By: Andrew Bruss
For Miles Doughty (guitar, bass, vocals) and Kyle McDonald (guitar, bass, vocals), founders of Slightly Stoopid, the drop of any one album or any single tour might not be seen as such a big deal. But, on the heels of their latest record, Slightly Not Stoned Enough To Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid (released July 22 on Stoopid Records), they've decided to hit the road with their Hawaiian cohorts, Pepper and reggae legends Sly & Robbie, a feat, that even within the parameters of their lifelong journey, is worthy of appreciating in a whole new light. For a group of 17-year-old guys from Southern California stewarded by Sublime's Brad Nowell, they've gone from obscurity to a level of success that literally draws thousands of people to pre-game every performance. McDonald even made a point of saying, "If you're coming to a show without some chronic, that's a big mistake."
Plenty of kids from Southern California skateboard, smoke pot and try to start a band, but few have taken things as far as Slightly Stoopid. After grabbing his pipe and a lighter, McDonald described the birth of his band, "I came out sideways, out my mom's thing, and it started from there. They had trouble getting me out, so from there, it's been pretty dumb, and pretty stupid."
All joking aside, McDonald and Doughty have been friends since they were in diapers due to the friendship of their mothers. The two grew up together, got in trouble together, went to school together and started playing music together. While many bands treat members like they're expendable in an ever-changing lineup, Slightly Stoopid has kept the core of their lineup the same since the start. Doughty cites the family vibe they all feel as a reason for having kept things so tight.
"We've had different drummers, but me and Kyle are pretty much brothers. We've been friends for 29 years, so you know, jamming with all your best friends and brothers," says Doughty, "it doesn't get better than that."
Still, for anyone with a bigger brother, it's no secret that the bond of brotherly love is often far from conflict-free.
"Oh hell yeah [we fight], we're not going to claim to be perfect super humans," says Doughty. "People fight. That's just part of the way the world works. Like, when you're in bed with your girlfriend, do you fuck better after you fight, or do you fuck better before you fight? Afterwards! The shit's more meaningful."
Around the time the two started getting the group together, Brad Nowell took note, and made a point of taking them under his wing. Reflecting on it McDonald says, "We didn't get signed. A lot of people think Brad Nowell signed us, but he just said to his sound guy, 'Go record these guys.' There was no signing. It was just an honor for us, because the guys in Sublime are gods. Brad was a God."
As fate may have it, Slightly Stoopid released their first, self-titled album right around the time of Nowell's untimely death, an event that seems to have left its mark on both McDonald and Doughty. "I think he passed away way before his time," McDonald says. "He had a lot of great stuff he still had in him." Doughty adds, "We were huge fans of Sublime, and it sucked that their career, and his life, was cut short, but their music was timeless. For us, even that style staying alive is important for music, and Brad would want it that way. It just sucks that he's not around to give us more than he did, because the stuff he put out is incredible."
Their sound and style has been compared to Sublime by more than one critic, and given their roots, the comparison makes perfect sense. But, after the fall of their mentor, Slightly Stoopid moved on, and began making a name for themselves on the national market. Both McDonald and Doughty attribute their success to hard work and touring.
"The key to being successful is having to bust your ass on the road. When you go out there, when you first start, nobody's going to be there because nobody is going to know who you are," Doughty says. "But, when you play those shows, those security guards and bartenders, they go and tell their friends, and that's kind of how it starts. Each show gets bigger and bigger, but the most important thing is literally hitting up towns over and over again and staying on the road."
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Photo by Soda
I think our biggest strength is the live show. Our CD sells fine. We sell about 100,000 of each record, and that's fine. If 100,000 people bought the record, three other guys burned it, so that's like 300,000 people listening to it. As long as the music gets out there, the shows get bigger and bigger.
Without a care for radio play or screen time on MTV, McDonald drove his partner's point home, saying, "[What's helped us the most has been our] relentless hard work and traveling and not going to college, just skipping it and heading onto the road since we were 16 and just playing gigs ever since then. The fans, I mean, we've made a lot of friends over the years at shows, and a lot of those friends come back year after year after year."
"I think we have some of the most awesome fans there are," Doughty adds. "They're always adamant about pushing Slightly Stoopid to everybody, which is cool, because it's like having a voice behind the music."
For a record industry that seems to be in a death spiral, many artists and industry insiders have great cause for concern about how file sharing will affect their livelihood, but Slightly Stoopid isn't worried.
"I think our biggest strength is the live show," Doughty says. "Our CD sells fine. We sell about 100,000 of each record, and that's fine. If 100,000 people bought the record, three other guys burned it, so that's like 300,000 people listening to it. As long as the music gets out there, the shows get bigger and bigger."
When asked how he feels about a concert attendee who downloaded the album without paying for it, he says, "I don't feel ripped off because he's at the show, and he's telling his friends, 'Yo, check out this band.' It's a digital world and people are going to download it anyways. You can't get upset because now you have a new fan and he's going to buy one more ticket to the show. That's just one more crazy motherfucker at the gig."
As for the role Slightly Stoopid plays in a changing industry, it seems as though the group itself barely feels the changes.
"Honestly, I think we're outside of what the industry is dealing with. We've been independent for so long, that everything is working for us," Doughty notes. "We're not on a label that has to cut back because we've always been independent. We've never had a crazy overstock of shit we don't need. It's all about putting out music the way we've been doing it, and I don't see us changing our ways, because that's what Slightly Stoopid is all about."
"I don't deal with [the] politics [of the industry]. I deal with music," says McDonald. "My manager deals with booking shows, and I deal with music. If there's a complication that I don't agree with we work it out."
There's no question the stakes are gradually rising for Slightly Stoopid. Their name is getting recognized more and more on the national level, their ability to draw a crowd is intensifying and, even in a time when gas is pricey and "service charges" are keeping many fans at home, their current level of success is amazing. For McDonald, the fact that two of reggae's most influential musicians are playing with them this summer has helped verify their growing status. "I haven't met Sly & Robbie, and I'm looking forward to it. They pretty much invented how reggae is done, so it's a little weird," he says. "It's going to be crazy to go out with them. It will definitely be a humbling experience. I don't like that we're headlining. I'd rather go on before them."
So what can a stranger to the Slightly Stoopid experience expect at their shows?
"It's a little bit of Southern California love with some booty shaking music and some madness," offers Doughty. "A lot of people might get detoured by the name and aren't sure what to expect, but once you give it a listen, there's going to be something on there you're down to listen to. I want to be remembered as the band that put a smile on your face, and always creates good music and likes to have a good time."
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