When Smash Mouth broke out onto the music scene, their form of rock garnered them the reputation of being a season-of the-sun party band but distinctive none the less blending ska influence with a pop sound. Smash Mouth continued to break barriers with their debut, Fush Yu Mang, which went double platinum and the genius follow-up, Astro Lounge, giving way to three top-ten hits; All-Star, Then the Morning Comes and Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby. They provided the memorable cover of The Monkees’, I’m a Believer, for the Shrek soundtrack and have traveled the world performing for U.S. troops overseas.
Smash Mouth’s newest venture, Magic, hits the digital world and what’s left of the “brick and mortar” storefronts on September 4, 2012 and the first single, Magic, already debuted on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at #26. Magic, has a much more mature sound yet definitely contains songs with that old school vibe for the die hard fans. When lead vocalist, Steve Harwell, got a day and a half off to himself, he grabbed a fishing pole and headed to Northern California, near Mount Shasta, for some bass fishing and good conversation to discuss Magic and Smash Mouth in general.
“The song, Live To Love, is very ‘old School,” says Harwell with a smile, “and when we were making the record, another writer friend of mine came in to write something very old school, I actually, personally didn’t care for the song too much; after it was produced and mixed I was surprisingly shocked at how catchy raw and cool it is. It kind of reminds me of an old Smithereens’ track. All of our real hard core fans and people that I’ve been playing it for, they’re saying, ‘Oh that’s cool; that’s old school Smash Mouth.’ We’ve gotten nothing but great reviews as far as I’m concerned! We have a few new members on this record and I felt it was time for us to move it forward with fresh energy; this record basically is one of my favorites; I love it but I also want to give something back to our original fans which is why we wrote Live to Love. It, has that old Smash Mouth feel. I’ll never forget, after we got signed, I was living in my local home town and not a lot of people really knew who I was; you know my face wasn’t out there constantly. Our new video had just come out for Walk On The Sun but I worked at Tower Records and I’ll never forget this moment; there were three girls standing at the counter with our record and there was nothing left in the bin—we had sold out already. And we were walking out of the store behind them, me and my manager and you could see them trying to open that CD has quickly as they could. So I walked up to the window of the car, and said, ‘I hope you enjoy that.’ and all these girls just looked at me, like, ‘Oh my God, he’s standing right here!’ That was one of the coolest moments of my career.”
If there’s one thing Smash Mouth does well, it would be the covers they’ve done of other artist’s music; each song just as good as or better than the other. Their fans have grown accustom to at least one cover with a new release and Smash Mouth did not disappoint with Simple Minds’, Don’t You Forget about Me. The minute the song starts, visions of actor, Judd Nelson, walking across the football field fill the room as do the compliments on their version. “You know that song was recorded six years ago, with our original producer,” says Harwell in a humbled voice. “I was just always trying to get it on a record cause we have probably three or four albums of material that we never put out (that we recorded) so I wanted to put it out because we always do covers; that’s sort of our signature thing—we always do at least one cover and I finally got to put it on there and I think it just works great! And we’ve been playing that one live too; not lately but everybody knows the song and it’s my favorite movie of all time, basically it’s the summertime and once you hear that song you instantly think summertime!”
Getting your music placed in TV, film and commercials is always an honor and cements a certain song in your mind when you remember the movie and vice versa. Look what the movie, Shrek, did for I’m A Believer and All Star. When it comes to contributing to film, Smash Mouth is always in demand. “We won’t do anything until the record actually comes out; but we get requests constantly,” states Harwell. “And we actually gave the album to a few people and everybody asks, ‘hey can we use this, or can I use that’ so we’re just trying to hold out on the information until the record comes out. We’ve done good work; I love working with soundtracks for film– I wouldn’t pass it up for the world, I mean, that’s where we’ve been really successful and at the same time we’ve been really fortunate to get the phone call. A lot of people love to use our stuff for commercials, movies and sports stuff. You know, I used to get a lot of flack for that back in the day; everybody’s calling you a sell-out but I really don’t care, I’ll ‘sell-out’ all day to get our music out there. It only benefits us so we’re super fortunate to have that—we’re probably one of the more licensed artists in the world, actually I think we are the most licensed artists out there. I can’t complain. I call that mailbox money…that’s what I call it, because it just shows up in your mailbox; not a bad thing to have.”
Not only is Smash Mouth releasing a new CD, they’ve also put out a cookbook. Recipes From The Road, is a unique way for the guys to salute their love of food and the stories of the places they’ve visited and the people they break bread with as well as candid road photos, and guest recipes from pop icons such as Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives), Sammy Hagar (Van Halen), Jerome Bettis (Pittsburgh Steelers), and Michael Symon (Iron Chef, the Chew). “You’re gonna love this book!” laughs Harwell. “Guy Fieri is a really good friend of mine and it’s nice to have him write the forward for the book. It’s basically a coffee table book with great recipes from every where I’ve been (we’ve been) all over the country but every town we’ve got in the book; there’s a really funny story to it so it’s definitely going to make you laugh—put it that way; it’s going to taste good and make you laugh at the end of the day. These are actual recipes from the places we ate, while on the road, a lot of chefs I know and just places we’ve been to but I actually created one sandwich; called ‘the Smash Mouth’ and it’s got pulled pork, coleslaw, jalapeno’s and all the stuff I like to eat so I think you’ll like that one. You know this is a great year for us; it’s been a long time coming and there are just too many good things right now and I, I can’t complain.”
Smash Mouth is always touring throughout the U.S. and with the release of Magic; they’re getting ready to head out yet again across the globe and hopefully perform again for the troops; something that’s very close to Harwell’s heart. “I’m all about that and I had the best time of my life,” states Harwell. “We were able to play on the U.S. George Bush aircraft carrier; we went out, got to travel across the sea and we got to take off from an aircraft carrier which is the most amazing thing you’ll ever see. We entertained 5,000 troops on a boat about 1,000 miles out to sea. We went to Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, Afghanistan… you know you just don’t realize what people do for us and it’s just an honor; I mean its rough livin’. I will tell you that, especially in Afghanistan; I mean you literally live in the dirt. We got to stay in one of Sadam’s palaces for a couple of days and it was kind of creepy; you know the U.S. had taken over. Yeah, it was way creepy and apparently I didn’t get to go but they took the rest of the guys into like, there was an indoor pool in part of the palace and apparently on the side of the wall next to the pool where the water comes in and filters through, it’s disgusting but there was blood all over the side of the pool. And across the way, he built his own lake on his property and he’d shut the water off to people for days and days; he was just a freak.”
“But I will say this about our military, basically everybody eats very well there, everybody looks out for each other and every troop you meet or soldier, even if they lost their leg, you hear them ask to go right back. It’s such a brotherhood and hard to explain.”
As morning gives way to afternoon, Harwell decides that not only will he catch some bass but possibly some Jack Daniels as well; and secure in the fact that it just takes a little “magic” to brighten his day.