Having devoted themselves to the band since its 1986 inception as The Shrinky Dinks, each member took the time to explore new creative terrain – McGrath stayed in the spotlight as co-host of the nationally syndicated entertainment news program, Extra. Craig “DJ Homicide” Bullock relocated to Florida, where became a hugely in-demand club DJ; drummer Stan Frazier worked as a songwriter and A+R exec; bassist Murphy Karges became a video director; guitarist Rodney Sheppard teaches music to neighborhood kids. Perhaps more importantly, Sheppard, Karges, and Frazier started families, with all living within a two mile radius from one another in their hometown of Newport Beach. “It was just the natural course to sort of lay back for a while,” Sheppard says, “We had a good run up to that time and we’d gotten to the point where we welcomed a break. It just ended up being a bit longer than we thought.” Sugar Ray was in fact quite active during their hiatus, busting out the hits at private corporate events, county fairs, and countless summer festivals. By 2008, the band was itching to get back into the studio. In July, McGrath left Extra in order to devote more of his time to Sugar Ray. At the same time, the band’s longtime friend, producer Josh Abraham (Velvet Revolver, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park), invited them to cut a new album for his just-launched label, Pulse Recordings. “All the stars lined up for us,” Sheppard says. “We always said we would never force ourselves back on the public, but everything just fell together nicely. It was an opportunity for us to make some new music again so we grabbed it.” With Abraham at the helm, the band immediately set to work at the producer’s Pulse Recording in Los Angeles. The producer pushed the band to reach down deep and refine their songwriting, penned, as ever, in various combinations of band members. Perhaps more importantly, Abraham hooked Sugar Ray up with Pulse in-house producer/songwriter Luke Walker (The Deftones, Alkaline Trio, Filter, Elliot Yamin, From First to Last), whom the band enthusiastically credits for helping to both energize and focus the album. “The guy’s a genius,” McGrath enthuses. “He’s an amazing songwriter and he really infused a new attitude, a new creativity, a new way to get songs done and get ‘em done quickly. Luke is the MVP of the whole project.” “We really clicked with Luke,” Sheppard says, “separately and together. A lot of time in the past, the band would come up with a song and get it three-quarters of the way there. With Luke, we were able to realize all our ideas. He was an important ingredient in the songcrafting.” From the start, the project proved to be the most artistically free of the band’s career. The sessions spanned close to a year, a leisurely process that enabled Sugar Ray to take their time crafting both songs and sonics. (pull)“Being the underdog again really frees up your creativity,” McGrath explains. “We had so much fun making the record. There was no pressure. It was purely about the love of songwriting and getting into the studio.” (/pull) From the get-go, Sugar Ray has gleefully traversed all musical boundaries, for no other reason than it tickled their artistic fancy. As ever, “MUSIC FOR COUGARS” sees the band ping-ponging though pop’s innumerable permutations. “Love 101” is classic El Lay harmony pop a la Ricky Nelson, while “She’s Got The…” recalls the days when rock giants like Kiss and the Kinks dared to dip a toe into disco’s forbidden waters. And while one hesitates to use the word ‘maturity’ when discussing the consummately ebullient Sugar Ray, songs like “Closer” and “Morning Sun” display an intelligence and emotional depth that today’s pipsqueak pop combos have yet to attain. Elsewhere, the band displays their mastery of cross-pollinated island rhythms and raps with the delightful “Girls Were Made To Love.” The track – built upon a sample from the 1962 hit, “(Girls, Girls, Girls) Made To Love,” written by Phil Everly and performed by child star Eddie Hodges – was an instant favorite among the bandmates, though they all sensed it needed something more to push it into classic status. McGrath suggested reaching out to Bermuda-based dancehall star Collie Buddz. The band sent the unfinished track to their friend Native Wayne, host of Indie 103.1’s “Native Wayne’s Reggae Smoke-In,” and within days, Buddz had promised to record his parts at the next earliest convenience. True to his word, Collie spent an April afternoon at Pulse, laying down his rapidfire ragamuffin rhymes. “It’s amazing that when you reach out to people they sometimes actually say yes,” Sheppard says, “To have him on the record, it’s an honor. I think it’s the best song on the record now.
- Sugar Ray will launch the release with a summer/fall tour.