After 12 years together as a band and nearly 10 years after emerging on the national scene with their first number one hit, Walkin’ on the Sun, all three co-founding members – Steve Harwell, Greg Camp, and Paul DeLisle – are as tight today as they were the day they first jammed together in their hometown of San Jose.
“That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of,” says DeLisle. “We’re brothers. We’re all very close, especially Steve and Greg and I cause we’ve been together for so long, but also (keyboardist Michael) Hippy (Klooster) and (percussionist) Mark (Cervantes) and lets not forget our new drummer Jason (Sutter).”
“No matter what happens we all just want to make music and hang out with each other,” adds Camp. “We get together and all of a sudden we just have such a blast.”
Collectively the band has sold more than 10 million albums worldwide. Along with their number one hits – Walkin’ on the Sun and All Star – they have consistently impacted radio with other recognizable hits like Then the Morning Comes, Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby, and a cover of The Monkees classic I’m a Believer, which was prominently featured on the Shrek soundtrack (#4, Billboard Adult Top 40).
A quick listen to their music and you realize the multi-platinum Smash Mouth is a 60s influenced garage band with a keen pop sensibility that maintains a timeless quality…a style they have created and that is all their own.
Having long since established itself as the ultimate true-to-life California party-band the vibe surrounding Smash Mouth is indeed – at its core – about having fun.
“When we play it’s a nonstop party,” Harwell said.
With the release of their fifth studio album – Summer Girl – the guys decided to part ways with their longtime label, Interscope, in order to form their own company, Beautiful Bomb Records, and put forth the lessons they’ve learned by self-releasing the new material with the help of Red Distribution (Sony/BMG). By releasing Summer Girl on their own, the band is making good on a decade long promise of doing things their own way.
“Now we’re on a mission,” implores Harwell, “to make this kick ass. We learned a lot by being spoiled on a major label, but I told the guys that if we do this we’re gonna have to work harder than we’ve ever worked in our career…and, now, we’re looking forward to hitting it hard.”
Summer Girl is already generating steam – the first single Story of My Life is already in the Top 20 at Hot AC; and their forthcoming second single So Insane is featured on the soundtrack for the major motion picture Zoom starring Tim Allen and Courtney Cox.
Summer Girl has the groove and style that everyone has come to expect from Smash Mouth. Featuring a myriad of topics, the new effort is thought to be something of an amalgamation of their first two efforts – Fush Yu Mang (June ’97) and Astro Lounge (June ’99) – but as Camp points out “it’s got a bunch of stuff we want to hear on it and stuff we feel our fans want to hear.”
Camp, who produced three tracks from Summer Girl at a studio – Halfway to Hell – he built in Santa Cruz, is the group’s primary songwriter and made sure to keep the “playfulness” in the music while giving it a real lyrical depth.
It took a long time for the guys to finish Summer Girl – more than two years to be exact – and so there’s no denying there’s a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears that can be heard, but at the end of the day the entire band admits that when they sit back and listen to the new album, they can’t help but to feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.
“The band has grown over the years and has reached a level of maturity and clarity,” according to Harwell, who is also launching a kids clothing line – Mr. Mouth – along with a line of kids tennis shoes next spring called Smashers. “This is what we do and we’re going to keep doing it. We can still go out and throw a party every night only now we do it without the hangover the next day.”
Finding the right drummer to fit within the existing framework of Smash Mouth was important. It’s a tricky gig for “the guy.” Not only were they in need of someone who understood a wide range of styles – everything from punk to ska to rock – but he also needed to have the “hang factor,” which is the one intangible that cannot be described.
Ironically, Jason Sutter (The Rembrandts/American Hi-Fi), who was referred by a mutual friend, was the last guy to audition for the band.
“They had guys come in from all over the country. I didn’t get a call until the last minute, so I almost didn’t get a chance to audition,” recalls Sutter, before adding. “It’s the easiest gig I ever walked into because they’re so good. Playing with them requires some precision, but with reckless abandon and stamina.”
According to the rest of the band, Sutter’s playing has made a real difference and provided Smash Mouth with a newfound sense of energy.
“He’s a real hard hitter,” explains DeLisle, who is currently writing a book about the band, “but his tempos are really even. It almost seems like he’s going to lose it, but he never does.”
“I always thought I was in shape,” adds Camp, “and now I’m like, ‘oh my God, I need to go jogging or something to keep up with this guy.’
“He’s definitely a rock and roll drummer. We’ve had guys in the past who have been into punk or speed metal or even country, but this guy is like John Bonham. He really took the songs we had and made them so much more rockin’ and we had to step up our rock thing to kind of make it all make sense: whether it’s singing harder or louder or making things more distorted.”
Sutter put it best, “It’s not a new beginning, but a new era” for Smash Mouth.
After Sutter officially joined the band in March of this year, they went back into the studio to re-cut a number of the tracks – Girl Like You, Right Side Wrong Bed, Story of My Life and the new single So Insane – with longtime producer Eric Valentine (Good Charlotte/Queens of the Stone Age/Third Eye Blind).
Valentine was not only instrumental in helping Smash Mouth secure their first record deal, but as their producer he also helped create their unique sound and as a result the first two albums established Smash Mouth as one of the most viable pop-influenced bands of the late 90s.
“He’s like the fifth member of our band,” Camp says.
Reuniting with Valentine isn’t the only move Smash Mouth has made toward recapturing its early success. They recently talked with famed director McG, who just so happened to get his start by directing their early videos before helming summer blockbusters like Charlie’s Angels and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle as well as The OC. Although he has numerous projects in the works, McG has agreed to direct the video for their second single So Insane.
“I still firmly believe that music can be the way it used to be,” Harwell adds. “Like Van Halen said, ‘Where have all the good times gone?’ It’s like what happened to that? Well, we’re bringing that back!”
Fans will no doubt have a chance to share “the good times” with Harwell and the rest of his colorful cast of cronies as Smash Mouth traipses across the country from coast to coast in support of the newly released Summer Girl.
“You can’t miss the live show,” states DeLisle, who later declares, “The live show completes the entire package. Recordings are only one part of the whole. This band must be seen to be believed. It’s a nonstop party that we put on nightly. If we’re coming to your town it’s a party you won’t want to miss. It’s unique, it’s ours, we created it and there’s no one else like us.”