Still Slightly Stoopid After All These Years

Slightly Stoopid co-founder Miles Doughty talks with Pollstar about the group’s upcoming “420 Hot Box” gig at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the ultimate cool of owning their own recording studio and why playing in the band is still a learning experience.

Slightly Stoopid was signed by Skunk Records, the label founded by Sublime’s Bradley Nowell, before band members graduated from high school.  Since then, Doughty & Co. have been living the dream as they pursue their musical aspirations via hard work, touring and, well, more touring.

Spring 2013 finds the band touring in support of their 2012 album, Top Of The World. Next month the band will release a live album recorded at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios, scheduled to drop April 17.

Photo: Michael Weintrob

It’s midafternoon and you’re already in Milwaukee after traveling from last night’s show in Lawrence, Kan.  Do you leave for the next city right after a gig?

We usually leave at, probably 2 or 3 in the morning.  The show ends around midnight then it’s usually a couple of hours after the show the buses take off.  It’s easier to drive through the night.  We always have the load-in times around noon.  A lot of times it’s a 500 mile drive, so you got to be on the road by 2 a.m.

Do you stay in hotels, or do you live on the bus for the tour?

We live on the bus but you get hotels for showers and stuff.  You get shower rooms.  On days off we get our own rooms.  For the most part, it’s easier just to have a shower room because you have your bunk on the bus.  It’s pretty much your home.  We’ve been on the bus a long time now.  You’re so used to everything.  We have all the amenities, so you might as well use them.

What’s new on this tour?

Every year it gets kind of crazier.  The crowds are always different.  The age range is, like, 14 to 15 years old up to 60 year-olds.  It’s pretty cool. This time we have another Southern California band, Tribal Seeds, out with us, just younger generation guys, and it’s cool to be out together.  Every time we hit up towns – winter, spring, fall, summertime – the fans bring the energy, so it makes it worth it.

Bands have said playing snow belt cities during the winter makes for extra special shows.  Fans are pretty much suffering from cabin fever and dying to get out for a great time.  Do you see that in your travels?

I think it’s a lot of fun for the fans and for us.  A lot of times bands won’t tour in January, February and March when we like to go out there.  Fans want to hear music even though the weather’s bad.  A lot of times we’ll be in ski towns and go snowboarding or something.  Those towns, people like to rage so the shows are a lot more intimate and fun.

Photo: David Conger /
Marymoore Park, Redmond, Wash.

Slightly Stoopid formed in the mid-90s.  When performing, are you noticing long-time fans looking a bit older?

Yeah.  We’ve seen people who have been around for 10-plus years.  They kind of grew up with the band. It’s pretty cool.  We have Stoopid Heads out there that have kept the longevity of the band alive and their support really is … you can’t ask for anything more.

It’s a trip because time goes by fast, especially when you’re having fun and playing music.  You don’t realize how long you’ve been doing it until you look in the mirror. We’ve been doing this for close to two decades.  It’s pretty cool.

Did you ever think it would last this long?

No.  I don’t think you could ever dream it to be like that.  If it was written ahead of time, you couldn’t make it any better.

Slightly Stoopid formed when you and your bandmates were still in high school.  At that time what did you want for the band?  That is, what yet accomplished goal or benchmark did you consider as a sign of early success?  What were you hoping for at that time?

When we first started playing, honestly, our only goal was to just get a gig.  You could never have dreamed that we would have the success that we have.  We kind of have that grassroots following in the way the band has developed and even the way the fan core has developed. When we signed with Skunk Records when we were kids – I think we were 18 years old – we thought we might have the chance to make it or do something.  But the fact of the matter is, that even at that time we’d go and tour and there would be 10 people at the shows.  Or you’d drive to a show and there would be nobody there but the bartenders and security. … You get that humbling experience and it’s not easy. For us, we just stayed on the road and constantly toured and toured and toured.

Usually, we would tour Colorado and west.  Once we branched out past Colorado, we kind of realized we could have success and be a viable band.

Were there any big dreams at that time – headlining arenas, hanging out with your music heroes, winning Grammys?

I think that just the way the band was brought up, it never went like that.  We always thought it would be cool, obviously, to have those kinds of situations, but they weren’t the main goals,  think just sustaining life on the road, making good music.  The bands that we’ve been able to play with and record with, is kind of a dream come true.  We couldn’t ask for anything more.  I think we’ve already achieved the dream of what we could do with music.  Now it’s about taking that next step, the next level, and keep rising as far as we can go.

You have next month’s show with Cypress Hill at Red Rocks, the “420 Hot Box.”  That’s not going to be just another stop on the road for this tour.

No.  We’ve teamed up with Cypress Hill a few times and they’re good friends of ours.  What’s awesome is Colorado is one of our biggest markets for the band. Even coming up in the ranks we would play every single ski town.  For us, Colorado is almost like playing San Diego. They’re as much of our family base as is the San Diego family base. And to be able to play with Cypress Hill, they’re like the godfathers of the marijuana movement. You can’t ask for a better script.  Obviously, the fans know Slightly Stoopid is an advocate as well.  And when you put Stoopid and Cypress Hill together, it’s going to be pretty vicious, along with the people of Colorado.

Greek Theatre, Berkeley, Calif.

For a band that is known for advocating the legalization of marijuana, does that reputation cause any problems? For example, are police more likely to pull the tour bus over?

I don’t know.  I don’t think we’ve ever worried about that. We don’t over-voice our opinion or anything.  The people that we’ve supported, they know what’s going on.  We keep a pretty clean ship, anyway. We don’t bring attention to ourselves on the road.  Our driver isn’t driving all over the road, crazy.  I guess we are open to being a victim of that. So far, we’ve been lucky.  I guess I should knock on wood.

I was thinking along the lines of Snoop Dogg or Willie Nelson.  Sometimes it seems as if law enforcement goes looking for them.

Honestly, to me, I wouldn’t want to be the officer that turns in Willie Nelson.  That guy is like an American icon.  He’s played for presidents.  Who gives a, excuse me for saying “shit,” but who gives a shit if this guy is smoking weed or doing mushrooms?  He’s 70-something years old.  He’s brought so much love to human beings in general, just with his music and his voice and what he’s had to say and through his charities.  Like I said, do you want to be that guy who arrests him?  Give me a break. He’s just looking for his name in the paper.

While promoting legalization of marijuana probably isn’t going to alienate any of your fans, what’s your take on other artists using their position to promote other political or social issues?

I think it’s up to the artist in general. It’s what you want to make a stand for.  For us, we look at the positives of it.  Look at what our government does to everything we have.  Our education system, law enforcement, fire department – overall things set up for our families and our children, that’s the first thing that gets cut.

When you think about it, you could tax marijuana like you tax alcohol and cigarettes.  They were doing some study in California … it would create $1.5 billion to 2 billion annually.  To me, it’s right there, the proof is in the pudding. Why not use that instead of cutting programs and advance our kids to the future.  The people that are already on top, they’re kind of like cutting the legs from the table for the kids of the future.

Obviously, the argument is going to be for people who use it recreationally.  I don’t see it as any sort of gateway drug that ruins your life.  But they have these crazy commercials with two kids in dad’s office, picking up dad’s gun and the kid shoots his friend and [the ad] says, “See what happens when you smoke marijuana.”  Like, are you serious?

The funny thing is, it’s the pharmaceutical companies that are killing America.  They’ll give OxyContin to kids.  They’ll give Ritalin to kids.  They don’t talk about the long-term effects of that.  Look what happens to people who are dependent on drugs their whole lives.  They say it’s something like 400,000 people a year die from prescription drug use.  You don’t hear about people OD-ing from marijuana.  It’s kind of ridiculous.  The battles they choose to fight, the so-called “war on drugs,” all it is, is a way for the government to keep getting that certain amount of money each year to spend.  It’s a waste of billions of dollars.

Your last studio album, Top Of The World, was released in 2012 and your upcoming release, Slightly Stoopid & Friends: Live At Roberto’s: TRI Studios, comes out this year. Is there ever a worry that the band is putting out too much product in too short a time?

No. We didn’t put out our CD for four years.  For us, it’s like we’ve always been a touring entity and the Live At Roberto’s TRI Studios is a live DVD and is just something cool to give to fans.  That’s what we’ve always been about.  We’re a band that’s always going to be on tour.  We’re not a band that relies solely on selling CDs.  We just want our music out there. That’s the important thing. If your music isn’t out there, the fans aren’t going to be out there.  It’s important to get it to them.

Was it like that when the band was starting out?  Did you consider touring to be more important than making records, or at that time did you see both as being equal?

They’re both just as important.  The matter of getting your butt on the road and bringing music to towns … you just can’t hit the major cities, you have to hit the small markets, too, because there are people everywhere.

As an artist, we were coming up, we were on the road close to 280 days a year. There wasn’t a time when you had much rest.  I think that’s when we were able to build that snowball that kept getting bigger as far as the fan base.  As far as recording music, now that we have our own studio, it’s 10 times better because we can make music whenever we want without having to book studio time.  We just get in the car, drive down, turn the power on and hit RECORD.

Now we have the advantage to make as much music as we want.  What’s cool about it is so many different artists come down – from Don Carlos to Barrington Levy, to G. Love – they all come down to the studio to hang out and we get to make so many different things.  That’s really where it gets to at this point in our career – to have that option to create whatever you want any hour of the day.  And to be on the road.

Having your own studio, do you ever find yourself checking out other artists’ studios if only to see if yours is better?

A studio, in general, is the vibe that you capture.  It doesn’t matter what you have to record.  You could be on million-dollar systems and still make a shitty record because you didn’t like the vibe of the studio.

For us, we created the ultimate man cave.  It has skateboard ramps, a lounge room, X-Box, reclining couches and 60-inch TV if you want to get your video game on.  We have a kitchen, office room, full live rehearsal room, probably 25 x 70 feet.  It’s a really big open room, almost like a summer time amphitheatre stage.  And we have a recording room upstairs where we did Top Of The World and all the stuff we’ve recorded of late.

How does the band create the music?  Do individual members write songs and submit them to the band or is each song the creation of the band?

It works all different ways.  We have ideas, me and Kyle [McDonald] will have a song we want to play and we’ll have our ideas about the song.  Sometimes we’ll know everything we want to do with it and other times it will be like, “Hey, let everybody put their input into it and do your thing.”  It’s nice to have different opinions as far as what you’re doing to finish the track. The fact that everyone has different influences in music, you’re able to capture that in the songs themselves.  We use so many different styles as far as what’s on the CDs and in our live shows.  We listen to so much music ourselves and it pretty much happens in the songs we create.

How do you discover new music?

I do a lot of word-of-mouth stuff.  I honestly don’t spend a lot of time on the computer.  You can always get stuff off of Spotify.  What’s cool is being around so many different musicians – “What’s on your iPod?” or “What are you listening to right now?” – and they’ll give you their recommendations. 

Is playing in Slightly Stoopid still a learning experience?

Yeah.  Life is a learning experience.  You think you know a lot of the stuff that’s going on in general because you’ve been there, done that.  You can always do better – sound, lights, whatever.  As an artist, when you do a lot of festival gigs and tour with other big acts, you learn from their stage setup and their light shows, what they use to enhance the vibe of the night. You can always learn new things out here.

Photo: Marcy Guiragossian
Outside Lands 2010, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.

There must have been a point, probably right before you formed the band or signed with Skunk that you were still pretty much on the outside looking in.

It was like that for 10 years.  I’ve been in a band for 19 years. It wasn’t outside-looking-in for 10 years but it was hard, hard work.  We’ve been on the bus for 9 years now.  The funny thing about getting in the bus is … the first time we got on the bus, we felt like we had made it, that it’s all up from here. 

Then about an hour-and-a-half out of town, the bus broke down.  We’re like, “Are you serious?  The first bus we ever take, we break down an hour-and-a-half out of San Diego?”  It was the middle of summer in El Centro and we were on our way to Vegas. It was brutal heat.

What do you attribute for you and your bandmates to be able to stick together through so much touring and spending time together?

I think, first of all, we’re lucky to do what we do.  Any kind of hardship we have on the road, we just have to take it in stride.  The fact that we’re able to play music and be out here is amazing in itself. 

We’ve had times where buses break down and we piled into cars just to make it to the show.  We had the bus break down where our driver, in the middle of a snowstorm, spent like three hours fixing the engine.  We got to the show at 10 p.m. and just went to the stage. 

We’ve been blessed to do what we do.  We’re musicians and we’re best friends.  We’re all brothers. And brothers love each other and they hate each other.  Everything is golden. We’re musicians and we get to enjoy our lives.

Photo: Michael Weintrob
“We’re lucky to do what we do.  Any kind of hardship we have on the road, we just have to take it in stride. “

Upcoming Slightly Stoopid gigs include Pittsburgh, Pa., at Stage AE March 15; Columbus, Ohio, at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion March 16; Grand Rapids, Mich., at Orbit Room March 17; Bridgeport, Conn., at The Klein March 21; and New York City at Hammerstein Ballroom March 22.  Visit for more information.