The members of Sugar Ray have just received some good news.
Assembled for a photo shoot near the pool of San Francisco's Phoenix Hotel, the boys just can't help tossing a couple of high fives. "Who has the numbers?" singer Mark McGrath asks his bandmates.
"I heard them, but we haven't picked up the magazine yet," says drummer Stan Frazier, 30, referring to the radio industry trade bible, Radio and Records.
The cause of the excitement is simple: Sugar Ray's new single, the breezy, flamenco-pop tune "Every Morning" (RealAudio excerpt) has nearly doubled its plays at alternative radio stations in just one week. As a result, radio programmers have already pegged the song as a surefire hit.
And with that bit of news, the Newport Beach, Calif., group leaps from the inglorious ranks of potential one-hit wonders -- such as former single-hit alternative peers as Nada Surf and Deep Blue Something -- to the rarefied status of two-time hit-makers.
With the pending release of its new album, 14:59 (Jan. 12) -- the title a cheeky reference to its soon-to-run-out 15 minutes of fame -- the group seems more than aware that some are already prepared to write it off.
Mostly devoid of the Korn-like metal that infused the band's previous albums, 14:59 toys with a more refined, '70s pop sensibility on songs such as the fluffy "Someday" and "Ode to the Lonely Hearted." The group also blazes into new territory with the dark funk of "Live & Direct," with a cameo from rapper KRS-One and the Devo-like, '80s pop homage "Personal Space Invader."
It was in summer 1997 that Sugar Ray scored a hit with the dancehall- reggae track "Fly" from their sophomore album, Floored. Since then, as the group worked on its follow-up album, the pressure has been on to prove the radio smash was no fluke.
Now, not only is the band looking at a new hit, but the track fell just one station shy of beating jam-rock superstars the Dave Matthews Band for the most radio "adds" in a week.
You can almost sense the albatross fluttering up off the bandmembers' necks. "Where can we go and get a copy [of Radio and Records] and see it?" wonders the band's DJ Homicide (born Craig Bullock), 27, his smile hardly concealed. "We gotta go right after this," Frazier says.
The success of the new single is confirmed by a spokesperson for their label, Atlantic Records, who said the song quickly jumped from 1,094 spins during the first week of December to more than 1,900 the next, numbers that boggle the group members' minds.
"I can't believe it doubled," marvels frontman McGrath. "That's unbelievable. That's better than 'Fly.' "
In addition to the jump in spins, the Atlantic spokesperson, who requested anonymity, said the song would have eclipsed the Dave Matthews Band's 1998 high watermark for crucial alternative station adds if so many stations hadn't jumped the gun.
"It was the #1 most added at alternative radio the first week of December," the spokesperson said. "They had 90 stations, but 14 added it a week early and jumped the gun." A total of 104 stations would have eclipsed Matthews' 91 for "Don't Drink the Water," according to Atlantic, if the over-eagerness of some programmers hadn't snatched the record away from Sugar Ray.
On the back of the inescapably catchy pop of "Fly" (RealAudio excerpt), Sugar Ray -- which also includes guitarist Rodney Sheppard, 31, and bassist Murphy Karges, 31 -- went from critically dissed lite-metal/funk popsters to equally dissed chart giants.
"No one makes more fun of this band, is more critical of this band, than us," says McGrath, sporting a leather jacket and black jeans, his black, moussed hair bearing his trademark blond streaks. "So we wanted to beat everyone to the punch [with the album title]. We know what we're doing, so we're going to make fun of it too. That's all we can do."
Along with the jokey title, the new album features the group's irreverent cover of '70s rocker Steve Miller's "Abracadabra," from the "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" soundtrack, as well as a more rocked-up version of its pseudo drum-'n'-bass track, "Burning Dog," a more abstract version of which was on the Avengers soundtrack.
"We feel ["Every Morning"] will be a huge hit and will cross over rather quickly [to pop radio formats], so we plan to play it often now," said Ron Nenni, operations manager for San Francisco modern rock station Live 105 (105.3 FM). "I've heard other songs off this album and I think it will be a big one for them. Everyone was wondering what they would come back with, if they'd try to reproduce the 'Fly' sound, and I think they've created another niche here with this song."
The new Sugar Ray album was one of the most anticipated at his station, Nenni said.
"They really have created a new sound and reinvented themselves," he said, "And that's really rare these days for groups like them and Smash Mouth who had one hit that didn't sound like anything else on the album."