- - Sunday, November 8, 2015

Remember The Toadies, the grunge flavored 1990s rockers that asked you “do you wanna die?” in their oddly titled ‘90s hit “Possum Kingdom”? Well, they’re back, but not in a way you might expect. The band has just released a CD, “Heretics,” which features drastic reworkings of their best-known songs played on acoustic guitar, mandolin, electric piano, bass and drums. They’ve even included an unlikely cover of the Blondie classic “Heart of Glass.” 

Toadies founding member and drummer Mark Reznicek checked in before the band’s show at The Birchmere Monday to discuss the new CD, how “Possum Kingdom” came to be and what happens at their yearly music fest.

Question: How did the new CD “Heretics” come about?

Answer: Over the last few years we’ve been playing these sort of stripped-down, semi-acoustic shows on night one of our annual Dia De Los Toadies festival. People liked it and suggested we record an album in that style.

Q: What did you discover when you stripped the songs down?

A: That they are still good, viable songs no matter how much we deconstruct them.

Q :Why did you decide to cover Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”?

A: We were always fans of the song, and the band. [Singer] Vaden [Todd Lewis] had been playing a solo acoustic version of the song at his solo shows, so when it came time to record “Heretics,” he thought it might work well in that context. Slowing the song down and playing it more quietly seems to bring out the sadness in the lyrics.

Q: What keeps you all working together?

A: We enjoy each other’s company and like playing music together.

Q: Is it still the original four members?

A: No. Our lead guitar player, Clark Vogeler, joined the band in 1996, and our bass player, Doni Blair, joined the band in 2008.

Q: Has there ever been a time The Toadies didn’t exist?

A: Yes. We broke up in 2001, reconvened in 2008.

Q: The band’s biggest hit was arguably “Possum Kingdom.” What the heck did that title mean? 

A: “Possum Kingdom” is a lake and state park in Texas, west of our hometown of Fort Worth. Vaden’s family used to take trips to the lake, so when he was writing the lyrics, he used the lake as a setting. A creepy song about a very scenic place.

Q: You just toured this past summer with Everclear, Fuel and American Hi-Fi. How was that? Any competition between bands?

A: No competition. Everybody got along great and had a lot of fun.

Q: How did your yearly Dia De Los Toadies festival come about?

A: We just thought it would be fun to be able to choose bands we like, play shows with them and expose our audience to their music.

Q: Have you really been doing it for eight years?

A: Yes. This is our eighth annual Dia De Los Toadies festival. We choose acts that we like and ask them to play at the two-day festival, which takes place each September.

Q: Over the years how has the festival evolved?

A: It used to be a one-day event, and now it has expanded to two days. Night one is when we play stripped-down, semi-acoustic versions of our songs, with usually one or two openers. Day two is when we play our full-on rock set. In addition, the festival has moved to various locations around Texas, from Possum Kingdom Lake to New Braunfels to its current home in Fort Worth.

Q: When you tour, will it be full electric or stripped-down versions of the songs?

A: The tour will be stripped-down versions. “Heretics” features stripped-down, rearranged versions of our songs plus some new tunes. So when we tour for this album, we’ll be playing those versions.

The Toadies play The Birchmere, located at 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Virginia, 22305, Monday evening at 7:30. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by visiting Ticketmaster.com

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