Smash Mouth make it to Australia

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: California's Smash Mouth, with co-founder and vocalist Steve Harwell (front right) are heading to the Hunter.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: California's Smash Mouth, with co-founder and vocalist Steve Harwell (front right) are heading to the Hunter.

Smash Mouth never quite made it to Australia. 

Their hit single All Star spent 19 weeks in the ARIA charts in 1999 and Walkin’ on the Sun an impressive 21 weeks in 1997.

But fate prevented them from meeting their Australian fan base.

“Well, 9/11 was one [reason],” singer Steve Harwell says from his studio in America.

“We couldn’t fly anywhere, because the tour was right around that time.

“And there were two personal things in the band that prevented us from going.

“It’s been so unfortunate man, I’ve been wanting to come there forever.

“I know we have a lot of fans there and it kills me that we’ve never been able to make it.

“Now it’s confirmed, I’m really happy.

“Everybody [in Smash Mouth] is really excited.”

The San Jose, California, band has sold over 10 million records and played stadiums around the world, but Hunter fans will have the chance to see them in the intimacy of the Cambridge Hotel.

Harwell says that Smash Mouth’s most popular material will be in their Aussie setlists – songs like Why Can’t We Be Friends, I Can’t Get Enough of You Baby and I’m a Believer – and a few new songs from last year’s record Magic.

And that the band will make every show count.

“We’re going to play some new stuff and we’re going to play a lot of old stuff,” Harwell promises.

“It’s going to be a fun show.

“We’ll have four songs off the new record – we’ll do Magic and Flippin’ Out – plus all the hits and some really cool stuff that our ­hardcore fans were requesting on past tours and we weren’t playing.

“We’ll definitely play something off every record.

“If we’re having fun, then you guys will have fun.

“It’s going to be a big party.”

And the band’s female fans should take note.

“Thank God I’m single now, so I can come down [to Australia] and have fun,” Harwell says.

Smash Mouth formed in 1994.

Harwell had performed in a rap group, but decided to create a new musical project.

He recruited guitarist Greg Camp and bassist Paul de Lisle, and a school friend – drummer Kevin Coleman.

Smash Mouth created a hybrid sound of ska, surf rock, pop, new wave, rap and punk.

“It totally came out of jamming and ­developing, because when we started I was so raw and young,” Harwell says.

“Greg and Paul were seasoned veterans in the local music scene.

“My drummer at the time, Kevin, and I used to play in garage bands when we were in high school and junior high. 

"We were just young and drinking and ­partying and loved jamming.

“We started writing whatever we were ­feeling.”

A record deal was inevitable when Smash Mouth wrote Walkin’ On The Sun, the lead ­single from their debut record Fush Yu Mang in 1997.

The song – and the band’s sound – was refined and moulded by producer Eric Valentine.

“It really came together for us when Eric Valentine, our producer, came into the band,” Harwell recalls.

“I call him ‘the fifth Beatle’ because he’s so instrumental to our sound. 

“He literally came in weeks before we ­started making the record and said ‘Hey, we’re not going into the studio until we fine-tune everything and tweak it and get it right.

“We made the record in a month, I think – it was pretty quick because we were so on our game.

“I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what our sound was yet, but after Walkin’ on the Sun we knew.

“After that song our sound was established – we were a Southern-fun, 60s-influenced punk rock band.

“[The sound] just kept getting better.

“[Second album Astro Lounge] was when people could say, ‘Ok, this is them’.”

As is evident on new album Magic, Harwell isn’t interested in reinventing the group’s sound.

“If we try to get away from that [style] people would wonder what we’re trying to do,” Harwell says.

“I’m not going to try and fix something that ain’t broke.

“Personally, I love our sound.

“There’s so much music out there that sounds the same.

“The older you get, the better you get.

“We’re still getting better, so I can’t ask for anything more.”

Magic has Smash Mouth’s ­distinct flavour and contains their trademark humour and youthful exuberance.

“When I started the record, I wanted to concentrate on writing really great pop songs – radio-friendly stuff that I knew people would want to hear,” Harwell explains.

“And I wanted to keep some of the traditional Smash Mouth sound – I call it ‘candy’.

“There’s a candy side of it that people love, because we put all these quirky little things on our songs and it’s become our sound.

“I had a blast making [the record].”

Harwell admits that he hears people trying to imitate Smash Mouth, but no one delivers their style as effectively.

“I’m the first to say that we’re the only band out there that sounds like us,” Harwell says.

“I’ve heard a few people and bands try to go there.

“Our producer Eric Valentine was doing an All-American Rejects album and there is a song that’s such a Smash Mouth rip-off, but that’s because he has worked with us forever.

“And there’s a new Blink 182 [Boxing Day] and if you listen to the verse, the melody of the verse is exactly the melody of the verse in All Star – note for note.

“It’s a blatant rip-off.

“So we go onto their page and they’re getting all these tweets, like ‘Great song – nice try ripping off Smash Mouth’.

“Even their own fans were ­ripping them off.

“But that’s kind of flattering too.”

Smash Mouth’s recent album, Magic, was released six years after its predecessor, 2006’s Summer Girl.

One of the major reasons for this gap was the departure of Camp, who had been a driving songwriting force in the group.

“We were still touring, but Greg had stepped away,” Harwell explains of the period following Summer Girl.

“Him and I were at a point where we weren’t seeing eye to eye.

“It was the best thing for us, because it was starting to affect our shows.

“I don’t want to walk on stage and fake it.”

But Harwell stresses that the door is always open for Camp to return and that the two have recently been in contact again.

“The cool thing is that we haven’t talked in a long time and he just texted me, about six days ago,” Harwell says.

“It was a nice text telling me that ‘I miss you guys, I miss the music and I really miss making great music with you’.

“So I texted him back and said, ‘Hey man, we miss you too, we talk about you all the time. 

“I said, ‘I’ve wanted you back from the day you left – would you consider coming back to the band?’

“And he said, ‘Yeah, let’s talk’.

“We haven’t had that ­conversation yet, but I miss him – he’s like a brother.

“We’ve been in a band almost 20 years together and he’s kind of an extension of me.

“The kid we have playing [guitar] – this kid named Sean Hurwitz – he plays like Greg, sings like Greg – even looks like Greg.

“He’s amazing – the band sounds so damn good.

“All the shows we’ve played this year, I haven’t wanted to get off stage.

“It’s fun again.

“But, in the near future, of course I would love to have Greg back.

“I want to finish my career with the guy, it’s too early [to be apart] – we’ve got too much rock ‘n’ roll to make.”

Smash Mouth performs at the Cambridge Hotel on Sunday, March 10.

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This story Smash Mouth make it to Australia first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.


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