A plush hotel in Paris, the afternoon before a gig and the Smash Mouth vocalist, Steve Harwell, is exhausted. Slouched back in a comfy armchair, it seems to be a big effort for him just to stay awake. His answers are punctuated by massive yawns, and as he is a big guy they really are massive. Smash Mouth are a band who have been working very hard recently. As soon as their very big hit "Walkin' on the Sun" started to break, the band had to clear their diaries for a year.
"It was like, the song's climbin' the charts, you gotta go on tour. Well, I ain't packed - go and pack, the bus will meet you, you're gonna be there, you're gonna do this. We've been doin' this pace since July last year."
The frantic pace has meant that Smash Mouth have hardly noticed their fame. They haven't had a chance yet to take stock of all that's happened.
"You wan it to happen, you wish for it and then when it does it's like 'wow'. But it happened so fucking fast, we didn't have time to even enjoy it. Every time I get home, I gotta go somewhere else or do something else."
However, despite the downside to instant fame, the band aren't complaining. On the contrary, despite the exhaustion, they love what they're doing. This is what they offered to do when they got their record deal: work their asses off, work harder than any other band, play 6 nights a week. Now, however, they are looking forward to it ending, for a while at least.
"It's finally winding down. We're gonna be done pretty soon."
Steve's plans for his up-coming holiday are pretty simple. Fishing and watching race-car races featured highly on his list of things to do, as well as just hanging out with his friends and family and talking and talking.
"I just know, if I don't have to get up and play a show, that's good enough for me. Whatever I do, whether it's sit in a chair for 10 hours or just watch TV for a week, the whole band needs a break."
They plan to start working on their new album in November, but the prospect of recording a follow-up to "Fush Yu Mang" isn't particularly daunting. Despite the fact that the band were linked to the ska revival of last year, they don't see the end of that scene affecting them.
"For me, when people compare us to ska bands, I don't think they are looking deep enough into the record. We could be many different things. It's just a small taste we put in every song. We don't have 12 ska songs, we don't have 12 punk songs, we don't have 12 rock songs. We do everything from surf to everywhere."
Because the band don't define themselves as part of any particular style or scene, they don't feel they'll have any problems reinventing themselves for the new record and coming up with something fresh. They have a role model that does seem very strange for a band like them.
"We're gonna be like Madonna. I look at that chick and I'm goin', you could hate that broad. But this is one lady that can reinvent herself. She's done it how many times already? And she's still right there.
"It's harder when you're totally lumped into a category and that's all you do. It's like you put all these walls around you that are too hard to get over. We never invented ourselves, it's just been Smash Mouth. Let's not try to be this one band, 17 songs worth, let's just go in and make a good record."
While much of the categorising of bands comes from MTV, Smash Mouth hold no grudges. They know that without MTV, they would not have had the success they have. They are grateful and they turn a blind eye to the bad side.
"We look beyond that. I can't get mad at anyone for doing that, 'cos that's their job. They have to be able to put you somewhere."
For Smash Mouth, the thing that is more important than playing a particular style of music is being able to say something with their songs. "Walkin' on the Sun", for example, is about the death of the hippie dream. But, at the same time, they try not to let the messages get in the way of the music.
"We try for an even balance. Keep it light-hearted, keep it fun , but then get your point across. Don't overkill it by being totally obvious. "
Now that "Fush Yu Mang" has been out for over a year in the States, Steve says that people are really starting to get the messages in the songs.
"Before, they just knew the lyrics and were singin' 'em, but I don't think they really thought about it. Now they like the fact that the songs are happy, yet they have a serious side to 'em as well."
At this stage, nearly everyone in the world (maybe) has heard "Walkin' on the Sun" and they probably all know what it means, but the unbelievable success of that song has been more of a hindrance than a help.
"When you have a huge hit, there is nothing you can put out on your record, because every programme, every radio station automatically keeps comparing you to that song. It's not disappearing, now it's making a comeback! At least here in Europe people like the other songs, like 'Why Can't We Be Friends', in the States, it automatically seems like you're trying to compete with 'Walkin' ...'. When songs like that don't go away, it's like the kiss of death for that record. Once you're trying to compete with a hit of that magnitude, you're better off walkin' away and making a new record."
We have a while to wait for that, but it will be interesting to see how they reinvent themselves. Pointy metal bras, books of erotic pictures? I hope not.
by Donnacha DeLong.