Tune your radio to a rock station anywhere in the U.S. on any given day and there’s a solid chance you’ll hear singer Vaden Todd Lewis’ monstrous wail of “do you wanna diiieee?”
The lyric is from the Toadies’ 1994 single “Possum Kingdom,” a fairly creepy, grunge-era smash that many have speculated is either about vampires or a serial killer. It’s become a rock radio staple in the decades following its release, even if the Toadies aren’t sure why.
“Nothing about that song points to it being a hit,” Toadies drummer Mark Reznicek said during a call from his home in Texas. “Its got weird time signatures, the title is never mentioned in the lyrics, there’s not really a chorus and it has a weird structure. I don’t know why it connected, but when it gets to the ‘do you wanna die’ the crowd erupts every time.”
The band, which plays The Ritz Ybor on May 15, is touring behind the 20th anniversary reissue of “Rubberneck,” the band’s debut album that included “Possum Kingdom.”
Reznicek has no qualms admitting “Rubberneck” will likely always be the band’s best known work, even when follow-ups “Feeler” and “Hell Below/Stars Above” were just as good, if not better, musically, and even as the band continues releasing new music, such as 2012’s “Play. Rock. Music.”
“There’s no point in trying to sweep it under the carpet. We’re giving the people what they want. Instead of fighting it, we’re embracing it,” Reznicek said of the band’s choice to play the entire album in sequence during the anniversary tour.“We’ve always been really proud of it. For better or worse, that’s the one people know us by.”
The fans showing up for the current tour range from long-time Toadies fans to kids who weren’t even born when “Rubberneck” came out, probably a result of their enduring presence on the radio Reznicek said.
“There’s a lot of younger people whose parents or older brothers turned them on to the record. I’ve seen whole families with mom, dad and kids in Toadies t-shirts,” Reznicek said. “At a show in Detroit a couple introduced me to the wife’s mother who was 80 years old. She said she really enjoyed it. Something about that album cuts across generations.”
The band broke up in 2001 while touring for “Hell Below/Stars Above,” and Reznicek almost left music completely. He worked in a comic book store and contemplated getting a master’s degree, before finally joined the country band Eleven Hundred Springs for six years.
When the Toadies reformed in 2006, he had to make the transition back to playing rock.
“Initially it was maybe a little difficult. With country you’re trying to get people to do the two step. In a rock show they’re standing and watching, but I was able to take some things I learned playing country and apply them to new Toadies music. I grew as a musician.”
In addition to playing “Rubberneck,” Reznicek said the band will play about an hour of other recognizable songs from other albums, with a couple of covers and some obscure singles and rarities thrown in.
Tickets to the show, which features opening support from Supersuckers, are $19 through Ticketmaster outlets.