In the world of music, stories of experimentation with drugs and the creative process often intertwine. Some bands owe their success and inspiration to the controversial plant, marijuana. Among these, the San Jose, California quartet Smash Mouth has a unique tale to tell. Their journey from the lean years of struggling musicians, where they resorted to stealing and selling marijuana, to their later advocacy for marijuana legalization, is a testament to their evolution and changing attitudes towards this enigmatic herb.
The Dark Days
Before their breakthrough with the 1997 retro-cool hit “Walkin’ on the Sun,” Smash Mouth’s lead vocalist, Steve Harwell, and drummer, Kevin Coleman, found themselves in financially dire straits. In an act of desperation, they raided Bay Area pot gardens, stole the plants, dried them, and sold the weed. Harwell admits to having provided the product for a fraction of the price growers would have charged, albeit at the expense of others. In retrospect, he acknowledges his youthful naivety, stating, “I was probably stealing the guys’ mortgages or something, but I was young and dumb.”
The “Stoned” Anthem
Fast forward to their album “Astro Lounge,” where Smash Mouth explores their preoccupation with marijuana in a track titled “Stoned.” The song is a loving tribute to the joys of sparking up, featuring an anthemic chorus that proclaims, “We’re just getting high/Let us be, it’ll be all right.” The band’s playful take on cannabis culture reflects a more relaxed and pro-legalization perspective.
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Proponents of Legalization
During the interview, the band members openly expressed their pro-legalization stance. Greg Camp, the band’s guitarist, drew inspiration from a visit to Amsterdam, where marijuana is decriminalized and freely available. Comparing the mellow atmosphere of Amsterdam to the more restrictive American context, Camp advocates for the legalization of marijuana, emphasizing that it could potentially reduce alcoholism.
Despite their support for marijuana legalization, the band members acknowledge potential backlash, especially from parents, teachers, and those who appreciate their uplifting music. While they anticipate criticism, they remain unapologetic about their stance, suggesting that the song “Stoned” is intended to carry an element of humor.
The band members also share personal experiences with marijuana. Camp discusses how it helps him relax and sleep, particularly during the challenges of touring. He believes it enhances his creativity, comparing it to a glass of red wine. In contrast, Steve Harwell and Kevin Coleman, known for their wilder days, admit to having lost their tolerance for marijuana over time, with Harwell noting that it now tends to make him paranoid.
Smash Mouth’s journey from pilfering marijuana plants to advocating for its legalization is a remarkable transformation. Their song “Stoned” serves as both a testament to their evolving attitudes towards marijuana and a reflection of their playful take on cannabis culture. While they recognize the potential controversy surrounding their pro-pot stance, they remain steadfast in their support for marijuana legalization. The band’s experiences with the herb, both past and present, add a unique dimension to their musical journey, marking a chapter in the evolving relationship between musicians and marijuana.