Sugar Ray performing in Los Angeles in 2009.
|Origin||Newport Beach, California, U.S.|
|Labels||Atlantic (1995–2006) Pulse (2008–present)|
Sugar Ray is an American rock band formed in 1986. The band, starting off more as a funk metal band, gained mainstream fame in 1997 with their release of the song "Fly". This song's success, coupled with its pop rock sound that was quite different from the rest of their material at the time, led the band to change to a mainstream, pop music style. Subsequent albums shared this similar style, and the band landed a number of hits with "Every Morning" and "Someday" from 14:59 and "When It's Over" from their self-titled album.
Formation and Lemonade and Brownies (1986–96)
The members of the band grew up in Orange County. Rodney Sheppard played in a number of reggae bands, including working with future Good Charlotte drummer Dean Butterworth. Prior to Sugar Ray, in the late 1980s, Rodney Sheppard and Stan Frazier had been together in a band under the name The Tories. Later additions Murphy Karges, Craig Bullock and Mark McGrath changed the band's name to Shrinky Dinx (after initially Shrinky Dinks). After signing with Atlantic Records, the name was changed to Sugar Ray upon threat of lawsuit from the Milton Bradley Company, maker of the Shrinky Dinks toy.
The band's debut album, Lemonade and Brownies, was released in 1995 and though it failed to produce a major hit single it did earn them recognition in alternative circles. Their early work features elements of funk metal, punk rock and alternative rock.
After they gained fame with the 1997 album Floored in 1998, the single "Speed Home California" and "Mean Machine" off Lemonade and Brownies was featured in the PlayStation game Road Rash 3D, and its Nintendo 64 counterpart Road Rash 64, respectively.
Sugar Ray's first mainstream hit came in the summer of 1997 with their song "Fly", which was released on the album Floored and featured reggae musician Super Cat. "Fly" did not sound anything at all like the rest of the tracks on the album and received frequent radio play, resulting in a number one rank on the Billboard's Airplay List. As a result of the success of "Fly", Floored sold well and was certified double platinum. However, by the end of 1997, critics were skeptical that Sugar Ray could put out another successful song and labeled them a one-hit wonder. The same year, Sugar Ray was featured in the movie Father's Day, starring Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. Floored featured nu metal elements and was their last album that had heavy metal elements before they moved into a more pop rock direction.
Their 1999 album 14:59 was the reply to these accusations, with the title implying that their 15 minutes of fame were not quite up — their "fame clock" reading 14:59. "Every Morning", which received widespread comparisons to "Fly", rose to similar success during the spring of 1999, reaching No. 3 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Their follow-up single "Someday" received extensive airplay later that year as well and reached No. 7 in the U.S. The further follow-up "Falls Apart (Run Away)" reached #29 in early 2000. 14:59 outsold its predecessor and was certified triple platinum. The band toured in support of the album, most notably performing at Woodstock 99. Beyond 14:59 in 2000, Sugar Ray teamed up with The Alkaholiks to contribute the track "Make Room" on the Rap Rock collaboration album, Loud Rocks, alongside other similar artists such as Crazy Town and Incubus.
Sugar Ray (2001–02)
In 2000, Sugar Ray did a cover version of John Cale and Brian Eno's song "Spinning Away" for the soundtrack to the film The Beach. Their 2001 self-titled album Sugar Ray produced another hit with "When It's Over", which, although it failed to reach the same level of success as their previous singles, still reached No. 13 in the U.S. Other singles such as "Answer the Phone", "Under the Sun" and "Words to Me" gained some popularity as well, despite the inefficiency of a billboard spot. Prior to music, Sugar Ray also made several movie appearances, including Scooby-Doo in 2002.
In the Pursuit of Leisure (2003–05)
Sugar Ray's 2003 effort In the Pursuit of Leisure, and the first single from that album, "Mr. Bartender (It's So Easy)", received a lukewarm reception. The album also contained the band's cover of Joe Jackson's famous "Is She Really Going Out With Him?". ProHoeZak guested live with the band in 2003, as he appeared on "Mr. Bartender (It's So Easy)". In 2005, Sugar Ray released a greatest hits album, with three new songs, "Shot of Laughter", "Time After Time", and "Psychedelic Bee".
Inactivity and Music for Cougars (2006–09)
After releasing their Greatest Hits album, in 2005, the band went into a period of relative inactivity for a number of years, with Mark McGrath starting a new job as an anchor on the television show Extra. In January 2006, Sugar Ray was released from their recording contract with Atlantic Records. An exception to this was during mid 2007, with their inclusion of the previously unreleased song "Into Yesterday" on the Surf's Up movie soundtrack, and a brief tour in Asia in August 2007 where they headlined SingFest, Singapore's first international music festival.
Sugar Ray appeared on the May 18, 2008, season 3 finale of American Dad!, titled "Spring Break-Up", as themselves, playing "Fly" at a Spring Break party. They also starred in the first live-action Scooby-Doo movie as themselves performing the song "Words to Me".
An announcement came the next day, on May 19, 2008, that the band would be entering the studio to record their first album of new material since 2003. Jason Bernard, a friend of the band (who also happened to be a music producer) brought them a deal to sign with his label. It was announced that the band signed a new record deal with Pulse Recordings and that the new album should be released in the summer of 2009. On March 6, 2009, Mark McGrath announced that the new album would be titled Music for Cougars. It was released on July 21, 2009. The first single was "Boardwalk".
It was spoken among critics that McGrath aimed to set peoples expectations low by promoting the album by saying things like "I know people aren't sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for a Sugar Ray album, but that wasn't the point." In another interview, Murphy Karges, bassist said, "We've never had any credibility. Nobody ever gave us any so how could we lose any?"
Lineup changes and 1990s nostalgia touring (2010–present)
On August 22, 2010, Sugar Ray's Twitter page announced that Craig "DJ Homicide" Bullock had left the band. In 2011, the band had what McGrath described as "we didn't have the highest-grossing year for Sugar Ray", Murphy Karges and Stan Frazier also left, one not wanting to tour anymore, and the other taking a job with Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback who had started up a Christian rock record label. This left McGrath and Rodney Sheppard as the two remaining original members. The band recruited replacements in percussionist Al Keith, bassist Justin Bivona and drummer Jesse Bivona, the latter two twin musicians had been replacement members in the past.
In 2012, McGrath worked with Art Alexakis, frontman and vocalist of the band Everclear, about starting up a 1990s nostalgia tour, something they had discussed in the past, but had always felt it had been too soon to successfully do. The result was the "Summerland" tour, featuring a line-up of alternative rock bands that "at least had a big hit or two" in the 1990s, containing McGrath and Alexakis's own bands along with Marcy Playground, Gin Blossoms, and Lit. The tour was deemed a success, and McGrath initially spoke of the possibility of it becoming a yearly event. Over the course of the tour, McGrath stated that he had been spending downtime writing new material, although he wasn't sure at that point if it would be Sugar Ray material, or "Mark McGrath solo" material. By the end of the year, McGrath confirmed the band would start recording new material for an EP in January 2013, aiming for around May or before the band's summer touring in 2013. However, percussionist Al Keith left the band before preparing to record new material, delaying the recording sessions, leaving Sugar Ray a four-piece band.
In early January 2013, McGrath announced the "Mark McGrath & Friends" tour cruise, in which the band would perform alongside other 1990s alternative rock bands Smash Mouth, Spin Doctors, and Vertical Horizon, on a cruise boat. However, by late February the plans were cancelled, citing the recent Carnival Cruise fiasco as a reason for the idea losing support. Additionally, McGrath announced that he and Alexakis did not see eye to eye on the future direction for the "Summerland" tour, and so Sugar Ray would not be part of its 2013 incarnation. McGrath instead chose to start his own rivaling 1990s nostalgia tour for Summer 2013, named "Under the Sun".
On April 9, 2013, Mark McGrath announced via Twitter that he would be "heading to Pulse Recording Studios" to record the new material, he stated July to be a hopeful release date. For the tour, Justin Bivona and Jesse Bivona will be temporarily replaced by Serge Dmitrijevic and Dean Butterworth, as the Bivona brothers' band The Interrupters are opening for Rancid.
The band continued its "Under the Sun" tour through 2014. However, in June 2014, McGrath revealed that the band had been struggling with legal wranglings with Karges and Frazier since they had left in 2012, and that there will never be another Sugar Ray album. However, Mark confirmed in via Twitter that he would be releasing a solo EP during the summer in 2015.
Main article: Sugar Ray discography