Some bands owe marijuana a debt of gratitude for the inspiration the plant has provided them. In the case of San Jose, California quartet Smash Mouth, pot’s role in their success is far more direct. In the lean years before their 1997 retro-cool hit “Walkin’ on the Sun” launched them to the top of the charts, vocalist Steve Harwell and drummer Kevin Coleman would raid Bay Area pot gardens, pilfer the plants, then dry and sell the weed.
In defense of their reprehensible past, Harwell explains: “I provided the product for cheaper than what the actual grower would’ve provided it for. I was probably stealing the guys’ mortgages or something, but I was young and dumb.”
With their new album Astro Lounge, the band has repaid the debt—if not to the growers they robbed, then at least to the herb that kept them afloat during their starving-musician phase.
Among the album’s more compelling tracks is “Stoned,” a loping tribute to the joys of sparking up whose big, anthemic chorus declares: “We’re just getting high/Let us be, it’ll be all right.”
On the eve of their Astro Lounge tour, the band—Harwell, Coleman, guitarist Greg Camp, and bassist Paul DeLisle—sat down to discuss “Stoned” and their preoccupation with inhaling clouds of pot smoke.
HT: What compelled you to write “Stoned”?
Greg Camp: Part of it came from visiting Amsterdam. There’s no crime, no guns there. It’s totally mellow. Compare that to America, where they keep everything under law.
So it’s safe to say that Smash Mouth are pro-legalization?
Steve Harwell: Oh, yeah—legalize it. What the hell? It’s not killing anybody. There are worse things out there than marijuana. If everybody did smoke weed, we wouldn’t have tragedies like Columbine.
Camp: Pot should definitely be legalized. Just like in Amsterdam, there should be cafes or something where you can buy ounces of green bud. It would just be so cool. Alcoholism would probably go down. Pot’s got to be better for you than alcohol.
Are you worried about fallout from releasing such a pro-pot song?
Camp: Yeah, but hopefully the song’s got enough humor to avoid that. I am worried about the flak, though. We get a lot of e-mails and letters from teachers and people who work with kids about how they really appreciate our songs and how uplifting they are. So if that one ever actually does become a single. I think we’ll definitely be getting some heat. But who cares, you know?
Was there any static from Interscope?
Camp: None at all. In fact, we were going to say, “I’m in my zone” instead of “I’m getting stoned.” But Tom Whalley said, “If you do that, I ain’t putting the song on the record”—and he’s our A&R guy! Same with program directors; Kevin [Weatherly] from KROQ heard it and said, ”I really want to play this song.” So now that we’ve got the record company and radio in our pocket, we’re cool for a few months—until parents start hearing it.
What benefits does pot provide you?
Camp: It’s hard to sleep on a tour bus when it’s moving and you’re in this tiny little bunk and you’re bouncing around. I’ve got a little one-hitter in my bunk. I’ll just hit it, listen to some weird reggae on my headphones and go to sleep. Pot relaxes me and lets me sleep.
What about as a creativity enhancer?
Camp: It definitely helps me create. For me, it’s either pot or a glass of red wine. That’s what gets my creative juices flowing.
Steve and Kevin—you both have reputations as somewhat reformed heavy partiers. What do you have to say?
Kevin Coleman: I’m on the 11-step program: Weed and coffee, and once in a while some Tylenol PMs.
Harwell: I used to smoke pot like it was going out of style, but I lost my tolerance for it. Now it just makes me paranoid. At first, it’s really great; for like, thirty seconds I just crack up. Then I stop straight-faced and go, “What the fuck? I’m stoned.”
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