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Q&A: Smash Mouth

The guys behind classics like "I'm a Believer," "All Star," and 'Walkin' on the Sun" will be bringing an arsenal of belters to the Skyline Event Center for some nostalgic singalongs.

G.K. Hizer
February 28, 2019

If you’re listening to a ‘90s hits station on Pandora or Spotify, chances are it won’t be long before you hear Smash Mouth. By following up the initial hit single “Walkin’ on the Sun” with a pair of even bigger hits, “All Star” and “Then the Morning Comes” on the band’s sophomore album, Astro Lounge, Smash Mouth became a staple of rock radio in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.

Although the group hasn’t been in the spotlight recently, it never went away, following up with a handful of records and touring every summer. The band even released an acoustic reworking of their debut album, Fush Yu Mang, last year to celebrate that album and present those songs in a fresh manner.

We caught up with bassist and founding member Paul De Lisle ahead of the band’s March 23 appearance at the Skyline Events Center at Osage Casino Hotel.

Q. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Astro Lounge. Do you have anything special planned?
A. In June 1999 we released Astro Lounge, which was our most successful album and probably the zenith of our recording career at that point. We’ve got a new remix of “All Star,” and I just finished a program for the tour. It’s a mini book that I wrote. It focuses on what it’s been like for the band for the last 20 years and the making of the album.

Also, our guitarist, Greg Camp, wasn’t in the band for several years, but he’s back and I’m really excited about it. Except for the drummer [Randy Cooke], this is the original band, which will be fun. This year is mostly about Astro Lounge and celebrating that history.

Q. How do you deal with chemistry changes within the band?
A. Well, first of all, Randy Cooke has been in the band for a good five years now, and the job is his as long as he wants to stick around. As a bass player, the drummer is the most important player for me to be able to lock in with. Since our original drummer [Kevin Coleman] left [in 1999], I just consider myself lucky that I’ve been able to play with some world-class drummers. We’ve had some of the best drummers in the world play with us. I’m not the best bass player, so I just kind of let them lead me, and it’s been great. They may not be household names to average fans, but within the drum world they are, so that’s been great and made it really easy. Randy is one of the best drummers to ever come out of Canada, and it wasn’t on his resume, but he’s arguably the best singer in the band.

Q. How has the return of Greg Camp affected the band?
A. Having Greg back has really been a boon for us. It’s given us a boost of energy. No one sounds like him. He’s got a really special tone and the way that he plays makes him an extremely underrated guitarist in my book.

His influences aren’t the typical ones. He’s always been into The Ventures, Dick Dale and Link Wray, which I think makes him a real unique player. We just like old sounds. We used to go to this old punk club on Lounge Lizard night, and they’d be playing bachelor pad music. We thought, “What if we combined punk with bachelor-pad music?” That’s what we were going for and kind of how we found our sound.

Q. With digital distribution and streaming music, the music industry has changed and perhaps moved back to being more singles driven. How has that affected how the band approaches creating new music?
A. These days, it’s really about distribution. When we originally signed, we were with Interscope on a two-record deal. Then they gave us a two-record extension. After that, we formed our own label, Beautiful Bomb, that we released our Christmas album and Summer Girl on. Now, distribution is the key. We’re just looking for a good deal and good distribution.

As far as moving to things being singles driven, I kind of like that because we’ve always been a singles band. I like recording and we’re constantly in the studio doing stuff, so we kind of look at it like let’s record and let the suits sort it out.

Q. With your string of hit singles, you’ve also had a few hits and songs on soundtracks.
A. At the time, not a whole lot of thought went into it. I remember for Shrek, we were already in the studio and our manager came in and asked if we knew “I’m a Believer”? We knocked it out in about 20 minutes and forgot about it, then suddenly we had a huge hit.

I honestly think we’re good at taking other songs and making them our own. They’re different enough to sound like us, but close enough to the original. The original bands usually seem to like our versions. I think it also helps that we usually pick fairly obscure songs that kind of become part of our oeuvre, if you will.

Q. You’ve been touring pretty consistently for over 20 years now.
A. The funny thing is, Steve [Harwell, lead singer] and I never stopped. We’d go on these long tours and then a bunch of new venues open up. I never really thought it would last this long, but I’m glad it has.

I think the main thing for us is that we’re all still friends. It’s really nice having Greg back with us as well, because he’s one of my best friends and that makes it even more fun. We’re in the position that we get to sit down at the end of the year and kind of mold our schedule. We’re not touring nonstop, so we get to spend time with our families. Like today, I’m taking my daughter to tennis lessons. We can tour seasonally and it’s still lucrative, so we’re in the lucky position where we can kind of pave our own path and not go broke.

Smash Mouth
Skyline Event Center | Osage Casino Hotel
951 W. 36th St. N. | Tulsa
March 23: 8 p.m.
Must be 18 or older to attend