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Britt Festivals opens its gates

People who saw the arrival of a new Toad The Wet Sprocket album, “New Constellation,” in 2013 as a signal that the group was going to reunite, record and tour can lower those hopes.

Yes, the band is back on tour for six weeks this summer (alongside Smash Mouth and Tonic). But singer and guitarist Glen Phillips still sees Toad The Wet Sprocket as something he returns to on a limited basis, and as a group that exists alongside a number of other musical projects he and his bandmates pursue.

“I understand Toad’s significance historically, and I feel I can come back to it if it’s one of many things I do,” Phillips said in an early June telephone interview. “The idea of getting to go out and make a bunch of people happy and play some songs I’m proud of with some people I really like, I think that’s a great thing.”

For years following Toad The Wet Sprocket’s breakup in 1998 (coming off of two platinum albums, 1991’s “Fear” and 1994’s “Dulcinea,” and a 1997 release, “Coil,” that fell short of that bar), any future for the group seemed tenuous.

Phillips and his bandmates — guitarist Todd Nichols, bassist Dean Dinning and drummer Randy Guss — tried to restart Toad in 2002, but things didn't work out.

Phillips instead became more focused on his own career. In addition to releasing his second solo album, “Winter Pays for Summer,” in 2005, he formed a group with Nickel Creek's Chris Thile, Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins called Mutual Admiration Society, which released a self-titled album in 2004. In 2009, Phillips, the Watkins siblings and a few others released "Works Progress Administration."

Toad The Wet Sprocket continued to get together for occasional shows, as well as a full tour in 2006. By 2009, members considered the group an active, ongoing entity once again.

The idea of making new music started to take shape when Toad The Wet Sprocket re-recorded songs from its repertoire for a 2011 greatest hits album, “All You Want.”

“It was so easy and fun to do. It made a record seem like something we could do without any problem,” Phillips said.

In fact, the group is releasing a new EP, “Architect of the Ruin,” featuring two new songs and four tracks from the “New Constellation” sessions to coincide with this summer’s tour. 

Phillips, though, isn’t promising that more full-length albums will be in Toad The Wet Sprocket’s future. As he sees it, completing “New Constellation” made a nice statement for the band.

“Things had not always been easy within the group, and to manage to get together and make something we were all proud of — even one more time — is a huge achievement,” Phillips said.

Alt-rockers Toad the Wet Sprocket perform with rock band Smash Mouth on Sunday, June 21, at the Britt Pavilion in Jacksonville. Photo courtesy of Britt Festivals