Slightly Stoopid ditches funk for punk on latest album
Slightly Stoopid may be 20 years and nine studio albums into its career with its recently released CD, “Meanwhile ... Back at the Lab.” But the band doesn’t mind giving fans a reminder — this time a jarring one — of how things started for the group all those years ago.
Smack in the middle of “Meanwhile ... Back at the Lab,” after seven songs that touch on the laid back Southern California-styled mix of reggae, funk, soul and rock that has come to be Slightly Stoopid’s stock in trade, the group unleashes the song “F*** You.”
It’s a blistering, guitar heavy three-minute blast of pure punk rock and a song so different from the previous songs that it makes one wonder whether some different band hijacked the album and sonically photo bombed Slightly Stoopid with the song.
That’s not what happened, obviously. “F*** You” was written and recorded by Slightly Stoopid. And singer/guitarist/bassist Miles Doughty feels it has an important function on “Meanwhile ... Back at the Lab.”
“I felt like it was more of a statement, just saying look, just because we’re playing jammy kind of music, reggae, blues, rock, hip-hop, just because we’re playing that stuff, doesn’t meant that we don’t remember our punk rock roots,” Doughty said. “That’s all Slightly Stoopid used to be when we first started as a band. I don’t want to just play punk rock music my whole career. That’s not what I wanted to do and neither did Kyle (band co-founder and other main songwriter Kyle McDonald). Kyle writes good songs. It’s something that, we’ve always been punk rockers at heart.
We grew up listening to Minor Threat, Black Flag, stuff like that, Descendents, Operation Ivy. That element is there in our music, and we just thought this record needed some (of that), right like almost at about the middle point of the record, just kind of like an in-your-face (moment). The title kind of says it perfectly, ‘In your face, f*** you, here you go.’”
As Doughty suggested, there’s been a taste of punk rock on several recent Slightly Stoopid albums, either by incorporating an element of punk as one of several styles in a tune, or as on the 2005 album “Closer to the Sun,” by including the punk song “Nothin’ Over Me.” But one won’t hear Slightly Stoopid mentioned in the same sentence with California punk rock bands like NOFX, the Adolescents or Pennywise.
Instead Slightly Stoopid is now known as one of the trailblazers of what has become one of the most popular alt-rock subgenres to emerge over the past two decades — SoCal-styled reggae-rock.
Slightly Stoopid is one of several bands in that genre that can now legitimately headline outdoor amphitheaters, enjoying a level of major popularity that seemed like a pipe dream when the group followed pioneering bands like Sublime and 311 onto the scene. The band plays Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys in Statline at 6 p.m. July 2.
“Sublime really kind of set that tone for everybody really, when they blew up, that whole movement. Really, back in the day it was Sublime, 311 and we were like the baby band,” Doughty said. “There weren’t like all these other baby bands playing SoCal reggae/rock. We were that baby band at 16 years old. Now, there are a few thousand of these bands. There are bands like the Expendables, new up-and-coming bands like Tribal Seeds, bands like Rebelution. There’s Pepper. The list goes on of so many different styles. All these guys, and they all have their own twist on it, too, which is cool. Not everybody sounds exactly the same. Everyone kind of does it (their way), and Sublime really laid that footwork as far as opening that door.”
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 the group’s 1996 self-titled debut album.
At that point, Slightly Stoopid still had a lot of punk in its sound, while Sublime was on the cusp of both its commercial breakthrough and tragic end. Nowell died on May 25, 1996, just two months before the release of its 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 as of 2009, when original members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh joined up to form a new edition of the group called Sublime With Rome, the original band’s album sales had topped 17 million copies.
One of the key pieces of advice Slightly Stoopid got from Sublime was to get on the road and tour, tour and tour some more. Doughty and McDonald took that advice to heart.
“We were on the road in an ’81 Dodge van with holes in the roof and driving 200 days a year across the country making no money, sleeping on floors, whatever we could to do it,” Doughty said. “I think a lot of it gets lost in translation, what a lot of bands did. The social media is so big now, it’s so much easier, where back in the day it (social media) literally just started when we first started touring. That was like the beginning of Napster, the beginning of all that stuff. So, it was so much different.
“We toured for 10 years, grinding it out, trying to push that sound out,” he said. “A lot of these younger bands, they don’t have to tour that long because that vibe is out there. It’s kind of like that groundwork was laid and they don’t have to tour as hard as the bands did back in the day.”
Over the years, as the touring miles piled up, Slightly Stoopid added band members. 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) often touring with the group. The band also kept recording albums that saw the group’s sound evolve and expand considerably over time.
“Meanwhile ... Back at the Lab” is nothing if not diverse. The reggae that has become a cornerstone of the Slightly Stoopid sound is well represented with songs like “Come Around,” “This Version,” the dubby “Fades Away.” But there’s also acoustic folk-pop on “Prophet” (a song that appeared on Slightly Stoopid’s first album and has been reworked here). “Hold It Down” is a well executed Jamaican-style ska tune. On “Time Won’t Wait,” the group digs into a deep funk groove, but adds some psychedelic touches and horns that put an inventive spin on the song. If Muddy Waters has grown up in Jamaica, he might have come up with something like this version of “Rolling Stone.” And oh yes, there’s the blazing punk of “F*** You.”
It’s easy to visualize fans dancing and grooving to the songs during the warm evenings at Slightly Stoopid concerts this summer, and Doughty said the group is indeed adding new tunes into its live set.
“Well we’re definitely (playing) some tracks off of the new album,” he said. “We’ll mix in a little bit of the old, old in between and try to sprinkle in like five or six songs from the new album during the show. I think it’s going to be good.”