"There's a certain uneasiness to the Toadies," says Vaden Todd Lewis, succinctly and accurately describing his bandquite a trick. The Texas band is, at its core, just a raw, commanding rock band. Imagine an ebony sphere with a corona that radiates impossibly darker, and a brilliant circular sliver of light around that. It's nebulous, but strangely distinctand, shall we say incorrect. Or, as Lewis says, "wrong."
"Things are done a little askew [in the Toadies]," he says, searching for the right words. "There's just something wrong with it that's just really cool and unique in a slightly uncomfortable way."
This sick, twisted essence was first exemplified on the band's 1994 debut, Rubberneck (Interscope). An intense, swirling vortex of guitar rock built around Lewis's "wrong" songs and abstract lyricslike the smash single "Possum Kingdom," subject to as much speculation as what's in the Pulp Fiction briefcase, it rocketed to platinum status on the strength of that and two other singles, "Tyler" and "Away."
Perhaps in keeping with the uneasy vibe, that success didn't translate to label support when the Toadies submitted their second album, Feeler. Perhaps aptly, things in general just went wrong. "We got approval for a record," says Lewis, "and somewhere in the process of handing over the masters to get mixed, it got unapproved. So we went back to the drawing board."
Eventually some of the Feeler tracks made it onto Hell Below/Stars Abovea sophomore offering that came seven years after Rubberneck. "It was a very weird, trying time," says Lewis, who didn't see the next blowthe sudden departure of bassist Lisa Umbargercoming. "We went out on tour, and immediately the band split up," he laughs sardonically. "We kinda shot ourselves in the foot." They released a live album, Best of Toadies: Live from Paradise, and it was over.
Coming out of the Toadies, Lewis, guitarist Clark Vogeler and drummer Mark Reznicek were disillusioned. Vogeler went to work as a film editor, Rez hooked up with the country-western band Eleven Hundred Springs. Lewis initially thought, "Fuck this whole business. I'm gettin' out. I just wanted to do anything else."
Toadies fans, though accepting, stuck with them, often inquiring as to the band's activities. Says Lewis, "People just asked me "So, what are you doin' now?" Although he'd been "foolin' around" with Rev. Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley, he answered, "I don't know. Nothin'. This, that and the other. Workin' around the house, workin' in the garage, just toolin' around." Soon it occurred to him that music was all he wanted to do. "I'm a musician. That's what I do, and I'm not happy not doing it." Eventually Lewis and Bentley formed the Burden Brothers in 2002 and released a slew of EPs, two albums and a DVD while touring profusely.
Meanwhile, "Possum Kingdom" never left the airwaves, enjoying constant rotation at major modern rock stations. Fans clamored for a Toadies reunion. "The band never went all the way away;" says Lewis. They regrouped in 2006 for a couple of sold-out shows around St. Patrick's Day, and again the next year for the same thing. In August 2007, when personnel changes with the Burden Brothers resulted in that band going on hiatus, Lewis began writing.
"I was pissed off again and wanted to keep goin'," he says. "I didn't know what I was writing, right out of the gate, but it was just coming out very "Toadies."
Lewis called Rez and Vogeler and asked if they were interested in making another record. They wereand the Toadies officially reconvened, signing with Kirtland and recording No Deliverance with David Castell (Burden Brothers, Blue October) at Fort Worth Sound in Fort Worth and Music Lane in Austin. Lewis says the band has gone for a "bare knuckle" sound, amping up the psychotic stomp heard on Rubberneck and Hell Below on the grinding, relentless title track as well as the seething, death-of-a-romance gem "So Long Lovey Eyes" and the towering, sludgy "Man of Stone." The upshot is a taut, exhilarating listen that is quintessentially Toadies.
Lewis is stoked on "the freshness of this new record. Getting back into this, back into the feel of the Toadies, is cool. Lewis, Rez, Vogeler and new bass player Doni Blair (Hagfish, Only Crime) are optimistic that their indie incarnation will succeed, thanks to the support of their devout fansand equally supportive label. "The music industry has changed so much," says Vogeler. "A band like us can be on an independent label and still get the music out to the people who want to hear it."
"Getting back to the bare knuckles element of the Toadies," continues Lewis, "is what I really enjoy, after being away from it for so long." Vogeler and Rez concur. "I'm here and still doin' it," furthers Vogeler, "because the music's good." And Rez proclaims in his thick Texas drawl, "The Toadies are back in business."
And suddenly, everything wrong is right.
"Their gristly, roadhouse swagger fuels short, punchy tracks that speak from the rock 'n roll soul of the American South." Death and Taxes
"It's a compact Manhattan club called Pianos, and it's filled to capacity for Gringo Star's 50-minute set highlighting All Y'all's best tracks alongside a few well-chosen earlier songs." High Times
"Though the bouncy, polished pop-rock of Gringo Star sounds like the stuff of major-label dreams, the Atlanta quartet with the punning name to end all punning names put out its own full-length debut, All Ya'll. The decidedly bright album was slickly produced by Gnarls Barkley engineer Ben H. Allen, with layers of garage jangle over a Kinks and Britpop backbone. Gringo Star recently played Lollapalooza, bringing its members' trademark inter-song instrument-hopping to an especially large audience. " The Onion
"The Gringo stage show is like a circus, a damn good one performed by a group of friends that are just having a good time. Their musical talent is undeniable and forthcoming in their shows. Bolstered by a mix of song writing that complements each of the Gringos visions they are able to create genre-bending music. In turn their debut album All Y'all is a cocktail lo-fi gem of personal expressions. We suggest you join the "March of the Gringo" before they leave you behind." Sup Magazine UK
"On the surface, Atlanta's Gringo Star are good for at least two admittedly easy guffaws: there's that band name, for starters (c'mon, admit it you're jealous you didn't think of it first!), followed by the equally excellent title of Gringo's 2008 full-length debut: All Y'all. Got your chuckles out? Good, because the jokes end once these four guys start bashing out their music, swapping instruments on the fly and rocking out with a conviction reminiscent of early Kinks or Animals (with maybe a pinch of Southern boogie, just so y'all don't forget they're from Georgia). Sure, it's still fun just not the kind of smarmy-hipster-irony kind that the band and album names might imply. These guys have been rocking Atlanta since 2001 (originally under the moniker A Fir-Ju Well); to stick around that long on any scene, you gotta have substance and real mojo, and these Gringos have both in abundance." Lollapalooza.Com
"After the sardine can train ride that was the CTA Red Line, the drizzly adventure of Lollapalooza started with Atlanta, Georgia's very own Gringo Star. Mixing one part punk rock ethic, one part manic performance and a heavy dose of 1950's Americana, these guys got the party started early. Lead singer Nicholas Furgiuele wailed like a banshee hopped up on caffeine and the rest of the band followed his fanatic trailblazing. On songs such as "No One" and "The March Of Gringos", the quirky Southern quartet packed punch after punch just below the three minute mark. Lead guitarist Peter Furgiule's guitar solos brought to mind the late and great Bob Stinson of The Replacements, complete with overzealous sloppiness and raw intensity. Images of old Western shootouts, drunken nights in saloons and frantic pianos were all over the place while they played. Switching instruments between songs, these guys kept the downtime between numbers next to nil. For 45 minutes, Gringo Star blazed their own path of musical glory in the great city of Chicago and in the process took a few souvenirs with them, concluding with a cover of The Exciters' "He's Got The Power." ConsequenceOfSound.Com
"The four-piece melds gritty rural garage-rock tones with imported British pop, adding a distinct Kinks-like jumpiness to create a solid classic style." Miami New Times
"With their excellent debut album, All Y'all, this Atlanta garage-rock band validate the CMJ buzz." Spin.com
"This Atlanta, Georgia foursome add layers of rural lilt to their Brit-ish pop, garagey grit to others, while sneaking out slight-psych guitar blasts and gang yalps when least expected. If not the wheel rebooted, their self-titled full-length on My Anxious Mouth is stunningly seasoned for a debut." CMJ.com
"A little scuzzy, a little jangly and a lot awesome" Blender
"Gringo Star should be literally showered with the same kind of exasperated stammering and fawning heaped onto the stars of the early days of rock and roll, as if these guys were new versions of the Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Beatles' and all of the American standards in doo wop and R&B that were raging through Detroit and Memphis and Harlem." Daytrotter
"Gringo Star left an overall strong impression as they escaped the stage, following an impressive showcase of harmonies, kazoo blowing and bass lines to make your right foot tap along with pleasure" Leeds UK Music Scene
"A tapestry of jangly guitar and multi-part vocal harmonies, and ranges from psychedelia to garage rock to surf pop. A bit off-kilter and more than a little charming, it's Atlanta pop at its best and communicates as well as any recording could what it's like to see the band live. No song better represents the band than the title track (and first single), 'All Y'all': It's anthemic, hook-filled and catchy as hell" Paste
"An outstanding new album" This Week In New York
"All Y'all" is an exuberant rush of early Kinks guitars, tambourines, handclaps, multi-part harmonies, and bits of tinkly piano, all catchy." Pitchfork
"Come On Now" is so obviously a massive hit single in waiting, all surf guitar & 60s pop rhythms." Americana UK
" I would mark All Y'all as one of the most exciting albums of the year, and, probably the best debut release." Blurt
"It's worth picking up just for the title track, an infectious anthem of cynicism, filled with handclaps, multi-part harmonies and guitar hooks you can sink your teeth into." Arkansas Times
"All Y'all, their debut on their own My Anxious Mouth label, is packed with British-invasion era rock and hooks galore." Tampa Creative Loafing
"With a catalogue of undeniably danceable and equally singalong-able songs, Gringo Star had onlookers twisting and shouting throughout the show." Emory Wheel
"After an incredible performance at this year's CMJ music festival, All Y'all proves the band's no fluke. Fourteen tracks filled with swagger and spit. Few bands are able to bolt out of the starting gate with this much fire under their bellies." Ink Kansas City
"From the layered vocal harmonies and jangly distorted guitars to the surf-rock beats and lo-fi production, All Y'All sounds as if it's the lost recording of some obscure but great 1960s garage band, not a group of young upstarts from the same city that gave us Ludacris, T.I. and Lil Jon" The Hype! Today
"By the looks of things, Gringo Star is doing everything correctly. They write exceptional songs, instantly catchy tunes that get in and out with such concision they often bear repeating. They have an eye-catching live show each of the four guys takes turns swapping vocal, guitar, bass, drums and keyboard duties." New Haven Advocate
"I'm going to go ahead and already say that Gringo Star are absolutely my favorite band of CMJ. The band's music is happy and the members played musical chairs all throughout the night by switching instruments and vocals, which just proves how talented everyone in the band is." UWIRE
"They've got a killer name and killer tunes. Gringo Star are definitely a band on the rise." The Big Takeover
"On their delicious debut, All Y'All, Gringo Star show great taste while displaying adroit multi-instrumental skills. On first listen, their influences show all the way through to the roots. But over the course of time, each tuneful nugget these Gringos put forth proves to be resiliently original." Aquarian Weekly-New Jersey
"A spin [and] you will be too busy wanting to hear more offerings from Gringo Star's catalog to care about sorting out their musical influences." 7"Atlanta
"But take heart, because if you're 40 or older, there's a lot to like about Gringo Star, a band that already has the hipster 20-somethings in its back pocket, along with the 30-something contingent pretending they're still 20-somethings." Bullz_Eye.Com
"These guys have gone from small shows playing just for friends to tours that jump continents, earning them the title many have given them -- the hardest working band in Atlanta. The album is just what you'd expect from Gringo Star -- fun, skilled and a little world all in itself." Pine Magazine
"Three chords and the truth, garage-rock worth your time." Ear Farm
"Gorgeous" Pop Matters
"Gringo Star has crafted at least a half dozen endlessly listenable songs on a debut well worth seeking out." The Signal -College of NJ Paper
"One of Atlanta's hardest working bands." Ohmpark
1206 Regent Street
Madison, WI 53715
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