Vintage Violence: TOAD's Rotten Tide Oozes Analog Menace

It's early on a Friday night, and I'm saddled up at the bar at Palo Verde Lounge in Tempe, waiting for the six members of blackened rock 'n' roll sextet TOAD (it's an acronym: Take Over and Destroy) to show up for an interview. The "Dirty Verde" is notoriously small, but I glance around wondering whether one of the six or seven folks in the place is a member of the band. The guy to my left is fashioning a lime into a pipe, and the two gentlemen to my right are discussing shooting things with rifles.

Interesting, but not the guys I'm looking for.

When the six 20-somethings walk into the bar, I realize how ridiculous the notion that I could have missed them is. TOAD looks unmistakably like a band: all sleeveless denim, tight black jeans, leather jackets, and metal band logo patches. They're regulars here, too, I realize as guitarist Alex Rollins and bassist Trey Edwin order up pitchers of Coors, and the other members of the band — vocalist Andrew Leemont, drummer Shane Taylor, organist Pete Porter, and guitarist Nate Garrett — grab a table near the bar's lineup of arcade machines.

TOAD: Burning for you
Andrew Weiss
TOAD: Burning for you

Location Info

Map

Palo Verde Lounge

1015 W. Broadway Road
Tempe, AZ 85282

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Tempe

Details

TOAD is scheduled to perform Friday, March 2.

Someone puts The Stooges on the jukebox, and the gutbucket guitars of Ron Asheton make our conversation about TOAD's new record, Rotten Tide, feel natural. The five-song EP undeniably is the work of a metal band, taking cues from the shredded vocals and eerie atmospherics of black metal, the harmonized guitars of classic '70s and '80s bands, and the crunchy heft of doom metal, but what's most curious about the record is its rock 'n' roll vibe: Opening song "Midnight Hunger" swings and stomps with Thin Lizzy-like swagger, and "Embody the Ghost" borrows vintage punk's vitriol before slowing down into a psychedelic swirl.

The band made the record at Flying Blanket Studios in Mesa, with producer Bob Hoag. Though Hoag is known more for recording indie rock acts like Gospel Claws, Sister Cities, and Kinch, he's got heavier bona fides, too: He produced Slut Sister, TOAD's sludgier precursor, and The Bled, a Tucson hardcore band that influenced the members of TOAD at an impressionable age.

"We saw The Bled back at the old Nile," says Edwin, laughing. "I went up to the merch booth and was, like, 'Can I have a copy of that EP?' [A member] said, 'I bet if you ask everyone here for a dollar, you'll have enough for the EP.' I made enough to buy it. I still have it."

"Bob's the man," Rollins says. "He has to give it his own feel, because he's not a strict metal producer or metal engineer. I played a vintage Telecaster, [and] I used a Fender Bassman [amplifier] to get the chugs really thick. I went into M-Tronics and was looking at one, and the guy was like, 'Why are you trying to play metal out of that,' and I'm, like, 'Are you kidding me, motherfucker?'"

The record was recorded to analog tape, and the sounds have vintage warmth. Rather than use modern amps and distortion pedals, Rollins and former guitarist Dan Labarbera (replaced by Garrett when Labarbera left to join the Army) maxed out the tubes on a variety of Flying Blanket's in-house amps. The band played together live in the studio's main room to achieve the interplay of a live set. The band recorded two to three takes of each song, but went with the first take in most instances. "We kind of left the flaws in there for a reason," says Bollins. "We wanted to make a record that had that horror movie feel and kind of a B-movie element."

Leemont recorded his vocals over the live tracks afterward. "He nailed his vocals in one take," Porter says. "That's why we went to Bob. To achieve that natural sound."

The band recorded quickly but took its time mixing and mastering the record. "We went through three different masters, and the third [and final] one wasn't even approved by Bob," Rollins says. "We all liked how it sounds; we're going with it. We're getting it out on Bandcamp and spreading the word."

The band posted the record on the music-sharing website last summer, and metal blogs quickly caught the scent. "If you enjoy truly ugly-sounding music, surely this is the must-hear album of the year for you," Metal Storm wrote, and Demolish Fanzine said, "Kinda reminds me of a low-slung Sepultura and a touch of Celtic Frost!" The reviewers were almost uniformly ecstatic, which surprised the band.

"I thought all the sludge metal dudes wouldn't be into it. Like, oh, this is too rocking or too black metal, but they all loved it," Taylor says, referring to carry-over fans of Slut Sister and Drone Throne, a doom-metal side project.

"I was curious if people would get it," Porter says. "Because it doesn't fit into just one subgenre of metal. As far as our metal friends, we know a lot of purists . . . The subgenre elitists would be, like, 'This isn't black metal enough' or 'This is too black metal.'"

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5 comments
WhiskeyBiscuits/Nasty Nate
WhiskeyBiscuits/Nasty Nate

Had to hop on here to copy the link for a press release and finally saw these incredible comments. Got a good laugh out of it, so thanks guys! I give you all an "A" for effort, but if you're going to criticize a band you know nothing about based on a single picture, I have a few suggestions. First, you may want to make sure your facts are at least somewhat accurate, especially when quantifying a very specific amount as far as the crowds we draw. Second, you might want to pay attention to spell check so people don't unfairly assume you dropped out in 2nd grade. We are definitely dweebs, though I wouldn't go so far as to say twerps, and we are most certainly not in a fake biker gang, much less a real biker gang. Either way, I'm more than happy to endure the lackluster shit talking if it boosts you peoples' obviously insufficient self esteems! Monger rules! That is all.

Mike Thrash
Mike Thrash

Admittedly, I haven't heard their music, but if this is what's passing for Black Metal nowadays, no thanks. I'll pass.

concerned citizen
concerned citizen

these kids look like wanna be Asses of Evil, at least AOE can get 60 or 70 to a show, these twirps with there 6 or 7 friends including the bartenders at the PV? If they think they are hard, try battling with Monger!

Shaman
Shaman

Are those dweebs in a fake biker gang?

Tempean
Tempean

Wow. There are people who hate everywhere. Lame. The show was great and I saw a lot of the same people from different scenes. Monger is awesome and I really hope you aren't a member of Monger because that would just suck.

 
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