Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Dean Dinning on ‘Empire Records’ and the 1975

In 2013, the band released their first album in more than a decade and have remained active, playing the Birchmere July 26 and 27.

Toad the Wet Sprocket
Photo by Rob Shanahan

If you attended a school dance in the early ’90s (or watched one on TV), you likely heard Toad the Wet Sprocket. The alt-rock band, formed in 1986 by high school friends in California, is defined by a guitar-based sound that is at once feel-good and brooding. In 2013, they released their first album in more than a decade and have remained active, playing the Birchmere July 26 and 27.

When you were starting out in the ’80s, were you modeling yourselves after a particular band, such as the Smiths or R.E.M.?

One thing that our band has kind of always done is combine music that actually feels happier than the words suggest. And that is something that is definitely a Smiths thing. We always appreciated stuff that was complex and bands that were into issues. It was a time of bands like the Alarm and U2 and people like that.

What are some of your favorite uses of Toad songs in pop culture?

Certainly having “Crazy Life” on the Empire Records soundtrack was really great because that became a real pop-culture thing. People still celebrate Rex Manning day every year. We did have three songs on Dawson’s Creek. “All I Want” was actually used when Dawson was trying to seduce Jen, which I’m very proud of.

You use a fair amount of harmony in your music, which is missing from a lot of today’s rock music. Why do you think that is?

Harmony. You know, it’s the oldest trick in the book really. You get human beings singing in harmony, and suddenly people stop and take note.

Is rock music dead?

I would say no. It’s not the easiest thing to keep it alive—I mean there’s certainly a lot of electronic music, a lot of dance music and a lot of solo artists—but there’s still plenty of people out there that want to go and see a band that plays real guitars and has real singing.

Of today’s rock bands, which do you think sounds most like you?

There are bands that I would want to be in. I happen to love this band called the 1975. That’s the kind of thing that I really like. It’s got some ’80s in it, but it’s very cool.

(July 2017)

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