Smash Mouth became a beloved band for all ages thanks to its anthemic 1999 hit “All Star,” subsequently used in DreamWorks Animation’s ubiquitous 2001 film “Shrek.” The song had a long tail, racking up radio play and streams years past its shelf date. So when founding vocalist Steve Harwell retired from the band due to health problems — following an onstage “episode” in 2021 where he reportedly “slurred his words, threatened the audience and gave some crude gestures to the crowd” — co-founding bassist Paul De Lisle had huge shoes to fill.
“Literally,” affirms De Lisle, the last original member of the band still performing as Smash Mouth. “Steve is a big guy, nearly 6-feet-tall and 200-plus pounds, with a big voice.”
Enter Zach Goode, an actor, songwriter and equally tall and large-voiced man, who joined Smash Mouth in time for one of its largest-ever gigs in May 2022. “A Guadalajara stadium filled with 50,000 people as your first show,” says Goode. “No pressure.”
Last Friday, the new Goode-fronted Smash Mouth released its first single and video, a cover of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” through UMe, marking a return to Universal Music Group, which is also home to Interscope, which signed the band in 1997. The new single comes weeks after Republic Records released an electro-pop version of “All Star (the Owl City Remix).”
In addition to its Rick-rolling, Smash Mouth is offering a new original, “4th of July,” dropping right before the band embarks on a summer tour that begins on July 3 in Mason, Ohio.
Even before Harwell’s departure, De Lisle had persevered through major losses in the Smash Mouth camp, including when co-founding guitarist and principal songwriter Greg Camp left the band in 2008.
“I was hurt when Greg left, but there was never any question that Smash Mouth would continue,” says the bassist. “Keyboardist Michael Klooster has been part of this for 25 years, too, and we all knew we’d continue. Steve [Harwell] was equally adamant, then, about keeping Smash Mouth going.”
De Lisle says he knew that Smash Mouth’s original singer had long considered retirement — in fact, since a 2013 diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, heart failure and Wernicke encephalopathy. “Whatever he had to do, his health was the most important thing,” says De Lisle. “Steve retired. We moved on. It was sad after so many years, but we did see it coming.”
Goode, a stalwart of the 1990s San Diego alternative scene who played with noted regional bands such as Ghoulspoon and Divided By Zero, headed to Los Angeles in 2012 to front the Secret Seven and expand into voice acting work for advertising clients like Taco Bell and Dr. Pepper.
“I had popular bands in San Diego that never got beyond ‘big, locally’ and wanted to give music one more shot in L.A.,” says Goode, laughing. “Los Angeles was a rude awakening as everyone is a hired gun who wants to be paid for band practice, but I soldiered on.”
“There are all these great newspaper listings from back in the day that read ‘Blink 182,’ ‘Sugar Ray,’ No Doubt,’ ‘Ghoulspoon,’” says De Lisle before mentioning the Smash Mouth audition period of December 2021. “When Zach came to try out for Smash Mouth, it was obvious, immediately, that he was the clear choice.”
Smash Mouth was, at first, seeking someone with the same chesty, baritone voice as Harwell, and who embodied his physical presence. That is, until Goode wowed them with his high, tenor vocals. “Even though I don’t usually sing in a low register, it’s a good match, me and Smash Mouth’s music,” says the vocalist. “Paul said I sounded great, but that it didn’t hurt that I was six-foot-three, 230 pounds.”
Tackling another man’s signature songs proved challenging for Goode mentally. “Should I copy him? How should I dress?” Goode recalls thinking. “The rest of Smash Mouth, though, just told me to be myself, so I did. I’m a ham, and love to interact with the crowd. Plus, Greg Camp’s songs are very wordy. Not messing that up is my sacred duty.”
The band is currently re-signed to the UMG family for new music and catalog releases after being independent since 2005’s “The Gift of Rock.” “Through our manager Robert Hayes, we never lost contact with Universal, our home,” says the keyboardist.
Smash Mouth had plans for a while to record “Never Gonna Give You Up,” its cover of British soul-pop vocalist Astley’s 1987 hit single. “Doing Astley’s song was part of the audition process, and it was brilliant in my mind, since Smash Mouth is never giving up, and not going away,” says Goode, enthusiastically. “As soon as we put it up on YouTube, we got hundreds and thousands of comments, including these memes connecting us to ‘Shrek: The Musical’ (a stage production which ran from 2006 to 2008), and Astley because the producers used that song in the stage version of the film, too. The two greatest memes in the world had collided.”
The May release of Republic Records’ “All Star (Owl City Remix)” from Adam Young has only helped Smash Mouth garner even more attention for its newest work, to say nothing of the track’s popularity as the intro to the original 2001 film version of “Shrek.”
“’Shrek’ has been a huge thing in our career, and we got lucky doing that, but I think we have great songs and that our music is timeless in a way that all ages can enjoy,” says De Lisle.
The bassist laughs when discussing what he notes is Spotify’s “near-billion-streams” countdown for the original version of “All Star.” “I don’t know how or why Owl City decided to create the remix, but it’s different, ethereal and trippy enough that it doesn’t sound like the original, while reminding people that our version is still out there.”
Adds Goode: “There are kids being born today whose parents weren’t even around when ‘Shrek’ came out, let alone ‘All Star.’ That just cracks me up every time.”