Q&A: Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth

The lead singer talks the band's latest album, 'Astro Lounge,' and kicking critical butt

Steve Harwell of Smashmouth performing at Live 105's BFD 1999 at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View Calif. on June 18th, 1999. Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/ImageDirect/Getty

Smash mouth Vocalist Steve Harwell, 32, is a big man and a sweet cookie who's beloved by everyone — except, maybe, the Louisville, Kentucky, Police Department or the critics who declared Smash Mouth a one-hit wonder after the success of their 1997 debut, Fush Yu Mang, and its bopping single, "Walkin' on the Sun." Now the San Jose band — Harwell, guitarist-vocalist Greg Camp, bassist-vocalist Paul De Lisle and drummer Kevin Coleman — is back with a new CD, Astro Lounge, and another hit single, the hip-hoppy "All Star." And Harwell, for one, is ready to kick some critical butt. But first he has to wake up and do an interview from his hotel room in a nameless Kentucky town. Still nestled in bed, he mumbles drowsily, yawns frequently and may or may not be nude.

How are you this morning?

I'm so tired. Our bus got pulled over last night in Louisville. We got strip-searched and a bunch of shit. I was setting off fireworks in front of the bus, then I got stupid and lit some on the bus and had to throw them out the window. We got pulled over by about fifteen cops. Oh, they were pissed. We all jumped in our bunks and pretended we were sleeping. They called the dogs out. We thought, "Oh, fuck. We're going to jail." But they just said, "Don't lie to us; give us all the shit you've got and we'll let you go." This one rookie cop was a big fan of ours. It was great: finally, a fan who could really help us. So they took all our weed and let us go.

They strip-searched you?

They didn't strip us down, but they were, you know, checking every crevice I had.

Did they wiggle their fingers in your orifices?

Stop! It's ten in the morning. Now I'm gonna have nightmares when I go back to sleep. The funny thing is, I told them that some guy came on our bus, lit the fireworks and then ran off. I swear to God, I said that. But if they'd checked, I had a blister on my thumb from lighting fuses.

What other illegal things have you done lately? Do you still shoplift?

Nah. I think about it, though. I like to steal. I usually do it when I'm loaded, but I've been pretty good lately. Last night was enough thrills for a couple of months. My thumb is fucking killing me.

What made you scream when you were a kid?

Probably nuns. I didn't like 'em. They scared me, especially the old-school nuns. I'd go grocery-shopping with my parents and the old-school nuns would be there collecting money. It freaked me out. I'm like, "Fuck this. Turn the station wagon around and get me outta here." That was some weird shit. I'm paranoid of them. Blech. Yech. Wacko. My thumb looks like shit. Next question.

What scares you now?

Getting up in the morning, because you never know what's gonna go on that day. It's scary for a second, then it's exciting. But I don't like to get up. I like sleeping. I took three Tylenol PMs last night. That's why I'm so groggy. That stuff's worse than heroin.

Does this album make you happy?

Fuck, yeah. Last night, right before we got pulled over, we listened to Fush Yu Mang for the first time in about a year. It's a fun record, but the new stuff just feels better, you know? The first one was almost like a speed high, and it kinda pissed me off because I felt that it didn't show even a third of what we were capable of. With this one, I can just kick back and enjoy it. The songs are more spread out, less fast and furious.

More diverse, too. You've got ska, hip-hop, punk....

A lot of people said that we weren't talented enough to do that type of shit. Well, we did it, and I want them to eat their words. We got slagged so much by people who wanted us to fail. Even friends want you to fail. They'd get a good laugh if I fell flat on my face. We did this record to let people know, "Hey, don't fuck with us. We built this team and nobody's going to take it away from us."