By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
It starts with a phone call and one question: "Have you heard about the Toadies breaking up?" A week or so later, we've heard that same question over and over in phone calls and e-mails, and we've even asked it a few times ourselves, but we still don't know the answer. We've heard rumors that Bands on the Run champion (and new Epic Records signee) Flickerstick is taking over the Toadies' road crew in a few weeks and that singer Todd Lewis made some cryptic comments about the band's imminent demise from an Atlanta stage. We've also heard there are legal problems, or trouble with the group's label (Interscope Records), or both. We've heard plenty of things in the last week, enough amateur theorizing to open up a wing at the Conspiracy Museum. Everything, that is, except a straight answer from someone in the band. Which doesn't look like it's coming anytime soon.
Until that happens, rumors continue to spread on Internet message boards like stains, as fiction becomes fact with a few mouse clicks. While there is enough gossip and hearsay and all other kinds of inadmissible evidence making the rounds, for now, there is only one real fact: The Toadies canceled five concert dates, the last stretch of their July tour, without warning and seemingly without reason. Other than that, the only people who know what's going on with the Toadies are named Todd Lewis, Mark Reznicek, Clark Vogeler and Lisa Umbarger, and they aren't talking at the moment. Maybe they don't even know.
Something is definitely happening within the band, though no one seems to want to get much more specific than "something." Even those five canceled concert dates don't help much, since Pollstar added a new date (August 10 at Miami's Bayfront Park, as part of something called Zetafest 2001) to its Web site shortly after the cancellations were announced. No one has confirmed whether the band will indeed be performing in Miami, but then again, no one has confirmed much of anything having to do with the Toadies in the past week or two. Even representatives at Interscope say they haven't spoken to the band much since the shows were canceled.
While sources close to the band won't go on the record, it looks as though one Toadie is likely quitting the group, according to the scant details we were able to drag out of those connected with the band. What that means to the future of the Toadies is unclear, although you have to believe if that is indeed the case, the group probably won't be hitting the road again anytime soon. In other words, don't get too excited about the appearance of the Miami gig just yet.
Not too long ago, it seemed as if things couldn't be going any better for the Toadies. Besides for finally releasing Hell Below/Stars Above after seven hard years, Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler and Umbarger were just enjoying playing in a band together. "Every time we're at practice or in the van, I realize that I'm just happy when all four of us are together," Vogeler said in March during an interview with the Dallas Observer. "It's silly to talk about, but I really think we're all together and focused and moving forward, and I haven't felt that way since I've been in the band. It's a really cool and positive feeling. It's a great way to go into this next phase."
At that time, the thought of breaking up was the furthest thing from their minds. In fact, they took pride in the fact that they'd made it through the seven-year gap between Rubberneck and Hell Below/Stars Above. "Part of our motivation--not entirely, but part of it--was to be able to go and take this record and this tour and what we're doing now and kinda wave it in front of people who've given us the finger in the past and go, 'Fuck you, man. You don't know what you're talking about,'" Lewis said the week before HB/SA hit stores. "That's for the people who've told us to quit or break up or whatever--one big 'fuck you.' That's part of what drives me to just make this record rock."
It's that kind of attitude that makes us, for one, believe that the Toadies will do everything they can to continue waving Hell Below/Stars Above in front of people's faces. After all, you don't stick together for seven years just to give up after fewer than seven months. Then again, maybe HB/SA's respectable but not spectacular sales thus far have weakened the band's resolve, or maybe they're tired of fighting after all this time. Who knows?
"When you keep hearing and hearing and hearing every day that people don't believe in you," Umbarger said in March, "there's something that goes off in the back of your head that says, 'Oh, am I screwed up, or are they screwed up?' There were more people telling us they didn't believe in us than said they did believe in us, and how many times can you pick yourself up and brush yourself off and tell yourself, 'Hey, guys, we can do it!' You can only do that so many times before it does start to affect you."
Here's hoping that, no matter what has gotten them down, they can pick themselves up one more time.