The memory of the day just won't go away. The echo of "hut, hut, hut" echoed through the Los Angeles offices of Atlantic Records as the four men of Sugar Ray -- dressed only in football helmets, combat boots, and jock straps -- marched down the hallway to formally deliver their complete debut album, "LEMONADE & BROWNIES." After executing some fine drill work, they left, without a word, leaving behind a faint locker scent and a tangle of silly string. Welcome to the pleasuredome of California's Sugar Ray. Grab a broom and hit the Lysol.
For the tele-marketer (Rodney), paralegal (Stan), truck driver (Mark), and failed security Guard turned pizza chef (Murphy), Sugar Ray has afforded the opportunity to bust out and present themselves in an environment of bare-butt debauchery. The great streakers of the '70s (remember that guy at the Oscars?) serve as revered role models. "out of all of us, Stan especially maintains the '70s ideology of fun and free love," says Mark. "He is Keith Moon. He tried to streak at 'Jurassic Park,' right passed some old lady who had just come out of the Coco's restaurant. But let's face it, this isn't the '70s anymore, when they used to hand you a towel and send you off with a rat tail on the ass. Now they put you in jail." "I'd keep streaking at the movies, particularly for the summer movie sequel season, but I'm tired of getting arrested," says Stan. "I can't post the bail."
Once all the pieces were in place, Sugar Ray aligned themselves with the gods of horseplay on stages throughout Orange County and truly became a band. With each show, the adrenaline ran hotter and the crowds grew larger and nuttier. Other than their typically riotous San Diego performances, particular live highlights include recent opening sets with buddies House of Pain, most notably an SRO gig at L.A.'s House of Blues.
Combined resume entries among the members of Sugar Ray don't add up to much -- nor that it matters. Murphy did a stint playing bass for L.A. punk pioneers the Weirdos on a 1990 U.S. tour opening for the Circle Jerks, while Rodney was a brief cast member on "Land of The Lost," where he played the fuzzy, lovable Chaka. Unfortunately, the gig only lasted through the first six episodes. Remember how there were two Darrens on "Bewitched?" Similar deal. "It was another lifetime," says Sheppard.
Here and now is "LEMONADE & BROWNIES." The album, in keeping with the widely varied musical tastes of Sugar Ray, is an eclectic affair. Styles roam unencumbered for the R&B vocal of "Scuzzboots," to the "Price Is Right" ditty romp of "Danzig Needs A Hug," to the flat-out guitarorama of "Rhyme Stealer." "Every track has a different personality," says Murphy.
The hip-hop flavor that permeates much of the album stemmed from an interest in expanding the mood and sonics of their live performances. The resulting addition of DJ Homicide to the fold went over so big with SR fans that it wasn't long before he became a permanent fixture on stage. Homicide, who does most of the scratching on the album, hosts a Saturday night show on Los Angeles' "The Beat" (92.3-FM), one of the city's premiere hip-hop stations. Sugar Ray's hip-hop troops also include House of Pain's DJ Lethal (executive producer and master of all beats) and mixing engineer Jason Roberts (House of Pain, Cypress Hill, Funkdoobiest), in what was Roberts' first-ever rock project. "We're just rap fans," says Mark. "Adding a hip-hop element to our music is a natural part of that appreciation."
The constant in all of the band's assorted tastes is a gravitation toward music that exudes a free-flowing juice and sends you leaping around the house. "Van Halen records always did that for me, 'License To Ill' did that for me, and 'Never Mind The Bollocks' did that for me," says Mark. "I just loved the energy of those albums. Ted Nugent, too. Ted is my big hairy Cupid and he shoots me in the ass with those be fucking fire darts."
Instilling "LEMONADE & BROWNIES" recording sessions with the adrenaline that fuels their live antics was essential. Mark was up to the challenge. "I'd go in there, get liquored up, and just go for it," he says. "I'd let everybody know, 'Guys, I have one more hour before I pass out. Let's see what happens.' I can't just wake up at 10 AM, step to the mic, and waaaaahhhhh! I have to go through my little ritual: beer, shot, beer, shot, beer, shot, roll tape. It's bad for the vocal chords but it's good for building character."
Mark is similarly confessional when it comes to lyrical inspiration. "10 Seconds Down" is his ode to sexual dissatisfaction and ESPN's Dan Patrick. "I'm really bad in the sack," says Mark. "The problem is that I only last for about 10 seconds and I can only do it once. Seriously. Afterwards, I'll immediately need the remote control so I can switch on 'Sports Center.'" The skit-oriented "vibe tracks" found throughout the record provide little windows into the band's singular sense of humor and their dietary habits - e.g., "Drive By." As for the group's first single, "Mean Machine" is a loving tribute to the singer's "barf green" vintage Cadillac. "I'm psychotically in love with that car, so I had to incorporate it into the album somehow," says Mark. With the recent arrival of Murphy's '68 Charger in the driveway, Sugar Ray are now a two-mean-machine-household.
The band, along with producer/videographer/designated driver McG, have been living together for some time now out in Los Angeles. By a strange twist of skewed property values and true crime, the low-rent payin' band managed to secure a house in a neighborhood full of ambitious professionals and young families. The Welcome Wagon never paid a visit. "Can you imagine going to school for 20 years and working hard all your life only to see the Scooby Doo van pull up next door with your new neighbors?" says Mark. "They hate us. Sometimes they'll stick their whiny brats in the pool at 6 in the morning to get back at us. They'll also turn their sprinklers on when our cars are out front with the windows open. Still, there's nothing worse than when we come home at 4 AM totally drunk. We always get the last laugh."
The usual personality conflicts that arise from communal band living were precluded by years of bonding. "The four of us were already good friends so there were no surprises when we moved in together," says Mark. "We knew each other's idiosyncrasies. It wasn't like 'The Real World' where you find out about everyone's weirdness." The benefits of this domestic chemistry is regularly revealed in Stan's gourmet pasta dishes and spontaneous woodshedding of new material. "Sometimes Stan and I will be taking a bath and we'll come up with an idea for a vibe track," says Mark, "and then Murphy will hop in and we'll come up with a punk song." Don't even ask when they towel off.
© Atlantic Recording Corporation 4/95