Toad the Wet Sprocket Move in Tide with “Transient Whales”

Transient whales typically travel in small groups hunting, gathering, and making their way. Perhaps a metaphor for how we move through life with one other, Toad the Wet Sprocket’s “Transient Whales” covers the moments in times, in life, that go away as fast as they’ve come in.

Videos by American Songwriter

“‘Transient Whales’ is a love song to times of life that may only happen once —having small children, raising a family,” says singer Glen Phillips of the track, off the band’s seventh album, and first in eight years, Starting Now. “It’s also about opening up to the uncertainty of change and getting down to what really matters.” 

Living in a very transient state following his divorce, Phillips was moving from place to place without ever feeling like he had a home. “Transient Whales” cascades around feelings of emptiness and unity, of acceptance and renewal—All we have is each other and the songs we share… I love jokes that last for years / And having people dropping by / I liked being at the center / Of a place that felt alive / Now my home is in the ocean / Where my song can travel free / Carried softly by the water / To wherever you may be.

“It was written after a long period of being unanchored in the world,” shares Phillips. “The ironic thing is that during the time the album was being recorded, I moved in with my girlfriend and feel like I have a home for the first time in about seven years. ‘Transient Whales’ is the last song from the post-divorce period of my life. It feels good to have it as a marker of a new chapter.”

For the video, shot and edited by Sean McCue and Nina McCue, the band, comprised of Phillips along with guitarist Todd Nichols and bassist Dean Dinning, are set in their own emptied cell that looks like a barren greenhouse where the song echoes through.

“Toad has always been a band that has leaned into reality with a mixture of honesty and hope, and the song ‘Transient Whales’ does the same,” says Chris Orwig, who came up wth the video concept. “For me, it’s a song about loss and longing and honoring what we’ve gone through in life without overlooking or belittling what matters most. Yet, it doesn’t leave us with discontent but provides hope, and a weathered and barnacle-covered hope that is anchored in reality but also stitched together by the magical mixture of music, water, and dreams.”

Toad the Wet Sprocket (Photo: Chris Orwig)

Visualizing the song, Orwig wanted to let the song tell the story in the most “subtle, sincere and uncontrived way,” he says. “After all it isn’t the literal meaning of the words and the notes that make this song so great,” says Orwig. “It’s the hidden way that it helps and dare I say, empowers us to stop wallowing and to start singing, swimming, and living life in a full and deep way.”

Initially written from a cue during a songwriting session game with Matt the Electrician (Matt Sever), an Austin-based singer-songwriter who sends out weekly prompts—a la Bob Schneider’s “The Song Game“—Phillips and a dozen others in the group will write a song per week based on Sever’s prompt.

“The trick in arranging this song was to have the cut time and half time feels work together,” says Phillips. “It rides the line between being a slow, open song and having that country train rhythm underneath. I love songs that feel fast and slow at the same time.”

Phillips adds, “When this one came in, I had no idea what direction it was going to go, but I love the result. It’s the great thing about writing from a prompt. You never know where it’s going to head, but it leads you somewhere you needed to go.”

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