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Chill Dads: For Two Decades, Slightly Stoopid Has Enthralled Fans With Its Laid-Back, Southern California Chill 

Wednesday, Jun 15 2016
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Slightly Stoopid spent its first decade on the road. The San Diego rock-reggae fusion band averaged about 200 shows a year, racking up 300,000 miles on a number of vans' odometers, co-frontman Miles Doughty says.

"We'd make just enough money to put in the gas tank and then maybe get some Taco Bell," Doughty says. "We were grinding and playing show to show."

Though the band still tours regularly — now playing about 100 shows a year — the days of squishing into vans and sleeping sitting up or on top of amps are long over. They now ride in buses — "When you get into a tour bus, you kind of feel like you've made it," Doughty says — headline festivals, and hang out with musicians like the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir at his studio in Marin.

Doughty and Kyle McDonald, Slightly Stoopid's other singer, guitarist, and bassist, formed the band in 1994 while they were students at Point Loma High School in San Diego. Along with another friend on drums, the trio played house parties that would inevitably culminate in mosh pits or, Doughty says, "shit getting torn up at people's houses, and then the party would be over."

Listen to the band now — with its laid-back, rock-reggae beach vibe and hints of ska, funk, and folk — and you might wonder why their early shows were so raucous and violent. The answer is simple: They started off as punks. Their 1996 self-titled first album is rife with maniacal drumming, fast-paced chords, and harmonies of Doughty's and McDonald's combined yelling.

But then Sublime intervened. The Long Beach ska band released two albums — Robbin' the Hood (1994) and Sublime (1996) — while Doughty and McDonald were still in high school, and shifted the boys' musical palettes from punk-rock to rock-reggae fusion.

"There wasn't really any other band doing that sound," Doughty says, "and they were a big influence for us."

By chance, the pair met Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell, who invited them to play a show in Long Beach and signed Slightly Stoopid to his label, Skunk Records, before his 1996 death from a heroin overdose in San Francisco.

By the time the band released its sophomore album, The Longest Barrel Ride, in 1998, they'd transitioned from frenzied, angsty punk kids to a chilled-out rock-reggae outfit helmed by surfers and stoners.

Six albums and 20 years later, Slightly Stoopid is still the same band, albeit with a few additions. What started as a trio is now an octet, with horns as the most recent installment to the lineup. All eight musicians have now been in the band for a decade, which means that they've experienced a number of life events together — namely, fatherhood.

"Everyone in the band is a dad," Doughty says, laughing. "But that happens when you're together for so long."

Despite being a band of dads, Slightly Stoopid has managed to preserve its cachet of cool among the younger crowds. In 2014, the band made its second album available for free download during the holidays, and it has participated in more than a few Reddit AMAs (Ask Me Anything), answering questions from fans like, "If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?" and "Do y'all just get free bud? Or do y'all actually have to pay for it?" (A number of members on Reddit also claimed to have smoked weed with Slightly Stoopid at various points in its career.)

But perhaps the biggest reason why the band resonates with fans, Doughty says, is because it packages the So Cal lifestyle in its music and aesthetic.

"When you see us on stage, it's not like we went out and were like, 'I'm going to get real dressed up for the show.' It's like, 'I've got a T-shirt on, shorts, a pair of Vans, and a hat,' " he says. "That's what it is: We are just regular cats. We grew up surfing, skating, and chilling at the beach every day, and I think that laid-back vibe reflects in the music and the way we are."

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Jessie Schiewe

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