On one level, one could see toyboatToyBoatTOYBOAT as a moderate success. On its release in May of 1990, O Positive opened for the Psychedelic Furs, Sinead O’Connor, and Billy Bragg. After the “Imagine That” video premiered on 120 Minutes, the band went on a two-week tour of the Midwest and East Coast. They also played a splashy multi-band concert at the Boston Garden alongside fellow-travelling Boston bands like Tribe and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, as well as alternative rock stars like the Call and Hothouse Flowers. Two singles from the album – “Imagine That” and the atypical garage rave-up “Back of My Mind” – got significant airplay on Boston radio, and “Overflow” was included on the Epic compilation Theodore. When the dust settled, their major-label bow had sold 35,000 copies. Not bad for a “baby band”.
However, one could also look at the album as something of a failure. A staff purge at Epic left the band without its project manager, Jim Maclaine, who was responsible for shepherding the band’s record. “Sticking with the ship metaphor, it’s like losing the captain of the ship. You have this guy who’s responsible for navigating your project, and he’s gone. So we had this really nice vessel, and where did it go? No one to captain it.” Epic brass went on to cut tour support for their latest signees and scrapped a second music video which had been in preproduction, “as if being a baby band were some kind of cancer.”
Epic left the members of O Positive hanging for a year and a half before they were finally able to walk away. The major-label experience left the band with a bitter aftertaste. “Music is so amazing and spiritual, and the business is so not that way,” Herlihy says, a note of anger palpable in his voice. “I think the music business had a tradition of really exploiting musicians who are just trying to connect with their audience and victimizing them and taking advantage of them, and exploiting them, and throwing them out like so much trash.”