Life Is Getting Sweeter For Sugar Ray

Singer Mark McGrath is "completely proud," of Sugar Ray's eponymous new set (released June 12 by Lava/Atlantic). "I've always dug what we've done, but this is the first record we've done that I'm able

Mark McGrath is getting pumped up. The disarmingly charismatic front man for Sugar Ray is en route to MTV's Times Square studio with his bandmates to premiere their new video on the network's tastemaking program Total Request Live, and he's mentally slipping into "show mode."

"This is my time," he says with a wink and a wide grin. "This is when I get to turn it on and have fun with the fans. This is the showbiz part of what we do-and I'm not ashamed to say that I really enjoy it."

It helps that McGrath is "completely proud," of Sugar Ray's eponymous new set (released June 12 by Lava/Atlantic). "I've always dug what we've done, but this is the first record we've done that I'm able to listen to from top to bottom."

McGrath notes that the key to this project -- as with all Sugar Ray recordings, actually -- is compromise. "When you've got five people, all of whom have very definite, specific ideas, compromise and negotiation is vital. But after four albums, we've got a rhythm down. It works. This album is clear proof of that."

Produced by Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Lit, Eve 6), with additional tracks produced by the band's long-time studio collaborator, David Kahne (Sublime, Fishbone), "Sugar Ray" deftly darts from percussive, hip-hop-inflected shufflers ("Ours," "Under the Sun") to ornery, guitar-drenched rock anthems ("Answer the Phone," "Disasterpiece"). Besides McGrath's boyish belting, the common threads linking each track are hooks that are immediate and unshakable. Quite simply, Sugar Ray's music is the stuff of which top 40-radio is now made.

"At the risk of sounding calculated, we know what works," band member Craig "DJ Homicide" Bullock says. "We've hit a groove. That doesn't mean we don't or won't deviate from it. But it does mean that we recognize what we are as a band. That's a great thing. Sugar Ray is a band that kicks ass -- and we're happy that more and more people agree."

McGrath chimes in, "There's nothing wrong with making music that lots of people dig. The trick is to make sure you dig it, too. And we do."

The band -- also made up of Stan Frazier (drums), Murphy Karges (bass), and Rodney Sheppard (guitar) -- is particularly pleased with "When It's Over," the hit-bound first single from "Sugar Ray."

"It has all of the right elements," Bullock notes, indicating the song's blend of bouncy, scratch-happy beats; guitars that switch from easy-paced strumming to tight-fisted power chords; and a "booming" sing-along chorus.

"When It's Over" is complemented by a playful videoclip directed by frequent video collaborator and Charlie's Angels director McG. "He's been such an integral part of this band; he knows how to capture the spirit of Sugar Ray unlike almost anyone else," notes Jeff Dandurand, senior director of product development at Atlantic.

In addition to airplay for the clip for "When It's Over," and a collaboration with the Cartoon Network on the production of a Web-only animated companion clip for the song, the band will make quite a few high profile television appearances on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," "Late Show With David Letterman," and CNN's "Showbiz" and "World Beat." The band will also do a special outdoor performance in New York's Rockefeller Center as part of NBC's "Today" show summer concert series and will be seen on ABC-TV's upcoming "Walt Disney World Summer Jam Concert" later this month.

Sugar Ray will then hit the road in July for a five-week trek of the U.S., on which they'll be joined by labelmate Uncle Kracker. "This is a record that will particularly thrive in a live setting," offers Ron Shapiro, executive VP/GM of Atlantic. "It's a real record from a band that never fails to deliver. This is a band with star presence."

Sugar Ray first made waves in 1995 with the release of its Lava/Atlantic debut, "Lemonade & Brownies." "It was a good album that no one heard," McGrath notes. In 1997, Sugar Ray hit paydirt with "Fly," the breakthrough hit from their second set, "Floored." "Everything changed after that," Bullock recalls. "We started to understand our potential as a band-creatively and commercially."

With that in mind, Sugar Ray created "14:59," a set that saw the band widen their scope to include elements of reggae and classic soul. The lead single, "Every Morning," peaked in the top-5 of The Billboard Hot 100.

Although their star-power is undeniable, as the band works the crowd in the MTV studio during "Total Request Live," it's obvious that their every-man accessibility also shines through.

"Anyone who says they didn't get into rock'n'roll for moments like these is lying," McGrath says. "This is the best. And it only gets better as time goes on."