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Toad the Wet Sprocket: Charge of the 'Light' Brigade

The band’s easy rock defies the critics

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Glen Phillips is fed up. The unassuming lead singer and creative heart of Toad the Wet Sprocket is, frankly, sick of being called a wuss by the music press. Phillips, 24, rages philosophical: ”We have been insulted for not being hard enough,” he says. ”We’d just like our music to be taken at face value. It’s obvious if you listen to us that we’re not a hard band. Why get pissed off at us for not doing what we don’t do?”

Phillips deserves some slack. He has survived ”purgatory”—what he calls the six years of nearly constant touring the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Toads have just completed. And with his three band mates (drummer Randy Guss, guitarist Todd Nichols, and bassist Dean Dinning, all 28), he has also produced two platinum abums (fear and Dulcinea) and is looking at a likely third million seller with In Light Syrup, a collection of previously unreleased songs and B sides that debuted at a very respectable No. 37 on the Billboard Top 200. Plus, ”Good Intentions,” the album’s first single, was chosen for the Friends soundtrack and is rising steadily on four Billboard charts, including Hot 100 Airplay and Album Rock.

Toad’s quiet success (and dependence on nonstop touring) is due, in part, to those skeptics who have, at best, ignored the band’s contemplative guitar rock and, at worst, dismissed it as an R.E.M. rip-off. ”Even if our music is not groundbreakingly important, it touches people,” Phillips says. ”Our point of view and the emotions we discuss mean something to them.”

The self-described geeks met while acting in a San Marcos High School production of Our Town. They found a garage suitable for practicing, lifted their band name from a Monty Python sketch, and started performing in clubs they couldn’t legally get into. None of them have ever played in another group, which, according to Phillips, has given them a musical synergy that their fans tune in to, even if the press can’t: ”When you’re together in a band for 10 years, you either eventually get good or break up. We got good.”