Why does Smash Mouth hate Third Eye Blind? The story behind the ’90s rock feud that still lives on

Smashmouth pictured in 1997. (L-R) Greg camp, Steve Harwell, Paul De Lisle, Kevin Coleman. (Jay Blakesburg/Interscope Records.)
Smashmouth pictured in 1997. L-R: Greg Camp, Steve Harwell, Paul De Lisle, Kevin Coleman. (Jay Blakesburg/Interscope Records.)

Why does Smash Mouth hate Third Eye Blind so much? This is an actual question, and no, you have not been transported to 1997, the year in which Smash Mouth’s “Walkin’ on the Sun” and Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” were absolutely inescapable on alt-rock radio. Many people are wondering what’s the deal with this animosity, especially after what happened at BottleRock Festival in Napa Valley this weekend.

In case you missed it, both bands performed nearly simultaneous sets at the California music festival on Saturday (Smash Mouth on the side stage, Third Eye Blind on the main stage). And Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell took the opportunity to do what he frequently does: Skewer his nemesis, Stephan Jenkins, the lead singer of Third Eye Blind. There was lots of name calling, much of which we can’t republish, but you can get the gist here. Fans started tweeting about it:

 

 

 

 

This isn’t really a new thing: Just watch this interview from 2010 where Harwell talks about how much he hates touring with Third Eye Blind, especially Jenkins. “The guy’s a [word we can't publish in a newspaper], you know? You can put that on camera,” Harwell says. “Because I really don’t care, I mean…he’s not a good person. That’s all I’ll say about that.”

Stephan Jenkins (Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)
Stephan Jenkins (Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

In light of all this and an undeniable curiosity with feuds involving ’90s rock stars (aren’t they all supposed to get along? Don’t the guys from Everclear, Gin Blossoms and Cracker all get together for barbecues each summer?) we called up Smash Mouth’s management to ask: What’s with all the anger, Steve?

The band’s manager, Robert Hayes, started laughing and went to go check with Harwell, who was in the studio. When he came back on the line, Hayes said Harwell declined to take a break from recording, but authorized Hayes to give us a statement on his behalf.

“Steve pretty much has a long history of poking fun at Stephan Jenkins,” Hayes said. “There’s no true bad blood there. They’ve toured and done shows together for quite a while.”

More of the much juicier back story: Harwell, Smash Mouth bassist Paul De Lisle and former Third Eye Blind guitarist Kevin Cadogan currently play in a band called Radio Angel. Cadogan didn’t have the smoothest departure from Third Eye Blind in 2000: Cadogan sued Jenkins and the band for millions, citing wrongful termination among other things. (It was settled for an undisclosed amount.) According to MTV:

The ousted guitarist said that he was fired without warning because he didn’t agree to a deal that would have yielded a $1 million advance to record an EP and start an Elektra Records imprint, while the other members did. Following a show at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2000, Cadogan was left stranded in Utah with the hotel bill slid under his door, while the band was off to perform on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Cadogan’s replacement, original guitarist Tony Fredianelli.

Ancient history right? Apparently not. In the middle of Smash Mouth’s set at BottleRock, Harwell brought Cadogan on stage to play a couple new Radio Angel songs, which could have inspired the vitriol against his pal’s former band.

“You know, he pokes at [Jenkins], and now that he’s got his former guitar player in a side project, he wanted to poke a little harder,” Hayes added.

We reached out to a press rep for Third Eye Blind and asked for comment on the feud — she did not get back to us.

Another theory: Before we hung up with Hayes, he pointed out the geographical aspect that could have led to the rivalry. “Steve always talks [expletive] about Stephan Jenkins. They’re both Bay Area guys,” Hayes said; Smash Mouth is from San Jose, while Third Eye Blind hails from San Francisco. “So it’s easy to poke at him.”

UPDATE, 6/4: Hayes disputes MTV’s statement that Tony Fredianelli was the “original” Third Eye Blind guitarist, and clarifies that Kevin Cadogan was in fact the original guitarist and co-founder of Third Eye Blind, with the initial recording contract as evidence.

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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