Slightly Stoopid rises to top of Cali-reggae scene

Slightly Stoopid rises to top of Cali-reggae scene
Slightly Stoopid plays Aug. 26 after the last race at Del Mar. Photo by Anders Junger

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.

Twenty-plus 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.

“I don’t think anybody could have ever really anticipated this,” Doughty said, commenting on the explosion in popularity of the Cali-reggae scene in a recent interview. “I never thought we’d be where we are when I was a kid. 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.”

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.

Nowell wouldn’t live to see the impact his band had on music. He died on May 25, 1996, just two months before the release of Sublime’s self-titled third album, which featured the chart-topping alternative rock song, “What I Got.”

Fans caught up to Sublime’s music after that, and sales of that trailblazing group’s three albums now stand at more than 17 million copies.

But even with the demise of the original Sublime, Slightly Stoopid benefited from the affiliation with that group.

“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.

That doesn’t mean building a fan base was easy for Slightly Stoopid. There was no such thing as social media when the group started and Napster was just starting to change the entire music business with its music downloading technology. Instead, Slightly Stoopid got established by staying on the road 200 or so days a year.

“We showed up at places where it was just like the security guards and the bartenders,” Doughty said. “And you were making a hundred bucks to put gas in the van and a little bit of fast food in your belly and drive to the next town.”

Slowly, but surely, Slightly Stoopid gained momentum, developing their sunny blend of reggae, rock, acoustic folk, hip-hop and more. Today, the group has eight studio albums to its credit, the most recent of which is 2015’s “Meanwhile…Back at the Lab,” and is widely considered one of the better bands on the Cali-reggae scene.

Over the years, as the touring miles piled up, 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), with special guest Karl Denson (saxophonist) occasionally joining the group when he isn’t doing gigs with his own band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, or as a regular member of the Rolling Stones touring horn section.

Doughty said Slightly Stoopid is working on a new studio album that will probably be released in early 2018. The plan is to finish recording after the summer tour, which finds Slightly Stoopid topping a bill that also includes Iration, J Boog and the Movement.

“We’ve got a little bit of stuff (in the set) from every record. We have some new songs that we haven’t recorded yet that will be in the shows,” Doughty said of Slightly Stoopid’s show. “So it’s going to be fun. I think what’s going to be good will be working together with the other guys on the tour, Iration, J Boog, the Movement. We’re going to put together a nice little encore kind of (jam) and just have fun with it. I think the biggest thing for summer time is creating a fun energy for the fans.”

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