When guitarists/singers Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald started Slightly Stoopid in 1994, they were out front of a second generation of bands that wanted to build on the reggae-rock sound that was starting to take hold thanks to the success of groups like Sublime, 311 and, to a lesser extent, No Doubt.
Now some 28 years later, Slightly Stoopid is one of several California reggae-rooted bands that can headline outdoor amphitheaters and a veteran member of a scene packed with acts playing some variation of reggae-rooted music and espousing California culture built around skateboarding, surfing, and in many cases, the benefits of cannabis. In fact, touring amphitheaters has become an annual summer ritual for Slightly Stoopid. To say the least, Slightly Stoopid have become veterans at what it takes to deliver a large-scale show to crowds that can number upward of 20,000.
“Now it’s kind of like we’ve got a great crew, awesome lights guy,” Doughty said in a recent phone interview. “Everybody kind of knows what we’re all thinking. It just makes it that much easier when you surround yourself with the right people and the right energy. It’s like anything. If you’ve done something so many times, you get a lot better at it and start to perfect what’s going on around you.”
Playing amphitheaters might have seemed like a pipe dream when Slightly Stoopid started out all those years ago in the San Diego area, but that’s not the case for groups trying to make their mark in the scene now. The Cali-reggae scene has grown into a significant part of the overall music scene and Doughty is pleased to see other bands benefiting from the genre’s popularity.
“I never thought we’d be where we are when I was a kid,” Doughty said. “This is like living the dream times 10. It’s been an incredible journey. Back in the day when we first started, we were one of the only bands. Obviously, there was Sublime, 311, No Doubt. Really (compared to) a lot of bands in the culture, we were like the baby band of that. Now that Southern California culture has spread like wildfire everywhere to where there are like 10,000 of those bands. It really seems to be, this is across the board, the energy of the Southern California culture seems to be what a lot of people are vibing toward. And it’s great. I’m happy for the successes for all of those bands. It’s great to see when a lot of your friends are doing well and are experiencing the same things across the board. It’s pretty cool.”
Sublime and its late vocalist, Bradley Nowell, in fact, gave Slightly Stoopid its biggest early break. Nowell signed Slightly Stoopid to his label, Skunk Records, paving the way for the release of Slightly Stoopid’s 1996 self-titled debut album. It gave the group a legitimacy that was valuable as Slightly Stoopid sought to establish a fan base.
“I think when we first started touring, having that Skunk name, because of Sublime’s influences, we would go places and people wouldn’t know who Slightly Stoopid was and they would be like ‘Hey, let’s go and check out that Skunk Records band,’” Doughty said. “And it was such a killer little indie label back then, Skunk Records was.”
There’s been no magic formula to Slightly Stoopid’s success. The group built its following the old-fashioned hard way, playing 200 or more shows a year during its first decade. Over the years, Slightly Stoopid also added band members to go with its expanding instrumental mix. Today, the lineup includes Doughty, McDonald (guitar, bass, vocals), Ryan Moran (drums), Oguer Ocon (percussion, harp), Daniel “Dela” Delacruz (saxophone), Paul Wolstencroft (keyboards) and Andy Geib (trombone),
And as the touring miles piled up, Slightly Stoopid released studio albums on a regular basis, developing and refining their sunny brand of reggae mixed with rock, funk, folk, pop and even punk rock along the way.
The group’s ninth studio album, Everyday Life, Everyday People, arrived in 2018 and features guest appearances from several major figures in the reggae world, including Ali Campbell of UB40, Don Carlos (of Black Uhuru fame), Yellowman, Sly Dunbar and Chali 2na (of Jurassic 5). While plenty eclectic, Everyday Life, Everyday People finds Slightly Stoopid leaning a bit more toward reggae than on some of the previous albums.
Five of the 13 songs (“Livin’ in Babylon,” “Stay The Same Prayer For You,” “Legalize It,” “No One Stops Us Now Nobody Knows” and “Fire Below”) qualify as fairly full-on reggae, while “Talk Too Much” “If You Want It” and “Too Late” further the reggae-fied feel by dipping into the dub-style side of the reggae form. The album gets its variety from tunes like “Higher Now,” which blends rap, reggae and dreamy soul; “Glocks,” an instrumental offering easy-going, full-bodied rock; “One More Night,” a tuneful acoustic folk-pop ballad; and “Everybody People,” which mixes jammy acoustic folk with reggae.
Doughty credited the guest artists on Everyday Life, Everyday People with helping set the tone for the music on the album.
“Just because of the guest stars we had on the record, it’s definitely more of a reggae-influenced record,” he said. “But you still have songs like ‘One More Night,’ which is nothing even in the reggae realm. It’s a great ballad folk song, the story of our lives on the road, leaving our children, leaving our friends and our family, all of that is in the lyrics of the song. I think for us, with the guest stars we had, we ended up doing more reggae than we usually do on the records, which is fine because we love reggae music anyway.
“You can almost, you can feel, I don’t know if maturity is the right word, but you can feel the band is growing up and just so much around us is in our music. Like what we see, how we see the world is presented in our music, (with) what we say lyrically, just the feeling of our music,” Doughty said, touching on the honesty and warm vibe of the new album. “For us, I was just happy with the different styles we did, from folk music to reggae to hip-hop, to a little bit of stuff in between. We’re just really happy, man. I think at this point in our lives, we’re in a good space mentally and physically. We love what we do and we’re blessed to do it.”
With Slightly Stoopid joined by Pepper, Common Kings and Fortunate Youth on this summer’s tour, Doughty said there’s always a chance fans will see musical collaborations on stage between Slightly Stoopid and the other musicians. These are moments he enjoys.
“What’s cool is it’s really something just special for the fans when they can see that kind of camaraderie, Doughty said. “It really makes a difference in the shows. It’s genuine. There’s nothing like set up about it. That’s what’s so special about the bands. People can relate because we’re all just regular, real people.”
Slightly Stoopid plays the Zoo Amphitheatre Aug. 18. Tickets are $37.50 to $57.50.