Slightly Stoopid were severely inexperienced when they signed their first record deal back in the early ‘90s. The San Diego-based outfit were still in high school playing mostly punk-rock and ska tunes when Bradley Nowell of Sublime signed them to Skunk Records, the label he founded with producer Miguel Happoldt, after a performance at Foothill Tavern in Long Beach. Anyone who remembers what reggae/ska/punk was like in the LBC during Sublime’s ‘90s reign, knows just how special these guys had to have been to catch Bradley’s eye. But in hindsight, it was Nowell and label that lucked out, making the smartest pick in the history of the label.
Twenty years after the release of their self-titled debut album, the band’s legacy embodies more than a sound—it’s a lifestyle for their hoards of fans across the world. Only a handful of other alt-Reggae bands have captured the hearts and minds of Rastafarian fans like this band. Their fans hold these cats in high regard, and compare their journey to that of other successful contemporary alt-Reggae bands like Rebelution, SOJA and Iration. Like most great bands, their fans are the source of inspiration and energy. So-much-so, they just got back from playing shows in Brazil, and now they’re set to play locally as a headliner on Day 1 of the Observatory’s One Love Cali Reggae Fest at the Queen Mary in Long Beach this Friday.
Their sound is essentially a blend of old-school Jamaican reggae fused with Prince Busters’ first wave ska sound and the Specials second wave two-tone-mod-ska; all mixed with hip-hop (a la NWA), a Jack Johnson inspired alt-rock sound, and a little something the guys from Pepper call Jawaiian music. If you listen hard enough, you can feel the Led Zeppelin, Police and Beastie Boys influence.
Growing up in the Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego, the band’s founding members grew up on a diet of skating, surfing and diverse music. Aside from being hardcore reggae fans, their sonic palettes included bands like Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard and Metallica. As good punk-ska kids do, they also dug their Tim Armstrong (Operation Ivy & Rancid) tunes. Back in the day, they also paid special attention to Eek-A-Mouse vocals. This diverse background gave them that edge of creating a sound that is unique, but distinctively California-cool. The band features co-founders and childhood friends Miles Doughty on guitar/vocals and Kyle McDonald also on guitar / vocals. Ryan Moran (aka RyMo) is on drums, Oguer Ocon (aka OC) is on congas / percussion / vocals, DeLa and Karl Denson are on Sax, and there’s also Paul Wolstencroft on Keys. According to Rasta insider Amber Crouch, collectively, these guys put out a sound and harmony you’ve heard a million times in countless cool songs, and at the same time, it’s a sound you’ve never heard before. It’s as if the evolution of Bradley’s vision for the band has come to fruition.
For the last two decades, the band has played just about everywhere on the planet, and all points in between. Their fans have been able to see them at festivals such as Coachella, Harmony, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival and Jimmy Kimmel Live. As a result of all the touring, they’ve developed their signature sound over the years that struck gold in 2007 with their release of Chronchitis featuring their first hit single “2 a.m.” Then, in 2012, they hit pay dirt again with tunes from their album Top of The World. The album’s title track and follow up single “Don’t Stop” set alt-reggae radio ablaze. In 2015, the next evolution in their artistry landed in the form of their eighth and most commercially successful studio album entitled Meanwhile…Back at the Lab. To date, the band has released 12 albums, four of which are live recordings. Songs like “The Prophet” gave them an even broader audience outside of the alt-reggae scene.
The album was inspired by the band’s creative headquarters/hangout spot, dubbed The Lab at Stoopid Studios in Ocean Beach. In a recent interview, RyMo said constantly working on their studio over the years has been a labor of love. They’ve invested time, energy and of course new equipment, which has been one of the key reasons they have a unique and signature sound. The Lab is a place to record; this is true, but it’s more than that. It’s also the office of Stoopid Records. Doughty once said that Stoopid Records is a place inspired by Nowell and their mission to deliver soulful island vibes.
It’s been over two decades since Slightly Stoopid were high school kids auditioning at the Foot Hill Tavern in Long Beach for Nowell. Now the guys have kids of their own. But instead of being complacent and resting on their laurels, they continue to work hard and strive to improve; and they tour like college sophomores looking forward to Spring break. Not only do they make being rock stars look easy, they continue to be the most down-to-earth guys you’ll ever meet. As their heir sound and vision continue to lead them to new heights, their music is a direct result of a positive environment and sub-culture they’ve created for themselves and their fans.
Slightly Stoopid performs at the One Love Cali Reggae Festival at the Queen Mary, Feb. 10. For tickets and full details, click here.