[artist id="831"]Sugar Ray[/artist] haven’t gone away — they just hadn’t released an album in six years. But all that changed on Tuesday (July 21), when the band released Music for Cougars and braced for a new round of tour dates that begins in North Dakota on Friday.
Before this interview even began, lead singer Mark McGrath had a question of his own. “Do you think the title of the new album, Music for Cougars, is negative?” When the response was in the negative, McGrath said, “I see a cougar as strong and empowered, knowing what they want and going after it!”
Despite that strong statement — and despite the band’s string of multiplatinum albums on the strength of hits like “Fall Apart” and “Fly” — McGrath is nothing if not realistic about his band’s prospects these days.
“Look, we’re probably not going to be in the top 10,” he said. “No one’s sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for another Sugar Ray record. That wasn’t the point of making the record. No one’s getting rich off this. I’ve heard comments like, ‘Sugar Ray’s getting back together, it must be about the money.’ Well, there’s no money — there’s no million-dollar tour happening here.”
Indeed, Sugar Ray have paid their dues. “We started this band 21 years ago, writing songs and playing live because we enjoy doing that,” McGrath said. “Nothing’s changed. It was in our hearts, and it’s the same 21 years later. It’s just about being in a band again day to day. We still have a dream and a passion.”
In addition to touring over the six years since the release of their last LP, In the Pursuit of Leisure, the bandmembers have kept themselves busy in other ways. Craig “DJ Homicide” Bullock relocated to Florida and worked as a club DJ; drummer Stan Frazier worked as a songwriter and label executive; bassist Murphy Karges became a video director; guitarist Rodney Sheppard taught music to neighborhood kids. And, of course, McGrath became a TV host on “Extra.”
“It’s easy to pick on us, and people can say I’m kind of a douche and I was on ‘Extra,’ I get it,” McGrath sighed. “Believe me, I get it more than anybody gets it!”
Two decades is a long time for anyone to work together, and Sugar Ray are not without their spats. “I’ve been in knock-down, drag-out fights with everybody in the band before. You know, ‘I hate you! We’re going to break up!’ And that’s OK. You just have to be able to get over those things and not hold grudges. The sum is so much greater than the parts of this band. No one writes songs by themselves. The only thing that holds the test of time are the songs.”
And being in this band and playing those songs is exactly where he wants to be right now. “The joy of being in a band every day and wearing bandmember clothes is so exciting to me,” he said, “and being back onstage and seeing the audience again.”