Steve Harwell - vocals Greg Camp - guitar Paul De Lisle - bass Kevin Coleman - drummer
Smash Mouth (named after Mike Ditka's term "smash mouth football") was formed in San Jose, Calif., in 1994 when boyhood friends and former garage band compadres Steve Harwell (vocals) and Kevin Coleman (drums) recruited Greg Camp (guitar) from a local cover band. Camp then persuaded Paul De Lisle (bass), with whom he'd played in another outfit, to take a chance on the new band.
After toiling for a couple of years on the San Jose scene, Smash Mouth caught fire when area radio station KOME started spinning what would be their breakthrough: "Nervous In The Alley" (Smash Mouth were the first unsigned band to receive regular rotation on the influential Modern Rock outlet). Soon thereafter, the quartet inked a deal with Interscope Records, which released their debut, Fush Yu Mang, in 1997.
Smash Mouth supported the album with extensive touring, including jaunts with Sugar Ray, Third Eye Blind and Blur, among others. Buoyed by these road efforts, the #1 radio success of "Walkin' On The Sun" and a cover of War's "Why Can't We Be Friends" (not to mention a couple of heavily rotated videos), Fush Yuï¿½ bum-rushed the Top 20 and racked up double platinum sales.
The band built on their success with a rendition of ? and the Mysterians' "Can't Get Enough of You Baby," which made its debut on the soundtrack to "Can't Hardly Wait." The cut is also included on Smash Mouth's latest opus, Astro Lounge.
Produced by Eric Valentine, who sat behind the boards for Fush Yu, Astro Lounge was introduced by the radio track "All Star," which began rocketing up Modern Rock charts in May of 1999 (it entered the Top 5 of Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks before the month was out). "All Star" was also slated to be the first single and video from the soundtrack to "The Mystery Men." Says principal songwriter Greg Camp of the tune that seemed likely to make Smash mouth superstars: "That's sort of our 'Everybody is a Star.' It basically says, 'Don't get down on yourself - with a little bit of spring in your stride, you can do whatever you want.'" Camp is also quick to expound on another Astro Lounge standout, the more pointed "Radio." "It's kind of about our love/hate relationship with radio and the people who have power over it," he confides. "They can really stomp on you if they don't like you. They love you when you're on top - they all want to talk to you. But when you're not .... It's something we didn't realize until 'Walkin' on the Sun' started dying down and we got called 'one-hit wonders.' We don't take ourselves totally seriously, but we do want people to know we actually work really hard at doing this, and sometimes the ups and downs can be tough to roll with."
"Diggin' Your Scene," too, is something of a love/hate tale. Camp explains: "That song's about things you love and can't live without that can nonetheless kill you. It's mostly about a particular relationship, but I compare the relationship to drugs - people can be like drugs you're addicted to." "Then the Morning Comes," on the other hand, addresses what may be a more universal topic: the morning after. "If you've ever been on a tour bus, you've seen what happens - it's crazy," Greg attests. "And you drink and do stupid things and you wake up the next day and go, 'What was I thinking?' Of course I was doing that long before we started going on the road, and I'm sure I'll be doing it long afterward." Continuing in this "human nature" vein, Camp says of "Defeat You," a band favorite: "It's about people trying to get ahead - and stepping on the people in front of them to get there. We all have that instinct, whether it's when we're driving or going for the last carton of milk at the store or whatever. It's natural. Some people use it and other's abuse it. This is about the latter."
Admitting he was in a "dark" mood when "Defeat You" tumbled out of his head, Camp is perhaps closer to his natural emotional/philosophical state with "I Just Wanna See." "We have a house up in the mountains, and it's really super quiet up there," he explains. "When you go from the hustle and bustle of touring - all those crazy places - it's good to sit up in the mountains, out on the deck, and just listen to the wind. You don't even want to know why the wind's blowing or why the bugs are making their noises or anything else - you just want to sit there and listen and not question any of it. 'I Just Wanna See' is the 'stop and smell the roses' song of the '90s."
With Astro Lounge poised to become one of the biggest records of 1999 - its remaining songs address such shared modern concerns as relationship regrets ("Waste"), losing a friend ("Fallen Horses"), confronting slackers ("Come On Come On"), mind alteration ("Stoned"), and UFOs ("Who's There") - Smash Mouth would do well to smell a few roses themselves.