Sugar Ray was groundbreaking from the get-go, including among their ranks a real live DJ – incredibly, unheard of in a rock band at that time. Kicking off with 1995’s “LEMONADE AND BROWNIES,” the Newport Beach quintet unleashed a series of albums that McGrath describes as “love letters to the music we loved, with no irony just pure enthusiasm.” 1997’s “FLOORED” saw the band refine its multi-faceted sound with the assistance of GRAMMY® Award-winning producer David Kahane (Sublime, Paul McCartney, The Strokes). The album proved Sugar Ray’s popular breakthrough, earning 2x platinum certification from the RIAA, fueled in part by the #1 hit single, “Fly.”
The track – which featured guest toasting from dancehall reggae pioneer, Super Cat – along with its candy-colored companion video (directed by McGrath’s childhood friend and longtime collaborator, McG), locked into place Sugar Ray’s trademark all-consuming vision. Melding hair metal and hardcore punk with sampledelic hip-hop, New Wave, disco, and dub, Sugar Ray made music “like kids in a candy store,” crafting an idiosyncratic and utterly distinctive groove as inventive and forward-thinking as any critics’ darling of the era.
The puckishly titled “14:59” – a middle finger to those who declared Sugar Ray to be no more than a passing fad – made it clear McGrath and the band had the songwriting chops to go along with its vibrant sonic approach. The 1999 album was a triple platinum sensation, yielding a sun-kissed string of unforgettable pop classics including “Someday,” “Falls Apart,” and still another #1 smash in “Every Morning.” The hits kept coming, with 2001’s platinum-certified “SUGAR RAY” making a top 10 debut on the Billboard 200, propelled by yet another hit single/video, “When It’s Over.”
“We stand on our merits.” McGrath says. “No matter how much I try to be self-effacing, when you have a #1 song you have been validated. As much as I try to bash what we did as a band, you can never disown that. Four top 10 Songs, 10 million records – there’s nothing I can do to self-efface that. And the older I get, the more proud I get of what we did.”
Sugar Ray stood astride the pop world, with all the mainstream multimedia mania that entails. The band made innumerable live appearances, including NBC’s TODAY, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien; CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman, and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn and Craig Ferguson; ABC’s LIVE! with Regis & Kelly; MTV’s 120 Minutes, The Grind, and The Jon Stewart Show; the nationally syndicated Rosie O’Donnell Show, Wendy Williams Show, and Ellen DeGeneres Show; and regular, memorable visits to Howard Stern’s many media outings). The charismatic combo appeared in films and TV shows like Fox’s American Dad, ABC’s The Drew Carey Show, Ivan Reitman’s Father’s Day (starring Robin Williams and Billy Crystal), and 2002’s live-action Scooby-Doo, with McGrath’s smiling face starring by his own self on the covers of such national publications as Spin and Rolling Stone.