tour and making new music.
“There is something that happens when the four of us play together,” Dinning said. “It’s a chemistry thing. It’s a real viable thing in this day and age, because a solo artist can go in and make everything perfect. But to actually generate chemistry from four people playing together — that’s what Toad sounds like.”
Dinning said the new material includes lots of harmonies, as well as a “tension in the melodies.” He added that the group is featuring two new songs in the current slate of shows and, so far, “a lot of people say it sounds like Toad.”
The last full-length album from the band was released in 1997. Last year, the four musicians got re-acquainted with the studio by̫ re-recording the group’s most popular songs and releasing it as a greatest hits album, titled “All You Want.” If the new recording is any evidence, Toad hasn’t missed a beat.
“We produced it ourselves and we were able to make a record that sounded like we did in the past and now,” Dinning said. “We knew we should apply that to something new.”
The band supported the “All You Want” with a 65-show U.S. tour last year, further proving to the band that the world was ready for some new Toad.
The music scene has changed a lot since the group’s breakup in the late ’90s. Tape trading and music magazines have given way to downloading and social media, but Dinning said Toad fans have grown up with the band, and the new avenues have only increased interest and enhanced the band’s relationship with their fan base.
“I find that our fans are a lot like us,” he said. “You can have a beer with them and hang out with them, talk music.”
He also said Facebook connects the group to its fans whether they are on the road, in the studio, or sitting at home.
Dinning said reading stories about how the band’s music has affected people’s lives never gets old.
“You read a story about how “I Will Not Take These Things For Granted’ was someone’s wedding song,” he said. “You realize how many people’s lives you’ve touched.”
The new technology also gives them global exposure. According to Dinning, they have a major fan presence in the Philippines, a country they’ve never even visited.
“I guess they just like to rock,” he said.
That quest to rock is what brought the four friends from Toad the Wet Sprocket back together more than decade after hitting it big. They want to make new music, connect with fans, continue to be creative and make people dance.
Toad the Wet Sprocket will take the Tussey Mountain Amphitheater stage at 9 p.m. July 27. Visit www.tusseymountain.com or call 466-7976 for more information.