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November 26, 2020

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Talking ’90s nostalgia, music and minivans with Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath

Sugar Ray

Robb D. Cohen/Invision/AP

Mark McGrath is taking over the Flamingo this weekend.

At 49 years old, Mark McGrath isn’t the rock ‘n roll wild child he once was when his band, Sugar Ray, was topping the charts with catchy, summer hits like “Fly,” “Someday” and “Every Morning.” He stays busy touring and making somewhat crazy TV and movie appearances — he was in two Sharknado flicks — but he finds the balance as a family man now.

“It’s funny, we were a band from Newport Beach, I grew up on beaches, we moved to L.A. and got signed, and now I’ve ended up doing the things the younger me would never do,” says McGrath. “First is leave L.A., because I live in the valley and I drive a minivan. That’s the double whammy. I don’t know who I am anymore. When you have kids, life is about where you can get some little edges here and there. And you know, minivan. Minivans were developed by parents, not by Lil Yachty.”

McGrath has a different double whammy in store for Las Vegas this weekend, when he hosts the wild Day Beats pool party at the Flamingo’s Go Pool on Saturday, June 24, before his cohorts in Sugar Ray join him for a nighttime concert at the pool on Sunday. (Find info for both events here.) We spoke with him from his minivan in the valley as he prepared for both.

The Go Pool is a natural fit for you and Sugar Ray. It’s a no-nonsense, come-as-you-are kind of party. I feel very fortunate. They called us and it was like, of course, Sugar Ray poolside in the summer with some cocktails? We just go well together. And coming in early to make an extra appearance? I’d love to. There’s nothing I love more than shaking hands with the friends and family who helped the band become what it is.

You’ve been a frequent Vegas visitor over the years, both to perform with the band and for other events. In the ’90s when it was all happening, Vegas was really starting to come along as a must-have spot on your touring itinerary. There wasn’t as many venues in Vegas then. It really took shape. And whether it was for business or fun, I certainly have some stories that are best left in Vegas. I’ve calmed down considerably since I used to make the gossip pages, but I’ve probably had more fun than most.

You’re also headlining the current version of the I Love the ’90s Tour, which will bring you back to town in September. Yes. Years ago I put together Under the Sun, which was [similar] with traditional rock acts and bands of that era, Smash Mount and Gin Blossoms and Blues Traveler and Vertical Horizon. Then they put this together, I Love the ’90s, and it has been selling out arenas.

I Love the ’90s has more hip-hop acts and less rock. Hip-hop, pop, R&B, it was all one thing in the ’90s. If you listened to pop radio then you would hear Blink-182 and Mariah Carey, Naughty by Nature and Sugar Ray. So the audience is not any different from the Sugar Ray audience. A lot of songs have a sort of hip-hop foundation anyway, so I’ve always felt comfortable alongside those big acts from that era. It’s been a lot of fun.

Have you considered bringing back your Under the Sun tour? It’s always in my back pocket. It was successful, it was just a big undertaking. It’s nice to be just a performer and not the one who makes it all go around. I’m thinking about how to do it more efficiently, and maybe incorporating other acts besides the mid ’90s alt-rock stuff, some other genres.

What is it about ’90s music that has become so popular again in recent years? It’s very simple. It happens every 15 or 20 years. Nostalgia kicks in, people become parents, and the stink of that generation goes away. The ’90s took a lot longer because at that time, the industry imploded, and there weren’t very many bands filling in. Nostalgia is very powerful. It’s summers and your first kiss and “Fly” was on in the background. Or beach vacations with the family and Smash Mouth’s “All Star” was the soundtrack. The song my kids ever sang was Neon Trees’ “Animal,” and that song will now always be a huge part of my life, always.

What’s next for you, more music stuff or more TV stuff? I just take it as it comes. I’ve been doing a lot of acting and I just did a Christmas movie for Amazon. I’ve picked up these extra skills doing hosting gigs for Extra TV and I’ve had this kind of cheesy acting career, but it’s a lot of fun and I’m always up for it. I’m also hosting a radio show on Sirius XM every weekend, just two hours of music with a theme. But performing live is what keeps the food on the table and the lights on in the house, and I’ve been fortunate. Those [hit] songs have been very good to me.

Are you driving the minivan to Las Vegas? What’s funny is that we actually fight over who drives the minivan. I might take a plane to Vegas but I’ll be having minivan dreams. If that’s not he most un-rock ‘n roll thing anyone ever said in an interview, I don’t know what is.

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