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 25 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 cannibas. In fact, touring amphitheaters has become an annual summer ritual for Slightly Stoopid, which this summer headlines a bill that also includes opening acts Matisyahu, Tribal Seeds and Hirie. 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.
“It’s either our 12th or 13th year doing amphitheaters,” Doughty said in a recent phone interview. “Now it’s kind of like we’ve got a great crew, awesome lights guy. 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 was a pipe dream for Slightly Stoopid when the group started out, 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. This is like living the dream times 10,” Doughty said. “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.”
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 last summer 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. But you still have songs like ‘One More Night,’ which is nothing even in the reggae realm,” he said. “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.”
Doughty said there’s a good chance fans will see musical collaborations on stage between Slightly Stoopid and the other acts on this summer’s bill.
“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 so special about the bands. People can relate because we’re all just regular, real people.”