Smash Mouth Confront Crisis, But Keep The Party Rollin'

Band readies new self-titled album, shoots splashy video for 'Pacific Coast Party.'

What's not to love about the splashy video for Smash Mouth's new single,

"Pacific Coast Party"? It's got zipping jet skis, vixens with hula hoops,

clear-blue ocean shots and a busty babe clad in an American flag bikini. As

successful as the patriotic "Party" vid might be, though, it wasn't the band's first

choice.

Originally, Smash Mouth were planning to work with director McG ("Charlie's

Angels," Sugar Ray) and an all-star roster of celebs. But at the last minute,

McG canceled the shoot to work on the upcoming film "Dreadnaught."

"That totally sucked," vocalist Steve Harwell said in a recent phone

interview. "We went to L.A. and sat down with him, and we came up with this

crazy treatment. It was the most over-the-top cameo appearance treatment

you'd ever see in your life. We were trying to get Travolta to do this

dance scene. We wanted him to come back and do it and put the

["Saturday Night Fever"] suit on. He's trying to get in a movie that McG's

doing , so we were gonna try to pull the favor. But then McG couldn't do it

and this other treatment came along by this new guy Tryon George, which was

really cool, too. So we went with that."

Harwell described the song as the band's version of "West Coast disco," and

said he's pleased that the sweeping strings and funk-fueled guitars are a

departure from Smash Mouth's trademark alt-surf-pop sound. At the same time,

he's worried that the group's fans might not be ready for the sudden

directional shift.

"I just hope it works for everybody else because it's a little different for

us," Harwell said. "You put that on, and you're like, 'Who's this!?!' But I

like the challenge of having something so different coming from us because I

love to f--- with people. And something like this throws everyone in a

tizzy. The thing is, we can't keep giving them the same thing over and over. People are gonna get bored. We can't give you 200 'Walkin' on the Sun's and 200 'All Star's. Those

were great songs, but this is a great song, too."

As much of a romp as "Pacific Coast Party" is, it's not completely

indicative of the rest of the band's new self-titled album, which comes out

November 27. Sure, Smash Mouth are still a party band at heart, but they're

no longer whooping it up 24-7. Much of that has to do with the hardships

they've endured since they stopped touring for their last LP, Astro

Lounge. There have been the pressures of creating another hit record, the

departure of drummer Kevin Coleman (who was replaced by Michael

Urband), the devastating loss of Harwell's son Presley Scott to lymphatic

leukemia in July (see "Smash Mouth Singer's Infant Son Dies") and the recent horrors of September 11.

"I've been through a world of sh-- lately," Harwell said with a sigh. "We have a song

on the new album called 'Out of Sight,' and that kind of starts out where I'm

saying that there's all this bullsh-- going on, but that we can deal with

it. You know, for everybody that's been killed and everyone that lost their

lives and people that have lost family members, [I feel like] the ones that

are gone are okay, and everything's gonna be alright. It just makes you

think a little bit."

Another song on the record, "Sister Psychic," is about late night TV

prognosticator Miss Cleo, though the track also leaves room for pause and reflection.

"There's a line in there that goes, 'Are we in our finest hour or headed for

disaster,' Harwell said. "It's kind of weird because every song on this

record fits what's going on in the world right now."

In times of crisis, Harwell copes with emotional turmoil by immersing

himself in his work, which explains why he only canceled two shows after his

son died.

"I was just going crazy at home," he explained. "Especially when it

happened. It sucked for my girlfriend because she wasn't able to come out

with us on the road, but at the same time, she knew I had to get out and

start playing shows and get back to work and just try to make people feel

good. That's what I'm trying to do — just put a smile on everybody's face

just for two hours out of the day. If that's all I can do, that's worth it

to me."