Sugar Ray is Orange County's quintessential unthinking man's rock band.
Social Distortion unflinchingly explores the dark corners of the human spirit, Rage Against the Machine rails against societal ills and No Doubt champions persistence in the face of romantic failing. Sugar Ray weaves metal, pop, punk and hip-hop together for the prime goal of brainless fun.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 23, 2000 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 10 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 21 words Type of Material: Correction
Sugar Ray: A Calendar Weekend story on Orange County pop-punk band Sugar Ray misidentified the title of one of the group's hits. The title is "Fly."
"We've never taken our music totally seriously," guitarist Rodney Sheppard said recently from his Costa Mesa home. "We have more of the old attitude of rock 'n' roll: Forget about your troubles and have a good time."
That makes the group's rare club gig Sunday on local turf--at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana--something of a turnabout. Though musically it still gives fans a reason to celebrate, the underlying cause is perfectly serious.
It's a benefit thrown together over the course of a few days to help raise money for mounting medical bills and ongoing rehabilitation therapy for Rob Hillis, whom Sheppard calls "the band's best friend."
"We all went to [Corona del Mar] high school together, and he's been involved with the band since before we got a record deal. He's been in three of our videos ['Pretty Fly (For a White Guy),' 'RPM' and 'Every Morning'] and in videos for other groups too.
"He had a stroke two or three months ago, went into a coma, was real critical and then came out of it, but then he had something like five more strokes," Sheppard continued. "So he's got a long recovery ahead of him."
The concert is expected to raise $20,000 to $30,000.
"We thought that since we're lucky enough to be in a position to raise money to pay for medical bills, we'd try to find the closest place to where the band grew up and have a concert there. We asked the Galaxy if they'd host it, and they agreed."
Sheppard said Hillis isn't well enough to come to the show, but they expect him to stop in during a sound check earlier in the day.
The show is a chance for the group to revisit the kind of gigs it was used to before its second album, "Floored," transformed it from wannabes to rock stars.
"I can't remember the last time we played a show in O.C.," Sheppard said. "It's nice to do something just for the O.C. people because they hear us on the radio but we're never here.
"I love playing amphitheaters, but there's something very intimate and personally rewarding playing a small club because we did it for so many years. You can really feel people's energy--and that's the whole reason we go into it."
It's the last live performance the band has scheduled before leaving at the end of this month for a tour of Australia and New Zealand. Sugar Ray's last played publicly at a New Year's Eve gig for about 125,000 at a Fiesta Bowl-sponsored street festival in Tempe, Ariz. ("It's one of our favorite places to play," he said. "For some reason, the kids there really go bonkers for us.")
Now that the band's latest album, "14:59," has joined "Floored" at double-platinum status, the five band members--Sheppard, singer Mark McGrath, bassist Murray Karges, drummer Stan Frazier and deejay Craig Bullock--are psyching up to write new material for a follow-up.
"The band was in a transitional period when we did 'Floored,' " he said. " 'Pretty Fly' was the last song we wrote for that record, and you could tell we were moving into a more musical direction. We continued that with '14:59.'
"It's been a rewarding change to be writing and performing songs with melodies. We're all into '60s music like the Beatles, and I think that influence is coming out now," he said, "Of course, we still have kids who say 'We like your first album [1995's 'Lemonade and Brownies']; where's the hard-core [punk] stuff?' So we still always play a couple of songs off that one."
A clue to where Sugar Ray might be headed is its latest effort, "Spinning Away," a Brian Eno song on "The Beach" soundtrack that influential songwriter-performer-producer Eno helped the band record.
"We were in the studio with him and he'd say, 'The Edge uses one of these kinds of things for his guitar' because he produced U2," Sheppard said. "I had to pinch myself. We came out with a song that was very mellow, nothing like anything we'd done before."
Sugar Ray plays Sunday at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana. With Something Corporate. 8 p.m. Sold out. (714) 957-0600.