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
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
"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
"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