“We still like to go and bash our heads out and play really loud rock,” says Sugar Ray drummer Stan Frazier. Though best known for acoustic-flavored pop hits like “Fly” and “Every Morning,” the band grew up on a diet of California punk and Eighties New Wave, and its fourth album draws on those roots.
The self-titled album, out June 12th, was recorded in Los Angeles with Don Gilmore, who has produced recent albums by Lit, Eve 6 and Linkin Park, and features a guest vocal appearance by 311’s Nick Hexum. The songs were written by all five members: Frazier, singer Mark McGrath, guitarist Rodney Sheppard, bassist Murphy Karges and DJ Craig “Homicide” Bullock. “It’s a very dysfunctional process,” says McGrath of the band’s songwriting. “A song can come from anywhere. Craig might have a drum loop, or Stan might have a chorus, or Rodney, our guitar player, might have a bass part.”
As an example, McGrath describes the first single, “When It’s Over,” a bouncy breakup song that’s a throwback to the group’s past hits. “I came up with the line ‘When it’s over, that’s the time I fall in love again,'” he says. Then Frazier came up with the melody one day as he pulled into his driveway. “Something just came into my head,” he says. “I knew it was pretty good, ’cause I called Rodney and sang it to him, and he was freakin’ out.”
Other album highlights are the catchy, metal-edged “Answer the Phone,” and “Disaster Piece,” which opens with a riff from the Keith Richards songbook.
The guitar-heavy album will give McGrath a chance to plug in on tour. “I love playing guitar, even though I suck,” he says. “I’m gonna lay my guitar playing on the audience this tour, much to the band’s and the fans’ dismay, I’m sure, but much to my delight.”
McGrath’s voice sounds a bit more seasoned this time around, and they serve the bittersweet songs of love and breakup. “When you start writing songs with lyrical depth, you want to deliver them in the manner in which they were written,” he says. “I’ve developed a sing-in-your-speaking-voice sort of thing, and there’s a raspiness in my voice that people react to.” But, he adds, “When I go to karaoke, I’m still the worst guy there.”
As for why the album is called simply Sugar Ray, McGrath says that the other prospective titles – which included “Chicken Lips,” “Just to Be Nominated,” and “A Clone Again Naturally” – were just too lame. “I said, ‘You know what, guys? We have to stop. We are so not clever!'”