Guinness, U2 and the Mob

band photo from CD booklet

Smash Mouth bassist Paul DeLisle

Interview by Alphonse Leong

With a bold sound that reminds you of Bob Marley, the Clash and the Ramones all at once, Smash Mouth are quickly gaining fans and decent reviews across the US. They've even managed to secure some dates opening for U2, including the December 9th Vancouver show at GM Place. So, with Ottawa-born bassist Paul DeLisle on the phone from Gary, Indiana, I've gotta ask right up front: How'd they get on the U2 bill?

"I have no idea! We still don't know! No, it was just through our agency. [U2] want to take out different, new, up and coming bands... we're not on the whole tour, we just have seven or eight dates with them. It's funny, the first time we played with them was on Halloween night, and we all were dressed up like old, ugly women, we were going to go on like that! So they came backstage and saw us, and they were like, 'Oh, no, what the hell are these guys...!?' They're good guys, they got us a case of Guinness."

And U2's audience? "They were nice, polite... though they weren't jumping up and down for us or anything like that! You know, it's funny, we weren't nervous at all. And the whole tour is very well run, incredibly smooth and efficient."

Enough about those Irishmen. Smash Mouth's debut CD, Fush Yu Mang, features a funky single, "Walkin' on the Sun," that is getting some major airplay. "[Guitarist Greg Camp] wrote that, like four years ago, when he and I were in another band, but it was a different kind of a song, more of a rap song. Our drummer [Kevin Coleman] sometimes asked Greg for some of his old tapes so he could kind of rehearse to them, and he heard that song, and said we said we got to do it. That was the last song that made it to the record. Thank God it did!"

cover of 'Fush Yu Mang' Many of the songs are funny anecdotes about things like a girlfriend calling out her own girlfriend's name out at inopportune times ("Flo") and getting swiftly evicted due to over-partying ("Heave-Ho"). Are they real personal experiences? "'Heave-Ho' is pretty much a word-for-word true story about a party that Greg had at his house on a Sunday afternoon. I don't know what else to say, it's absolutely true, every word of it -- I was there! I think 'Flo' is a situation that Greg had a few years ago..." he trails off, laughing.

But "Padrino," with its gangster imagery, can't be fact-based, can it? As the songs says, "I know it's not a wise thing to do / Writing funny songs about the Mob." Well, they're still alive, says Paul: "That one's just a fun song that Kevin suggested. He said, 'We should invent this new style of music: Mafia Rock!' Kevin and Greg are really into mobster movies like Scarface, Goodfellas and all those."

The whole disk has an appealing raucous and unfettered feel. "When we went to make the record, we were unsigned and we fully intended to go and make our own record and release it ourselves. So we didn't have anyone breathing down our necks or looking over our shoulders telling us what to do. They [Interscope] released it exactly how it was; they didn't even change the song order."

Has it been surprising how quickly the band has progressed? "Oh yeah, I was very surprised. [Vocalist Steve Harwell] and Greg and our manager went down to L.A. to shop the record. I was actually on the coast camping for like a week and I didn't know anything was going on, until I got home and had twenty messages on the answering machine, each one more urgent than the last: Like, 'Dude, something's happening.' ... 'Dude, you gotta get home!' ... 'Dude, you won't believe what's happening!!'"

"I got home and my whole life just changed. In our hometown, in San Jose, we weren't a very popular band, you know, we didn't have crowds. Once we got signed, that changed everything, especially when we got on the radio... we went from being nobodies to somebodies pretty quickly."

Smash Mouth will be opening for U2 at GM Place on Tuesday, December 9th.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on November 28, 1997

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