LAB WORK: SLIGHTLY STOOPID CONCOCTS 14-CUT CURRENT CLASSIC ALBUM
BY: JIM VILLANUEVA
Don’t tell Slightly Stoopid founding member Miles Doughty that putting a whopping fourteen songs on a full-length album and then pressing said album on CD and vinyl is, well, frankly a more than slightly stupid idea. “We still press a bunch of CDs cuz our fans like to get the hard copy just for the booklets and what not,” Doughty declared to me during our conversation centered on the Ocean Beach, CA band’s forthcoming album Meanwhile…Back at the Lab, which comes out June 30. “I still buy hard CDs even though you can download everything, just cuz I like the covers of a lot of albums and it’s cool to have them and, like the booklets are cool, dude.”
Despite the deluge of digital downloads music fans have at their disposal, Doughty and his bandmates Kyle McDonald (guitar, bass, vocals), Ryan “Rymo” Moran (drums), Oguer “OG” Ocon (percussion), Daniel “Dela” Delacruz (saxophone), Paul Wolstencroft (keyboards), Andy Geib (trumpet, trombone) and “unofficial 8th member” Karl Denson (saxophone) still believe giving fans more cuts for their cash is definitely the way to go. In fact, Slightly Stoopid has always done things their way, with the successful doggedly DIY attitude that has put them in a position to perform in front of diehard fans from America to Australia, Guam to Germany and Denmark to the Dominican Republic. On July 8, the band will embark on their 40+ city aptly-named “Everything is Awesome” tour along with their California compatriots Dirty Heads, The Expendables and Stick Figure.
Miles, thanks for your time today. Let’s talk about what you guys have been cookin’ up in your Lab here, man, aka The Lab at [your own] Stoopid Studios, which fans are gonna hear on the appropriately titled album, Meanwhile…Back at the Lab when it comes out on June 30. First, why did you decide to self-produce this record?
I think, really, just the last few records we’ve kinda really just been going that route. Ever since 2000, 2001 when we started Stoopid Records we really just took the reins at that point. Obviously we work with J-Wiz, he’s been our engineer and producer and front-of-house guy for years now. So it’s cool, we just have a nice collaborative effort whenever we’re working, and our studio is really the ultimate man cave. Like, if you’re a guy there’s something for you to do inside their, you know what I mean, like there’s just a lot of fun stuff; it’s not only just like recording. It’s a vibe that you get in there which is nice. You know a lot of times, before, we would travel and go to different studios here and there, but having our studio the way we want it we’ve been spending the last few years building it out and making it fun. It’s where we can record, relax, have a good time; there’s a lounge room with a 60” TV if you wanna play some Xbox or watch some SportsCenter of whatever, you know you can kind of marinate when you’re not recording. And there’s also, right by the couch in front of the TV, there’s a Pro Tools set up with a microphone so you can still stay busy if you’re just kinda hanging out. It lets the creative process really be fun and we know what we want as far as our sound and we’re gonna do the stuff that we wanna make and we make it for our fans and for ourselves.
Man, why would you wanna leave?
Yeah, you know what I’m saying? Literally, you’ll be in there for 12 hours and it’ll feel like you were just there for a few minutes. It’s really cool, man. It’s a blessing just cuz, you know, we’ve been in the band for a couple decades and it’s good to have your spot, you’re creative zone. That’s why we call it The Lab; it’s like a science project.
That leads me to a general studio question. Prior to you guys having your own spot, what’s the most important aspect of a good studio when you’re recording? Is it the vibe of the room? Is it the gear?
Now, Pro Tools has kind of taken over where you don’t need all those processors, you don’t need that Neve console anymore and you don’t need the two-inch tape, even though that stuff’s awesome. Pro Tool has made it easy to record anywhere. You can set up Pro Tools in the back of the bus and it is about the vibe. You can record stuff on a four track, but if the vibe is insane it’s gonna sound amazing. That’s the biggest thing, especially with this band. We feed off that – the vibe of the room. Music is about having fun. I’m not a person that like to take it too seriously, you know what I mean, just because you have to enjoy it. Once you start to take it so seriously, then it becomes like a job instead of like, man I’m having a great time traveling the world with my best friends playing music in front of the greatest fans.
Let’s talk about some tunes. Tell us about the evolution of the first track that folks have been hearing, “The Prophet.”
Cool. Well, it’s a song that was, like, changed around from the original process. I first had the idea when I was younger; I was a teenager when I first had written the song idea and back then we were fortunate enough to be hanging out with [late Sublime singer] Brad [Nowell]. Brad actually tried to redo the song with Sublime; it’s on one of their outtakes CDs, the rendition they did. [So] it just kind of came a long way and it’s kind of really just a song about life. As I got older, I never really had threatened to do the song justice on a recording. I did a little acoustic rendition of it but I kinda wanted to do something different and I was sitting on my couch and I started singing that other hook, ‘I never thought too much on wealth/so let me keep it for myself’ where before the chorus was – when I was a young kid – like, thinking about never having money, but I’m gonna meet a girl that’s rich, marry her and take her for everything she’s got, you know? (Laughs) You know, just being like a knucklehead kid. So, just in general, the lyrics of the song they kind of stood true like on some of the verses and just about life and what you make of it and what affects you and what doesn’t, you know like money, [being] rich or poor. And I thought that the rendition I was able to come up with now…Brad would be stoked with the new way we allow a little bit of the hip-hop beat underneath the acoustic rhythm and I’m stoked on the way it turned out and it’s been a long time coming. The song is old [but] I rewrote the chorus so it’s kinda like a new, old song.
To my ears, Miles, you guys seem to dabble into a little bit of Latin jazz vibe on the album opening instrumental “Dabbington.” Am I off base there of am I in the ballpark?
Oh yeah, we just have so many different influences cuz we have eight guys in the band now. Those guys grew up listening to a lot of jazz and different things and a lot of times it comes out in the horn line. “Dabbington” in general, the instrumental, I love it. I mean coming right out of the gate, it kind of throws a curveball to someone, like, oh damn, this is the kind of record this is gonna be?
Yeah, definitely. The album has 14 tracks. The song that sits right about at the halfway point of your record is simply titled “F**k You.” It’s 2:11 of a kind of metalfest. Who or what was the catalyst for channeling your inner Motorhead on that song?
Well I mean Slightly Stoopid started out as a punk rock band, so it’s something that, for the last couple records we haven’t really been putting punk on them just cuz they’ve been more jammy records or whatever. So we just thought it would be kind of fitting to come back to our roots a little bit and throw one in there and shake it up. Obviously punk rock is not for everybody but we still love it, we grew up listening to it, it was a big part of our lives just in general, so it was cool to throw it in there. And it kinda says it off the title, you know just the madness of the world, like F**K YOU, you know (laughs). Sometimes you just have to say it and it feels good, you know what I mean?
Yeah. It creates a great balance of stuff. And speaking of balance, “Guns in Paradise” is a standout song. Again, I love the Latin flavor of it. Talk a little bit about that one.
Kyle actually wrote that song and we actually did a Spanish version of it. When you download the album on iTunes you get the Spanish version of it, too. It was pretty cool to do. We weren’t sure which one to put on the record, just cuz they both sounded sick. That’s one of my favorite songs on the record.
Yeah, that one’s the one I’ve had on repeat the most. I kind of go back to it quite a bit. And speaking of going back, let me take you back to when it all started for you. Did you have that proverbial Beatles on Ed Sullivan, big bang musical moment, or was it a progression of things that looking back now you can say that was it. That was the jumping off point?
Honestly, like before we even started playing guitars – I think we were like 12, 12 and 11 or something like that – back in the day when MTV use to show music videos, we were watching the Motley Crue “Girls, Girls, Girls” video and, I’m not even lying, we were like, ‘Dude, we wanna do this. This looks so killer. Let’s just start playing guitar.’ So we literally just started playing guitars and started a band. I think we were like 15 and 16 when we started Slightly Stoopid; it was probably like ’93, ’94. We were playing like house parties. You don’t ever think that you could make a career out of playing. And then we started playing clubs like Soma in San Diego where bands like Sprung Monkey, Sublime, Pennywise, Unwritten Law and Blink-182 played before they blew up. And as soon as we graduated high school we got in a ’81 Dodge van with holes in the roof and hit the road, you know what I mean? We got out there and had fun.
Speaking of getting out there and having fun – thank you for that segue, Miles – the 40+ city “Everything is Awesome” summer tour gets underway July 8. Tell us why you handpicked the bands you’ll be on the road with.
Well what’s cool is we’re really excited to be on the road with Dirty Heads. Fans have been asking us to tour together literally for like a decade. They did a show with us in Cancun, Mexico and we had a great time with them and just kind of shook hands and said, ‘Dude, we need to make this happen.’ And we’ve got The Expendables with us on half the tour and Stick Figure is gonna be out there, too. It’s gonna be cool. I think we have one of the funnest packages for the summer and the fans are gonna dig it. The name for the tour is kinda perfect: “Everything is Awesome.” You can’t really beat that title.
As I mentioned to you just as we got on the phone, my daughter Angela and son-in-law Kyle both graduated from San Diego State so I have a special affinity for the city. Obviously you do, too. Tell everyone why San Diego is the best city in the U.S.A.
I mean honestly the climate is pretty tough to beat. Even in the wintertime, every now and then you gotta wear pants but for the most part I wear shorts all year, and the sun shines pretty much 365 days a year. The environment is great, it’s pretty much good vibes here, too, and the best Mexican food on the planet. There’s good surf, good food, good people. San Diego is where we’re gonna always be. I’ll never leave and I love San Diego.
It’s a great, great city. And finally, you guys are gonna play the inaugural KAABOO Festival in your backyard, pretty much, down in Del Mar in September with No Doubt, Michael Franti and Spearhead, 311, etc., etc.
The Zac Brown Band.
Yeah, that’s right. How amped are you guys for a huge hometown gig, really?
I think it’s gonna be awesome. I was never a fan, really, of country that much and then I went to a Zac Brown Band concert and I was literally like blown away. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him live but they put on a hell of a show. The musicianship was incredible, the visuals were great; it just sent me over the top.
At the end of the day, music is music and there are only two kinds: good and bad.
(Laughs) Yeah, that is so true. It’s definitely cool that San Diego is trying to do something like that. It always seems like we don’t do enough of those kinds of things, so hopefully it works out.
Well, Miles, again thanks for the call. Good luck with this record, its 14 tracks, lots of cool stuff all over the musical map which is how it should be.
Alright, bro. Thanks, man.
**To hear more audio of my extensive conversation with Miles Doughty of Slightly Stoopid, please “LIKE” Facebook.com/CurrentClassics and look for a link to an upcoming episode of my weekly Current Classics podcast. Listen HERE.