Being Steve Harwell can’t be easy. Sure, his band Smash Mouth has enjoyed a long and successful career—scoring major radio hits with two original tunes and a string of catchy covers. But the locally-bred singer has also had to defend his band at nearly every turn.
First, the hate came from fellow musicians in his hometown—“We weren’t so well liked in San Jose,” the band’s bassist and founding member Paul DeLisle says. “I don’t know what it was. People thought that we were fake punk or something. Maybe they weren’t sure about Steve or something.”
In the early days of Smash Mouth, the band rehearsed in a studio downtown and “played the Cactus Club a lot,” DeLisle says. Still, they also regularly booked gigs in Hollywood, where they found crowds were much more receptive to their sunny, carefree sound. “It doesn’t seem that long ago; 20 years went by fast.”
Once the band took off, Smash Mouth were regularly skewered by critics. Many bloggers have taken to identifying Harwell with the dripping-in-derision moniker, “the guy from Smash Mouth”—the not-so-subtle suggestion being that he and his group have always been forgettable.
Still, the band has persisted. Their pair of original singles, “All Star” and “Walking On The Sun,” continue to get airplay to this day—and according to DeLisle, no one in the group has had to work a day job in well over a decade.
Speaking on the phone from Hawaii on June 3, DeLisle is clearly upbeat about being in the band, and he is genuinely stoked about the upcoming tour, which features two other late-’90s alternative acts, Toad The Wet Sprocket and Tonic.
“It’s unreal,” he says. “Steve and I talk about this, and we say, ‘Wow it’s been 20 years.’” DeLisle goes on to say that he has “no problem” with the idea of becoming an “oldies act.”
“It’s an honor,” he says. “If you make it that far, to be an oldies act, you should be proud of that.”
One has to wonder then—if things are so peachy keen in the Smash Mouth camp—if the group is so blissed-out and high on the crest of their 20-year career wave, what the hell happened in Fort Collins, Colo., this past weekend?
I mean, it’s clear enough what happened. A crowd of concertgoers at the Taste of Fort Collins festival—which was billed as a “family-friendly celebration perfect for Northern Coloradoans’ active lifestyle”—were hammered with a decidedly un-family-friendly barrage of profanity and threats of violence, courtesy of Harwell.
The singer became upset after at least one member of the audience, and maybe more, began throwing slices of bread at the band. (According to USA Today, one of the festival’s booths had been giving away loaves of bread to attendees.)
“You throw one more piece of shit on the fucking stage, I’m gonna come find your ass,” Harwell can be heard saying to the crowd. “I’m gonna beat your ass, whoever the fuck you are out there.”
From there, Harwell continues his foul-mouthed rant—challenging the bread-hurler to a fight on stage. He even goes so far as to enter the crowd with the apparent intent of throwing down.
DeLisle did not immediately return a call seeking comment and the band’s publicist kept things brief, saying “I only know what’s on the video,” and refusing to answer any specific questions.
As of press time, Smash Mouth have not made any official announcements about the incident and are still scheduled to play all their forthcoming dates—including a concert at The Mountain Winery in Saratoga.
The group is currently putting the finishing touches on an as-yet-untitled live album and DeLisle says an official band biography, which he wrote, is coming soon. It will be titled, Walking On The Sun: The Official Bio of Smash Mouth.
DeLisle says he is excited and “nervous” about the book’s release and also says he thinks people will really enjoy Smash Mouth’s live album. “We’re more of a hard-rocking band than people think,” he says.
Here is a much more friendly video of Harwell and Co.
Smash Mouth are slated to play The Mountain Winery on Jun. 24 at 5:30 pm.