Nostalgia gets a bad rap. That’s the basic gist of a statement by Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath, whom A.V. Club assistant editor Alex McCown spoke to this past weekend (along with the rest of his band, Sugar Ray) as part of the second installment in his now-annual coverage of New York’s 90sFest. The fest—whose title conveys its all-nostalgia all-the-time purpose—featured a who’s who of ’90s luminaries, including C+C Music Factory, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Sister Hazel, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and McGrath’s fellow purveyors of “Fly,” “Every Morning,” and other hits. When asked why the group thought bands like theirs endured, while many of the more critically acclaimed acts of the era had folded, nostalgia was key to McGrath’s argument.
Nostalgia is the most precious commodity you could ever have. Forget highlights in your hair, forget ”Hammer” pants, forget Smash Mouth. If you have a song that someone had life experiences to—I don’t care if it’s the Macarena—it means a lot to somebody. And we had three or four of those, God bless the lord above. I know that because people tell me every day. ”’Fly’ was the first song my kid ever sang.” After the stink of a thing goes away, after a generation goes away—where your brother was making fun of you for liking a certain thing—then it starts to come back in style again.
He’s certainly not wrong about the cyclical nature of styles and appreciation of different eras (“As a three-time Rock N’ Roll Jeopardy! champion, I knew that,” he wryly adds), but guitarist Rodney Sheppard summed it up with a different and slightly more succinct explanation: “Also, we’re lucky.”
Asked to name some other groups from their generation who never quite got the acclaim they deserved, the group offered up Fastball, one of the one-hit wonders early critics suggested Sugar Ray was destined to become after “Fly.” But they also happily offer up a lengthy roster of ’90s luminaries they’d love to see playing a 90sFest-style concert, including Silverchair, Jellyfish, Nirvana (once the “living or dead” rule was permitted), Soundgarden, Digable Planets (“they did a lot for backpack rock,” McGrath adds), and more. One thing everyone agrees on: Oasis would headline, because they would demand to.
Ultimately, they were fairly good-natured about their success, downplaying it to a large degree. “[A lot of] bands got what they deserve,” said McGrath. “I think we got more than we deserve.” No word yet on whether they are planning to share that more with Fastball.