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Slightly Stoopid, Greatly Grown 

Veteran SoCal reggae rockers expand their matured musical palette.

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ANDERS JUNGER
  • Anders Junger

When guitarists and 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 No Doubt.

Now, some 28 years later, Slightly Stoopid is one of several California reggae-rooted bands that can headline outdoor amphitheaters, veteran members 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. It's their summer ritual now to tour amphitheaters, where they deliver large-scale shows to crowds that can number upwards of 20,000.

"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 [type]. Now Southern California culture has spread like wildfire everywhere, to where there are like 10,000 of those bands. The energy of the Southern California culture seems to be what a lot of people are vibing toward. [And] it's great to see when a lot of your friends are doing well and are experiencing the same things across the board."

The aforementioned Sublime and their 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."

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 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, the album finds Slightly Stoopid leaning a bit more toward reggae than on some of the previous albums.

Most of the songs on Everyday Life qualify as fairly full-on reggae—but 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 the album 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."

Touching on the honesty and warm vibe of the latest album, Doughty adds, "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. For us, I was just happy with the different styles we did, from folk 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."

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Alan Sculley

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