Back in the ’90s, Smash Mouth had major hits on the radio and reached the top of the pop charts. The band’s songs were featured in one of the most popular movies of the era, and they were headlining concerts in big venues around the world.
This weekend, Smash Mouth is playing the Fourth Fest in Palmetto.
That’s terrific with Paul De Lisle, who has been Smash Mouth’s bassist since the beginning.
“Our drummer was just saying that we probably should have been playing festivals and state fairs all along,” he said in a phone interview from his California home. “I kind of agree with that. We’re basically a state fair kind of band, a fun-in-the sun band.”
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Smash Mouth, just in case you don’t recognize the name, hit the big time with such hits as “Walking on the Sun” and “All Star.” They’ve also had hits with covers of other artists’ hits, including War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” the Mysterians’ “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” and the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.” The Smash Mouth version of the Neil Diamond composition “I’m a Believer” was featured in the movie “Shrek.”
“We’re an original band, and we write our songs,” he said. “But if there’s a song we like, we’re not above covering it. It has to be something we really want to do, though. Except for ‘I’m a Believer.’ We did that one because we were asked to.”
Just to be clear, he’s not denigrating “I’m a Believer.” He and his bandmates admire Diamond’s songwriting, and he’s a little envious that a couple of guys from Smash Mouth once got to hang out with Diamond.
But when the band is looking for songs to cover, they look at something they can make their own, which a lot of people would say they didn’t do with “Believer.”
“The thing is to do it our way,” De Lisle said. “We call it ‘Smash Mouthing’ it. There’s no point in doing a cover that sounds exactly like the original. ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends’ is basically a reggae beat. It doesn’t take too much to turn that into a ska beat.”
De Lisle and singer Steve Harwell are the only two original members of Smash Mouth who are still with the band. Keyboardist Michael Klooster joined in 1997, just as the band was hitting the big time.
Smash Mouth pouts together a new show every year, De Lisle said. There are about five big hits they always have to play, but the rest of the show can be tinkered with. This year, they’re concentrating on cuts from their first couple of albums, because that’s what crowds seem to respond to best. De Lisle also promises that the show in Palmetto will feature some surprises, which, of course, he won’t talk about.
Smash Mouth has always enjoyed playing in Florida, he said, and even though they know they’ll be playing outdoors in hot weather, the band is looking forward to the Fourth Fest.
“I love playing at festivals like this one,” De Lisle said. “I’ve never understood these bands that complain about playing at fairs and festivals. They would have been thrilled to play at a state fair before they got famous. I’ve never lost sight of the fact that I’m making a living doing something that’s this much fun.”
The festival is set to begin at 4 p.m. Monday at Sutton Park. Vendors will be on hand and a DJ will be onstage before the music begins. Local band Big Daddy opens the entertainment at 5 p.m. Smash Mouth takes the stage at 7 p.m., and a fireworks display concludes the festival shortly at 9:30 p.m..
The festival had been free in past years, but last year the city charged a small admission fee. It’s back to being free this year.
Details: 4 p.m. July 4, Sutton Park,. Sixth Street West, Palmetto. Free. 941-723-4570, palmettofl.org.