Sugar Ray

There are a few things Sugar Ray's Rodney Shepherd is certain about: "I am not and never was Chaka from Land of the Lost,' the fast-talking guitarist clarifies with a sigh. "Also, nobody in the band has AIDS. And [singer] Mark [McGrath] is a hetrosexual." Fame can cause all sorts of nasty and untrue speculation, but Sugar Ray are on a sugar high that nothing can touch. Tonight, McGrath can safely use the infamous words "Hello, Cleveland" as the band -- rounded out by bassist Murphy Karges, DJ Craig Bullock and drummer Stan Frazier -- greet the audience on their current tour with Fastball and the Goo Goo Dolls. With a recent MTV Video Music Award nomination, and their third album, 14:59, yielding three singles, these "Fly" boys are "Floored" with their success. Both Sugar Ray and the Goo Goo Dolls were essentially hard rock bands for years, but found success with ballads. Is that frustrating?

Rodney Shepherd: It says something about the state of music. It's a shame that it takes slower, ballady type songs in order to be played on the radio to bring the whole band to the next level. It's unfortunate, because I think we have a lot of great rock-type songs too that won't ever see the light of day simply because they don't fit in the radio formats. I guess you could say both bands are doing what they gotta do to keep things rolling. Is it as satisfying for you to play mellower music?

Shepherd: It's equally. It's a different vibe. It's strange, when we play "Fly," there's a lot of energy, even though it's a very laid-back song. The energy compares to the energy we put off on our harder songs. It's cool when you have a song people know; they give you an energy you can't even imagine. We play a total mixture of everything. You come see us and you're going to hear the songs you've heard on the radio, and songs from the first, second and third albums. We play more off our first album than second. Calling your record 14:59 is funny, but did you ever have the thought that if it did fail, you could save face and joke about the self-fulfilling prophecy of the title?

Shepherd: It's a little of everything. Most of all, you know, it's the band's sense of humor. We knew that if the record failed, the title would mean absolutely nothing because the band would be dropped and so forth. The title was insecure humor, but we all had high hopes, and we felt very, very confident about most of the songs we wrote for this record -- more confident than on our last two records. So we had that going for us, and it seems to be doing okay so far. It's still in the Billboard Top 15 and it's been out since January. "Someday" is the first video you've shot that wasn't directed by your friend McG. What was behind that decision?

Shepherd: A few things. McG couldn't make it out to Florida, which is where we needed to film the video because the tour left us in Florida, and we had only three days before we had to go to Europe. We also wanted a different look. We were going to use black and white to make it look very different. We just thought it was time for a change. There's no bad feelings with McG at all. He actually likes the video. We definitely will go back to using him again. It's like, Wow, we tried somebody else, okay, we're going back.' It lacks excitement, and it got lost somewhere, the original idea for the video and what came out. But the song didn't call for a happy-go-lucky McG video, that's the main reason. We wanted it to be a serious video, because of the serious lyrics and all. Is the band taken more seriously these days?

Shepherd: Um, no. We're not even begging to be taken seriously. We'd feel stupid. We've been doing interview for years saying, "We don't take ourselves seriously." It would be lame for us to say, "Now we are." We're still pranksters, just the lyrical content is more serious. Would you be happy if this current level of success were to continue for 10 years?

Shepherd: I wouldn't say 10 years, but definitely for quite a few more years. We're very, very comfortable. If you ask anybody in the band, nobody's complaining. There's always things you can work on, financially and such. Bands start generating so much money, and people perceive you as rich, when actually you're not seeing the money you think you should be seeing. Sometimes we feel like we're in that position, so that's something we're working on. But as far as the way the band plays, it's great. Everybody's getting along, we have a really good set. Is fame overwhelming?

Shepherd: The fame isn't overwhelming, though it sort of is for Mark. We're really happy we're at a level that is so comfortable. We have the nice bus, we're playing amphitheaters, we're just sort of enjoying it, we're on a cloud. The most important thing is that we're getting to keep on. You know what, we're going to make a fourth record! My god, if you would have asked us after the first record, we would have said, "No way would we make it to four!" Who knows, in 13 years, I might still be talking to you about this stuff. I'm sure the Stones didn't think they'd be together as long as they are. How was opening for the Stones in Vegas?

Shepherd: I was scared shitless, not just nervous, the minute before we went onstage opening for the Rolling Stones. Mark and I were literally shaking from being frightened. It was a total out of body experience, Shephard's answer should read, "[Drummer] Stan [Frazier] turned around and Mick Jaggerr was a foot away from him. I got a tattoo, of their lip and tongue thing. I was so moved by the whole experience, I got it a few days later, just above the elbow on my arm. I have a Sugar Ray tattoo in Japanese characters, but I'm the only one in the band. We made a pact with our managers that if our record ever went gold, we'd all get Sugar Ray tattoos. But everybody chickened out.

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