Grammy-nominated phenomenon Smash Mouth reached pop-rock stardom unlike any other band in the 90s.
With hits like All Star, Then The Morning Comes, Can’t Get Enough of You Baby, and I’m a Believer (later featured in the film Shrek), the band is easily recognized amongst all ages for its catchy tunes and fun lyrics.
Although the band’s longtime frontman Steve Harwell, 56, died in September, the band continues to bring their megahits to the stage with as much vigor and fun – as if nearly 30 years hasn’t passed since they stepped out into the pop-rock spotlight.
Paul Delisle, original co-founder, bass player, and songwriter, chatted with Backstage SoCal before they perform the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 6.
How did each of you get started in music, and what led to the formation of Smash Mouth? What original members are still in the band?
We all played in different cover bands growing up in the San Jose Bay Area so we all knew each other. Steve started the idea of forming an original band and recruited Greg and I. Right after we got signed we added Michael Klooster on Keyboard so he’s basically an original member along with myself. Sean Hurwitz on guitar and Randy Cooke on drums have been in the band for over 10 years now.
Can you share any early musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Greg and I liked punk and surf stuff along with 80s Modern Rock and Steve liked Van Halen and stuff like that.
The number one question all will want to know is how are you holding up after the loss of Steve Harwell?
We are doing good because we were sorta told a year ago this was on the forefront. He retired from the band late 2021 so we’ve been moving full throttle keeping the Smash Mouth brand alive in his honor. At the same time it still feels totally weird he’s gone and we’ll cherish the moment we meet-up again.
How are your shows pivoting without Steve’s presence?
Super weird at first but really the credit goes to Zach our new singer. He totally “gets it” and because he’s so prepared it’s been seamless. Zach is a tad younger than us too so we’ve been injected with new energy.
Cerritos Center For the Performing Arts:
What is your audience going to experience at Cerritos Center?
A very fast-paced set with a ton of recognizable hit songs. We released the classic cover song by Rick Astley “Never Gonna Give You Up” in 2022 with Zach on vocals and it’s been a nice addition to our live show.
“All Star” is one of your most iconic songs. What was the inspiration behind it, and did you anticipate it becoming such a cultural phenomenon?
Our original Guitar Player and my great friend Greg Camp wrote that. As he explains, it’s a song about the kids who get bullied and how the odds are against them and it’s an anthem for them to say F it and go for it antways. He then correlated that with the environment and how as humans we are treating it like bullies and how it must rise above the abuse because there’s no choice. As far as it’s success, we knew we had a hit song but had no idea it would become one of the most popular songs ever.
How has the success of “All Star” impacted your career and the band’s identity?
It’s been a financial windfall and continues to be and the song put us on a level most 90s bands can’t even see. The songs remains cool and fresh and that’s very difficult to accomplish. Just like THE CARS, you listen to their first LP and it’s still super fresh to the ears.
Your music has evolved over the years. How would you describe the progression of Smash Mouth’s sound from your early days to now?
The songwriting method is the same. What has changed is production, current sounds etc,. Our new song “Underground Sun” carries all the early Smash Mouth elements.
What is your favorite aspect of performing live, and do you have any memorable onstage moments or stories to share?
We started this new thing where we stop playing in the middle of “I’m A Believer” and the crowd takes over the vocals. The energy is amazing!
How do you keep your live shows fresh and engaging for both longtime fans and new audiences? We switch up the set lists and we’re releasing new songs so we just added our new single “Underground Sun”. If the crowd keeps roaring after our last song we may come back on stage and slip in a Van Halen cover.
What does it mean to you to share the stage with Spin Doctors? Are there any artists or bands you’d love to collaborate with in the future?
The Spin Docs are rad and they carry that energy on stage. We’d love to be on a Hard Rock Festival and rock out harder on all of our songs but they won’t let us. Heck, we supported NSYNC way back when so we’re open to everything. Twenty One Pilots fans are great and heck we’d open for The Biebs, why not!
Are there any upcoming albums, tours, or other projects that fans can look forward to?
We are working on a Holiday album that will be released in time for this year and we’re working on an original LP by slow releasing one single at a time. We have a new one we’re excited about titled RIDE ON you’ll hear soon.
Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 18000 Park Plaza Drive, Cerritos
Date: 8 p.m. Oct. 6
Tickets: $59 – $119
More info: cerritoscenter.com