Miles Doughty of Slightly Stoopid
Some things you can count on each summer: barbeques, beach visits, fireworks on the 4th... and also, a summer package tour headlined by Slightly Stoopid. Since 2007, the band (which is led by a pair of multi-instrumentalists, Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald), has been hitting the road in the summertime, and this year will be no different, with the announcement of the Kickin' Up Dust tour, which will also feature performances by Atmosphere, Tribal Seeds, and the Grouch and Eligh.
Greg Prato (Songfacts)
Touching upon a hodgepodge of sounds (reggae, rock, folk, punk, etc.), Slightly Stoopid has admirably built their following the old fashioned way - via hardcore touring - and has become a bona fide headliner without ever issuing an album on a major label.
Doughty took time out about a month before the July 10th launch of the aforementioned tour to discuss the stories behind some of Slightly Stoopid's most beloved tunes, his favorite album, and what the late Brad Nowell meant to the band.
: Let's start out by talking about the Kickin' Up Dust
: Well, we've actually been trying to tour with Atmosphere for a few years now and we had conflicting schedules where it just never really worked out. So it's been something that we've been looking forward to for a while, and we've just put the feelers out this year to see if he was interested in doing it, and it turned out that he was, which worked out great. Honestly, we've been a fan and his level of intensity on stage and that he brings, it's going to be awesome for the fans.
And then also the Southern California band Tribal Seeds is going to be doing the West and the East Coast, and we just got done doing a little spring tour with them. Great guys, they play pretty roots reggae and they bring a lot of energy, as well. And the Grouch and Eligh, they'll be doing the Midwest and some of the West Coast states. Some of their beats are pretty nasty, as far as nasty in a good way, just funky. And I think they bring just the element of what the package brings to the summertime, I don't really see a lot of tours that are going to have so many dope vibes going on at once. So we're excited.
: How does the songwriting work in Slightly Stoopid? Is it a complete collaboration with Kyle, or are there songs that sometimes he'll bring in or you'll bring in?
: For us, honestly, it's a little bit of all of it. There are songs that he or myself will bring to the table that are completely done as far as in our mind and what we want to do. But there are eight guys in the band now, so it's nice to use everyone's influences and their ideas. When you have an eight-headed dragon, it gives you more options as far as taking a song to a different level - bringing out something you might not have heard on your own.
We write music all the time, whether we're on the road or we're home with our families, or in the studio here in San Diego. So for us, it's always something going down. When we're on the road is actually when songs are coming to us because we're just working, messing around at sound check. We'll get a lot of ideas and go in different directions. Then when you're on stage playing with your guys, you're like, "Hey, why don't you just sprinkle a little of this in there, why don't you sprinkle a little of that in there?"
And I think it helps the whole process: rather than having something that you just have in your mind that you present to the guys saying, "This is the way I want it," you can let everyone chime in and see what they can add to the song. They have so many different hints of their own, and that's what makes the band so cool: the styles and the influences and the way we change stuff up in the process of writing.
When it comes to lyrics, we're going to write what we want to write, myself and Kyle. But as far as the direction of the song, it's nice having so many guys in the band and giving you that ability to really take the song to where it needs to be rather than just having it set in your mind where it should be. It helps having our own studio where we have the ability to really break things down and listen through and dissect the music.
: And as far as writing lyrics, what are some songs from Slightly Stoopid that you'd say you're the happiest with how the lyrics turned out?
: Honestly, I'm happy with most of everything that we've ever done. There are different areas of inspiration and a change in maturity level from being a kid to an adult.
"The Collie Man" was a song that I was really pleased with. "On Top of the World" I was stoked on, it was nice to have me and Kyle collaborate on the song and kind of change up the style of what we've been putting out.
: What do you remember about the writing of "Top of the World"?
: "Top of the World," we've seen a lot stuff in our almost 20 year career as far as touring and music writing and jam sessions with other musicians and just being around people of every kind. But the whole point of the song is who's around you on different stages of your life. Like, who's really there for you and who's there just looking for the handouts. Some people think like when we wrote the song "Top of the World," we were talking about how we are on top of the world or we feel like we're on top of the world. It's more like what's taken from you or what's put out from other people; how the band has been successful, and who was there for you when you didn't have a dime in your pocket, and who was there for you when you were able to take care of your family and buy a house and maybe had a little extra. It's realizing that there are different phases to people as far as who you meet along the way, and it's good to watch out for it and be careful about those kind of people that are around you.
: Okay. And what about the song "Just Thinking"?
: "Just Thinking," I was so lucky to get Chali 2na on that from Jurassic 5. And, man, I don't know if you're a fan of his or not, but when he speaks, just the baritone of his voice, it's just ridiculous. It's almost mind numbing.
The whole purpose to that song was how love makes the world go round. I know people say it and it's something that you learn when you're a little kid, but I don't think that people believe that. And honestly, it's kind of a fantasy to think that way, but love is what makes the world go round. It's something that there's not enough of in this planet that we live on, and it's reaching to that level as far as everyone needs it and if there was more love in the world we wouldn't have the tragedies and the chaos that goes on amongst us day in and day out. So that's really the whole point of that song: just preaching love to people and making people realize that if you do put your hand out there, someone's going to grab it. And people need it.
: And what about "Collie Man"?
: "Collie Man" is a lot of the same thing as far as life and love and liberty. "Collie Man" is the herbs man, but it's also anyone that can make you feel good. It's that kind of feeling, like the road to life goes up and down, it doesn't really matter as long as the music goes on. For us, music is our life and it's what brings smiles to our faces and the fans and the people that have been around us. I think it's so important that when you don't have it, you're looking for it. We call it the Collie Man, the herbs man, and if you can get him and he's around and makes all your pains go away, it lifts you up into that next level of life.
: Who would you say are some of your favorite songwriters as far as either other bands or musicians?
: I was a huge Jimi Hendrix fan growing up. I was a huge Sublime fan growing up. I thought Brad [Nowell] was way ahead of his time when he was writing music. You know how Nirvana changed the hair metal to grunge? Sublime really changed the whole grunge phase into this Southern California culture that is around the world today. Those two artists taken at 27 years old makes you speechless just because of their lyrical content. It's amazing, they were only 27, yet they seemed so grown up. Even Otis Redding, I'm a huge fan of Otis Redding. I think he was 25 years old when he died [Redding was 26 when he died on December 10, 1967], and he sounds like he could be 55, 60 years old, soul. He sounded like he lived a very cool life and experienced everything, and he was only 25. His song "That's How Strong My Love Is
" was my wedding song, just because it's such a beautiful song.
Those three right there were the three great lyricists and writers and musicians as a whole.
: How much did Brad Nowell help Slightly Stoopid early on in the band's career?
: Brad and Miguel [Michael 'Miguel' Happoldt] brought us into Skunk Records when we were 16 and 17 years old. We were such big fans of them at that time - we'd put the 40 Oz. to Freedom
cassette tape in, and go surf and skate or whatever - and when we got the opportunity to play with them and make a record, we were not only big fans, but also in awe. He was someone that we idolized musically. What he meant to music and what he meant to our careers, just getting that foot in the door with the Skunk label back then was huge. This was pre-Internet and it was one of those things where people came to the shows just to check out the Skunk Records bands: "Oh, they're on Skunk, they must be pretty cool." Just because of what Sublime and the Ziggens had built up with that independent label.
And I think at that time - shit, this was 19 years ago, I guess, 20 years ago - it went just crazy. Brad and Miguel really taught us the grassroots way of doing music. They always preached it to us as kids, like, "Don't be scared to be on the road, this is where you need to be to make the core following of fans." And we just stuck to that gun right there - we hit the road right out of high school and we never looked back. There would be times when there wouldn't even be a single person at the show, but it slowly built from there.
Unfortunately, we knew Brad for three years and then he passed away [on May 25, 1996]. It was pretty crazy how fast it happens. And as kids then, we were just starting out. It was a shock, and something that we'll never forget as far as how grateful we are that he even gave us a chance to make music. We were just some lucky teenagers that he happened to like. He was really cool.
And having that Skunk name behind the band, it was like a seal of approval. If Brad is saying it's all good, that's how the fans saw it. They just came out going, "Oh, these kids must be all right if Brad and Miguel are saying it's all good." So it was pretty cool. We owe them a lot and we'll always miss him. He was taken at 27 years old, and look what music he gave us at that point in his life. It was ridiculous. You take it for granted almost, not thinking something like that would ever happen. It's sad, the harsh reality of the way the world is in general, but some musicians and addicts in general, you've got to be careful. It says on the label that this shit will kill you. I think motherfuckers need to start listening to that. I'm just saying, you know what it does to you and people still want to do it.
: I agree. And from a songwriting standpoint, what is your favorite Slightly Stoopid album?
: I think Closer to the Sun
cohesively as a record really flowed together. It was just one of those albums that at the time when we were recording it, everything was going right. The whole process worked out. The guest stars that we had and the whole studio experience... it was a good record.
I'm happy with all the records, but obviously each record's a little different. And I think the most produced record that we ever did was Everything You Need
- as far as everything being in sequences and played to click tracks. It's really tight. It was the most production we've ever done on a record, and you can tell in the quality of the recordings.
So those two were probably the best as far as that kind of quality. But I like what we're writing now because of what we've experienced and what we've gone through in the two decades of making music. So I was really happy with Top of the World
. We did it at our own studio and it sounds amazing. And from song one to song twenty, it sounds almost like a ride, because everything's in chord progressions, so it just flows: there's not a lot of jumping around and you're not going from an A to an F to a B. We're keeping stuff in keys and progressions and it makes it slow, like you're on a roller coaster ride.
: And lastly, is Slightly Stoopid working on a follow up to Top of the World
: Yeah, yeah, we are. We've been in the studio already since coming back from tour. Whenever we have down time from being on the road, we're going to hit the studio. It's only like 10 minutes from the house so you just go hang out and put in some work. We'll hope to have an early release for 2014.
June 26, 2013. Get more at slightlystoopid.com.