TOXIC OSCAR has been together since 1979. That's a staggering thought, considering that most bands never last such a long period of time. The local rockers have released albums and made a name for themselves as a live act during that time, and continue playing to devoted fans to this day.
Will Griffiths, the band’s keyboardist, says they had planned to play one of their five shows a year at Coach’s Corner this past May, but had to postpone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s back on the books, though, for Sat., July 18, and they’re ready to go.
Ahead of the show, we caught up with Griffiths to learn more about their incredible history.
What’s the story with y’all and your history?
We’ve been together since 1979!
Yeah! And then we took a break for a couple of years and got back together, and we’ve been together ever since. A couple of us are going on 41 years together.
That’s really amazing. How long was the initial stretch?
It was 1979 to, I think, 1989. It was a long time. We started out with a different name, but then we changed members and changed the name to Toxic Oscar. And it remained Toxic Oscar ever since.
What was the music scene like at that time?
It was great! There was tons of music, and a lot of people playing music. But the only problem was, there weren’t a lot of places to play.
What were the venues around in those days?
Well, you had Night Flight Cafe down on the river, and then you had Congress Street Station. There was Malone’s, over at City Market. Texas South was a big place, and then there were places in Statesboro. We used to go to Statesboro and play all the time.
What year did you start up again?
I’d say five or six years later, something like that!
Was it just a matter of realizing that you missed playing together?
Oh yeah—we got a call one day and thought about it, and realized we missed it. We have a rehearsal space that we play at, so we all went up there and started practicing again.
So it’s been full steam ahead since then?
We’ve made some records and have done four or five shows a year. We actually built a house that we use for recording and practicing, and our instruments live there. We go every Monday and practice.
Does it feel like, at this point, like it’s part of your life now?
Oh, yeah! It’s the best part of the week for me, you can bet.
What were some of the bands y’all were drawing from in the earliest days?
I can tell you what we were listening to and what we’re still listening to. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and now stuff like the Foo Fighters, Dream Theater—not really stuff that's mainstream, let's put it that way.
I imagine you're still playing some songs pretty much the same way after all of these years?
We change things up and pick things up along the way. But with certain songs, like with Rush songs, we try and make them sound like Rush songs, you know? With others, we'll change things up.
The great thing is that it sounds like there's not a lot of pressure. It seems like you're at a point where you're doing this because you love it, whenever you want to do it.
Yes, and it's always exciting. I'll book a show, and then we'll work on stuff before the gig. When we get ready for the show, we put the show together and play what we want to play. Everybody gets to play the way they want to; there's no yelling, no screaming. It's like a family thing, where everyone just really fucking likes playing. All the people that've left the band are still like family—most of them will be at the show! It's kind of like a cult thing, if you really want to get down to it [laughs].