Famous local musicians—including those from Sugar Ray and Train—are in the spotlight again with their new supergroup, Side Deal.
By Christopher Trela
For the musicians in Side Deal, skidding on a patch of black ice was the heart-pounding experience that cemented their bond.
The Newport Beach-based band was in Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival. They were driving to a morning gig in a rented car, and it was snowing.
“We were coming down a steep grade and hit a patch of black ice,” recalls band member Joel Owen. “We started sliding toward the railing that keeps you from going down the hill. We slammed into the railing and survived. That’s when we really became a band. We thought something’s going on here.”
“We were on our way to play [at] a women’s rally in front of a thousand people in the snow,” adds Stan Frazier, Side Deal drummer. “We played two songs. It was triumphant.”
Triumphant seems to be the watchword for Side Deal, which made its official debut at last year’s Newport Beach Film Festival. Since that gig, more opportunities have been coming the group’s way, including shows at Sundance and The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, where Side Deal opened for classic rock band America before headlining its own show a few months later. Side Deal did a warm-up gig at Campus Jax in Newport Beach prior to returning to this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival as the opening night gala headliner, and the band’s first album is due out in August.
Local Boys Make Good
Side Deal’s members are no strangers to high-profile events thanks to their illustrious past association with famous bands. Drummer Stan Frazier was in Sugar Ray and bassist Charlie Colin is from Train, while guitarists Joel and Scott Owen make up the PawnShop kings duo. They all grew up in Newport Beach—Colin attended Newport Harbor High School, the other three went to Corona del Mar High School.
“I was on the water polo team, which meant you had to try out and become a lifeguard in Newport Beach, so I got into the aquatic culture here,” Colin says. “It’s an amazing way to grow up.”
Colin joined a band called Side Effects when he was just 15, while Frazier had a band called The Tories when he was in eighth grade. That band morphed into The Shrinky Dinx, which eventually became Sugar Ray.
Frazier recalls what it was like being on the Warped tour in the summer of 1997, when the Sugar Ray song “Fly” (Frazier was the song’s main writer) was released. “It was a life changer,” Frazier says. “We were tracking the music magazines including Billboard. Every week, ‘Fly’ was moving up the charts. I remember the day we hit No. 1.”
“Fly” stayed atop the Hot 100 charts for four weeks, and spent eight weeks at that first spot on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. “Nothing will replace going to No. 1 at age 25, but the things we’re doing now as a band—it’s a pretty cool thing,” Frazier says.
Side Deal plays both revamped and familiar versions of hits from its members’ previous bands—“Fly,” “Every Morning” and “Someday” from Sugar Ray and “Drops of Jupiter,” “Meet Virginia” and “Calling All Angels” from Train—as well as brand-new, original songs. The group’s sound borrows and blends musical influences from those past bands to create a new hybrid with soulful, pop-rock melodies and soaring vocal harmonies.
Before Side Deal was formed, Frazier ventured into the culinary world and won the reality show “Chef Race” in 2012—along with a prize of $100,000. Frazier parlayed that experience into becoming the co-owner of Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store in Newport Beach, one of his favorite haunts as a teen.
Frazier focused on this new endeavor and it was later that he connected with Colin—after the Train bassist returned to Newport for a charity show and started dating a woman from Balboa Island. She asked if he knew Frazier and insisted Colin meet him. On their second date, they went to Frazier’s house, where the musical men started jamming—and bonding.
The seed for Side Deal was sown in 2016 when Colin called Frazier to come jam at Lido Theatre where his band, Painbirds, was performing with Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (known for playing guitar with The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan). Frazier invited Scott and Joel Owen along to the gig. After the show, they all went out and started talking.
“It was serendipity,” Joel Owen notes.
From there, they started hanging out and making plans. “We had a board meeting—which means we went surfing together,” Colin says. “There was definitely chemistry there.”
Scott Owen adds that the group consists of “an interesting collection” of “four very capable guys leaning on each other.” They play the covers from each other’s former bands, but with a new interpretation. “The way we play each other’s songs are almost a blended version of the songs everyone knows,” Scott Owen says. “… The songs take on a different life, not like just re-creating the sound from a record.”
The group’s members are also writing new music. And, suddenly, this side deal has become a full-time deal. “It’s strange to feel revitalized and play music together,” Frazier adds. “It’s what we do for a living, what we’ve done for our whole lives. The new stuff we’re writing is magical. I can’t wait to get in the studio.”
The band aims to release its album before playing at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Aug. 11.
“That is our short-term goal,” Frazier says. “Beyond that, we don’t know. We’re just really stoked. It’s like being in a garage band again. “We rehearse at my house, we have no manager, no agent, we do it all ourselves. We’re kind of handling it. Until it’s an avalanche, we’re handling it.”
Based on Side Deal’s track record, the avalanche is coming. Fortunately, the guys say they’re grounded by living in Newport Beach.
“This is my community—this is where my people are,” Joel Owen says. “I have lifelong friends still living in town [and] my parents are in the same house from when we moved here from Texas. I am connected to my roots.”
The other band members also feel deeply connected to this area. “I have lived everywhere, but here there’s an overwhelming sense of home—the ocean, my friends,” Colin notes. “No matter what happens, there is a part of it that is irreplaceable.”
Frazier adds that he lived in Los Angeles for a few years when he was in Sugar Ray. “But after I met my wife and we started coming back to Newport Beach, we wondered why I was living in LA,” he recalls. “I had an attitude adjustment. My daughter was born in Hoag Hospital. I still have a P.O. Box on Balboa Island.”
Newport is more than an address to them. “I have a shirt that says ‘Love Where You Came From,’ ” Scott Owen adds. “This is where our home is, and we want to be the best we can be for this place.”
For more information on Side Deal and the band’s upcoming performance dates, visit sidedealmusic.com.