IT'S STORMING IN CHICAGO. Sugar Ray is on stage groovin' for a crowd of dedicated fans at "The Warped Tour." Just as the band is ending its hit single, "Fly," a bolt of lightening hits the stage to punctuate the last note. "It was unreal," singer Mark McGrath said - which is right in line with the rest of Sugar Ray's career.
To start off with, "We're all insane people in this group," McGrath told POLLSTAR, as he sat dripping wet in the back of his new tour bus. "We started the band to play some cover songs at a party and just have some fun and make asses of ourselves." Though the band recently released its second Lava/Atlantic Records album, Floored, and is suddenly receiving an abundance of national attention, the original philosophy still stands. And McGrath said success is hardly affecting the band.
"We've always been legends in our minds anyway. We're just trying to get it across to all you guys," he said, laughing. Seriously though, "I'd say it's just making us all work a little harder to make the show that much better and maybe not drink as many beers because the next day, we want to be as good as we can be."
Could that be a note of increased responsibility detected in McGrath's response? "Of course not. I'm drinking beer. I can barely stand up right now," he joked. "One of us will *** this whole thing up in the next week or two, believe me."
In reality, it's doubtful the boys of Sugar Ray would do anything to jeopardize the career they've built because no five guys on the face of the Earth could possibly be more exited about what they're doing. "Being on the road is what you dream about your whole life," McGrath said. "We have our first bus right now. I'm in the back lounge of our bus and I'm looking at a TV, a VCR and 45 million tapes I could put in anytime. There's free beer. We play a half hour. I get to see Pennywise, Social D, Mighty Mighty Bosstones [on "The Warped Tour"]. I wake up when I want. Life is good for us."
"The Warped Tour," which Sugar Ray finished July 25th, was an inspiring experience for the band. "It's a fraternal vibe. There's no stars on this tour. They don't give a *** who you think you are or who you are," McGrath said. On "The Warped Tour," names are drawn out of a hat every morning to determine what order the bands will play. "Today, the Bosstones, the biggest band on this tour right now, are going on at 12:30 in the afternoon. And seeing them just be real huge professionals about the whole situation is pretty endearing."
As to how this crazy crew managed to score a record deal with Atlantic, McGrath said, "I gotta say, we were probably one of the luckiest bands in the world." Instead of just sending out a demo like most bands, Sugar Ray put its last pennies into making a video to show off the strength of its live performance. "We sent it out unsolicited to everybody in the world. We had no representation, no management, no nothing," McGrath said. That video got the attention of Chip Quigley and Lee Heiman from Track Artist Management and they signed the band. Then the managers got it to the desk of Atlantic's then-CEO, Doug Morris.
McGrath said, at the time, the music industry was full of the angst-ridden alternative bands who were whining about being famous. "And we're here just sort of like dumb kids with a '70s rock'n'roll philosophy of smiling at the camera and having fun. It was the first thing Doug Morris said to us. He was like, 'I saw this video and it just wreaks of fun. It seems like you guys enjoy what you're doing.... This is why I got into the business. Man, it's a breath of fresh air.'"
Lord only knows what may happen next at a Sugar Ray show. Spontaneous nudity and drunken behavior is part of what keeps fans coming back. "We all love KISS so we try to emulate that - whatever we can do here in the '90s without being too cheesy," McGrath said. "But we always have been very performance oriented and love performing live. Whatever we can do to take it to the next level, we try and do."
Sugar Ray recently got to take a first hand lesson from its idols when the band opened for KISS in Seattle. "It was the greatest thing of my life," McGrath said matter of factly. "It was like heavy metal fantasy realized." He remembered singing in front of the mirror with a tennis racket as a kid. "And [now] we're in a real rock show with KISS! It was unreal."
So unreal, in fact, McGrath had a little accident in his pants. Granted, he had a lot of water that day because of a throat problem. During the second to the last song opening for KISS, McGrath let out a guttural scream and "all hell broke loose around my ***, man.... People talk about that like in the joke sense, but I really *** my pants on stage with KISS!"
Sugar Ray is busy doing U.S. dates and radio festivals until the band heads to Europe in mid-September.