Shrek Skyrocketed Smash Mouth Into A Different World, The Band Says
If Smash Mouth hadn't agreed to license All Star for Dreamworks' Shrek, they would've looked kind of dumb with their finger and their thumb in the shape of an L on their foreheads.
Memes come and go by the week and even by the day. But even though the years started coming and they didn't stop coming, both the film Shrek and Smash Mouth's megahit All Star have stayed around, working across age groups and demographics. In a new interview, the band talked to Rolling Stone about how the song and its addition to Shrek came about and how it changed the band forever.
All Star was not written for Shrek, but the two are nearly inseparable at this point. That almost didn't happen.
"When DreamWorks came to us, some of us were a little apprehensive," said former Smash Mouth guitarist Greg Camp. "Because once you get your song into a family movie, you merge into this Disney zone. It's like you're out of Warped Tour Land and Credibility Land."
The union eventually came together thanks to the persistence of DreamWorks and some unexpected outside circumstances.
"As we were getting ready to put [the 2001 self-titled album, Smash Mouth] out, 9/11 happened. We have a single called 'Pacific Coast Party,' that's basically 'Hey, we're all partying over here on the West Coast,' and the East Coast was in rubbles," said band manager Robert Hayes. "We decided to hold off on that, which seemed like a good time to go back to Dreamworks and say "Hey, we'll do this for this Shrek movie."
The band was almost too late, as Dreamworks had closed production on the movie, but the band convinced the studio to open up the film; the band provided All Star for the opening sequence, and their cover of I'm a Believer for the closing sequence.
"We had no clue how big Shrek was going to be," said lead singer Steve Harwell. "We had no clue. That was just a launching pad. The song was already a number one single, and then Shrek came out and we sold millions of records off that alone."
"It skyrocketed the band into a different world," Camp said.
"It's a double-edged sword for the band," Hayes added. "Some of the guys totally embrace it and they love it. A couple of the other guys hate being associated with a movie all the time."
While the band has some philosophical differences on the success of the song, manager Hayes found the common point between them.
"From a managerial standpoint, I can say this: they sometimes really hated making the money, but they never hate spending it," Hayes said.
The interview dives deep into the memes that Shrek and All Star have spawned, from "Mario, You're a Plumber," a 2009 parody of the song, to Neil Cicierega's Mouth Sounds, which remixed and recontextualized the song by mashing it up with tracks like Modest Mouse's Float On, the Full House theme, and Daft Punk's Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. The band isn't always thrilled with how memes use the track, but also say they know it's done from a place of love.
"Sometimes I feel like it’s a little disrespectful, and at the same time I feel like it’s an honor to have people go out of their way to do this," Harwell said. "I get more enjoyment out of seeing other artists cover it at concerts. I think that’s a really cool thank you, to us. But I think any time anybody goes out of their way to make their own version of it, that’s also a thank you because they go out of their way to do that. They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t love it."
Rolling Stone's oral history of the song is wide ranging, covering the band's early years and shift from punk to pop, the song's origins, and its long legacy for the band, and well worth the read.
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