Dan Toohey is laid back about most everything and so we are trying to get the word out on his album. In the Dayton tradition of independence and self reliance, Dan, after the eyesinweasel tour with Tobin Sprout and John Peterson, decided to put his own stamp on an album. John Peterson provided drums and help on the songs and John Shough of Cro Magnon studio produced the backyard astronauts' album ten foot orbit.
The eyesinweasel album and tour marked a return to the original 1980's Fig. 4
lineup. That tour is captured on the live at the middle east album. Many came to know of Toohey when Fig. 4 and GBV talent merged and the album Propeller came out. After the word got out Toohey, Sprout and Bob Pollard, Kevin Fennell and Mitch Mitchell took the stage as GBV played CBGB's new music seminar: A trip to New York where Bob Pollard has said it felt like the whole world was watching. This happened after years of what must have seemed like no one was watching.
Eyesinweasel, the album and tour rekindled something in Dan. After years of support for Sprout, Pollard and other songwriters Dan decided to pen his own album with help from Peterson. In Backyard Astronauts ten foot orbit he and Peterson lend their full support to a kid protagonist and his older comrades songs. We asked for some photos related to the album and were surprised by the ones he sent. It seemed like if someone snuck into his house and had ten minutes they could find photos more typically rock and roll than Dan with his trumbone in high school. But Dan could tell you that he was happy in his high school bands and looking forward to playing music over the course of life is an enduring theme of the album. He also has a sense of humor that tends towards the unexpected.
Ten foot orbit revolves around a theme apparent in most every song.
Before being told that he's learning disabled and bound for the short bus a kid launches an attack on nursery school and the long day there. That's the song "nursery school". Where his energy goes seems to be one of the stories of the album. "Short bus", the first song of the album, seems to be about solidarity, joy and the awareness that the kid who can see what's wrong with the world, has been sent to a place where his crew is seen as backwards. But Dan sees the gifts and expectancy of the journey home and the album moves towards your own time- home for vacation, "recess", "field trip" and then finally "skipping home".
For a kid, days follow a similar recurrent pattern like an orbit of routine. The songs face the question of being told your place in the world is backwards and then thriving like is backyard astronaut in your own place. Just as the kid looks forward to recess field trip and his own time so does the musician look forward to playing in a band.
The older characters songs seem to pick up upon the independent energy but move more towards the search for connectedness. There's a skating rink pilgrammage and skating in the snow with a girlfriend; when Dan was recording this song John Shough said he liked the mood because it fit his definition of something like the movie "Somewhere in Time" "romantic but not corny"
. Shough is known as an artist himself and a top Dayton producer. If there's a melancholia to Dayton then it is well represented by a movie where time travel and romance is thwarted by a common Lincoln penny.
Over the years Dan has worked with kids while backing various bands. The best known of these are Fig. 4 eyesinweasel and GBV.
When Tobey returned from Florida, he joined GBV. Dan played bass on many songs over the years but Propeller was the first album. He has two songwriting credits on that album. There were many song ideas to flesh out while Dan was in GBV. As he describes it some timesropeller, Clown Prince Menthol Trailer, Fast Japanese Spin Cycle, King Shit and the Golden Boys and Bee Thousand. you'd just show up and wing it. While Dan was in the band he played on the albums P
As Dan has said GBV had to "be a band" and band together against exterior apathy. The band sessions in various basements must have persuaded them that at least they were listening and that they could build on this. The Propeller album is said to be the last stand of all the 30 somethings as they've been called. They had Dayton local apathy and then they had to face the CBGB's New York show
audience which must have seemed to have indifference with gravitus.
The first tour must have had a kind of us against the world feel with Kevin on drums and Mitch wailing away on guitar.
Dan stayed with the band until after Bee Thousand and the 1994 show played with the Breeders at Dayton's Hara Arena. This was where arena bands used to visit Dayton. There's a kind of completeness in Dan making this his last show. By the time Dan left apathy had been overcome and he had played a part in a kind of liftoff happening. It says something about Dan's independence that he asked to leave after the show.
Bob has talked about the fear of New York and the scorn of the national scene; it says something about Dan's playing that he was there on stage for that first tour. His strongest impression of those days were that they were a band and that he liked that energy. I don't think when he speaks of them being a band he's being critical of the subsequent isolation of the talents. Instead he's referring to the feeling that he enjoyed playing in GBV with Toby, Bob, Mitch and Kevin and forging ahead against ignoreland.
Dayton's a sports town and Bob's been dubbed the fading captain. As a sports town there's a lot of nostalgia and all the old teams are remembered in the bars and some seasons went further than others. But for a sports town it must also seem like the focus is always on the young.
What did it mean when GBV and fig. 4 merged? Nostalgia is not what it used to be and its hard to know what it looked like for GBV to look at the national scene as a near unknown in Dayton Ohio and in their mid thirties. To see that perspective is difficult but does seem to be analagous to watching a high school football game in Ohio. The song flourteen cheerleader coldfront seems to have the perspective of a teenager and an older songwriter.
In the watch me jumpstart movie Dan is included to the right of Bob in a photograph at the end of fourteen cheerleader coldfront. It's just a flashing image in what's known as the breakout movie of GBV. With the GBV catalogue to choose from, this song was chosen for the film which has the feel of a time capsule.
When fig. 4 talent merged with GBV they were guys in their mid thirties whoe hope for success must have seemed to have past. Bob and Toby had been writing songs their whole lives and most of the GBV catalogue is from Bob's lifetime of songs but in "watch me jumpstart the two harmonize on "fourteen cheerleader cold front". If you've seen them live it seems an unlikely song for GBV like it would seem an unlikely song title for any other band than GBV.
Acoustic duets were not typical of the band in that era and the idea that it was just a one or two person vehicle wasn't either. Dayton is a sports town and a beer drinkers town. The young get to play sports and perhaps as fellow Ohioan James Wright says on football fields they become suicidally beautiful galloping towards each other. Within sports or music there's a purity there beyond its arrogance or conceit. The national scene is a coldfront with growing old on its way. The lyrics describe local life as a series of youthful phenomena.
"No coin meters there" is a hopeful kind of line for the place the band found when they finally had the chance at a liftoff. Coin meters represent your time having run out and also a lingering kind of subtly menacing authority that's contrary to independence. Cool Hand Luke goes to a place where there are parking meters and rips the heads off of them. "Small town not much to do settling old scores" Luke says. A flood subject of Pollard as songwriter, Sprout Mitchell Fennell and Toohey is the need to battle against thou shall not rock because its a young man's game.
The last song on ten foot orbit is instrumental and here in the music is the home that all is a journey towards. Dan says the album moves from energy to calmness like his personality. Music is Dan's first way of saying something.
To not be alone. To have your own time and place. The kids' joyful protest of nursery school and looking forward to being home for vacation could become or be compared to Dan's feeling of looking towards playing in a band while working in schools or other places. He's played in bands for years. The album is ten foot orbit.
Home is implied all along but not specifically prescribed or described.
Dan's been a bassist for years and the stand up bass on skipping home seems to be something that Dan's been trying to say for years, something that's presented simply and coherently in ten foot orbit.
In a place like Dayton if a team has a championship season that stays with them all their lives no matter what spin is later put on it. Its that kind of town. It can be corny that way but there's a lot of that in the midwest and its part of the work and play ethic. Quarterbacks and linemen are in the photographs and the papers. After the eyesinweasel project Dan and John felt like they had a lot of good energy together and so they put this album together.
John Peterson has had opportunities to play out with bands but has decided to stay at home and raise his family. He wrote Gone too long and Dan will tell you helped him on this album with song structure and is a definite link to the fig. 4 band sensiblity.
Dan still works in Dayton and goes his own way. He works in an office supply company. He hasn't done any publicity for his album in the last year and now is working on the next one and playing with the band Ohio Briars.