Interview by Jen Cheshire
Photos by Angela Kay Photography
Slightly Stoopid is an Ocean Beach, California based band formed by Kyle McDonald and Miles Doughty, along with drummer Ryan “Rymo” Moran; percussionist Oguer “OG” Ocon; saxophonist Daniel “Dela” Delacruz; keyboardist Paul Wolstencroft; trumpet and trombone player Andy Geib. Slightly Stoopid has taken the American reggae sound to the masses, playing to sellout crowds in large venues like Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and Boomtown Fair in the UK.
I received an opportunity to speak with Kyle just before their show in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Island Stage Magazine caught up with Slightly Stoopid at their recent Red Rocks Amphitheater performance.
Jen: I read in your bio that you and Miles went to school together, so when did you start playing together?
Kyle: We started playing together when we were in High School. Actually, before that. We’ve known each other since we were one and two years old. We are kinda brothers from other mothers. Our mothers moved in next door to each other and became friends and we just grew up and we’ve been hanging out together ever since. We started playing the guitar around eleven or twelve, started a band a couple of years later in High School and had our first gig in the school quad at lunchtime. Then when we graduated High School we skipped college, so to speak, hit the road and we’ve been doing it ever since.
Jen: Did you learn music in school or did you have a musical family?
Kyle: We learned just music through the music we listened to growing up. When we were in High School it was, or when we were younger, like Junior High, it was more like the heavy metal stuff like Metallica, Motley Crew that’s what inspired us to play guitar, then in High School we listened to music like Rancid, Ill Effects, Operation Ivy, stuff like that, just you know, punk rock, and then the ska, like The Specials and Buck-O-Nine.
Jen: I’m assuming you started by playing covers but when did you start writing yourselves?
Kyle: From the moment we picked up a guitar we’ve been writing ever since. So from the age of eleven or twelve, we’ve been writing, whether it’s on the acoustic guitar, the electric guitar, on the bass or the drums or the keyboard. We like all different kinds of music and all different kinds of instruments so we just have fun.
Jen: How long did you play locally before you started going further afield?
Kyle: We got our first gig at Winston’s, a bar in Ocean Beach and we would play Typhoons in PB (Pacific Beach) and the PB block party, a lot of backyard parties and just kinda wherever we could get a gig and, you know, we’ve been doing it ever since.
Jen: When you started out, obviously you had fans in Ocean Beach and the San Diego area but did you have a plan on how to increase your fan base? I guess when you started that was before social media so how did you draw the fans in when you were just playing locally?
Kyle: Well I would say from the time that we started gigging, the fans kinda stick with the band. It’s kinda like the Grateful Dead has Deadheads, we call ours Stoopid Heads and we see them every year. Some of the fans that we’ve been seeing come out to the shows, we consider family now and we see them every time we come to their town. It’s kinda hard to put into words but it’s pretty cool how over the years you see the same faces and, you know, what it’s turned into from when we first started.
Jen: Have you been Slightly Stoopid right from the beginning? Was that the name you picked when you first started?
Kyle: We were throwing names around. Someone said ‘Slightly’ this, and ‘Stupid’ that and we’re like ‘that’s stupid’ and ‘Slightly Stoopid’, that’s got a nice ring to it. I think people that don’t even relate to the band, don’t even know who the band is, they just like the name you know. They come up to me and even Rastas have come up to me, some of the most Jamaican Rastas I’ve ever met have come up to me and go ‘Oh your name is Slightly Stoopid, that’s wicked’. I say ‘Cool, I’m glad you like it’. It comes from us being kids and like being punk rock kids and playing punk rock music. I like the name of the band just because it doesn’t take things so seriously I guess. We just have fun so I guess the name kinda goes along with it.
Jen: This is a question that I’ve been trying to figure out the answer to. What brings the fans to the American reggae sound? What attracts your fans to your sound, because I’ve listened to the preview tracks to your latest album and there is such a wide variety of music genres in there, so what do you think it is that attracts your fans to your sound rather than to the more conscious rootsy sound?
Kyle: I have no idea and it must be crazy. We like crazy people though so it works out perfect.
Jen: Is it that they relate more to you? I would say that they are mostly in your age range.
Kyle: The vibes show it’s just a lot of fun. You go to a concert to kinda blow off stress, to relax, unwind, have a smoke, have a drink, whether you don’t smoke or drink or you do. Music is a key part of life, you know, where there’s music, there’s life. You know music helps a lot of different people in a lot of different ways, especially at a concert. So the concert is just fun and the concerts are for people to have a good time. The recorded music is nice because it does the same thing, people can just be in their head phones, at their house, in their car and it does the same thing, you don’t have to be at the show. It just uplifts people and besides uplifting the people that listen to it, it also uplifts the people that make the music. It’s a full circle, it just helps everyone.
Jen: Now you are getting towards the end of this year’s tour and I know you tour every year but do you have a specific purpose for this tour?
Kyle: We try to go overseas. We try to hit all the places in the United States so this year our purpose was really to expand in places we haven’t been to either in a while or not at all. So we started out in Brazil. We went to Costa Rica, we headed from there to Australia. Then we’ve been doing a twelve-week tour in the US. We took a little jump across the pond over to the UK to play some shows over there and then Amsterdam and now we’ve just got back and we’re finishing a twelve-week tour before the summer ends. We’re finishing up songs in the studio for our next record. Yeah, it’s kinda what we do. We don’t know no better and if we didn’t maybe some people would be like ‘How come we can’t see you?’ We don’t pick a purpose really, we kinda just do. That’s the beauty about the music too. Sometimes when you try to do something it doesn’t work, but when you are just having fun, all the best things in life follow and that goes along with playing music live, recording in the studio or jamming on your couch, whatever, jamming on your guitar, you just don’t think about it.
Jen: How did it go down in the UK? I know they are very reggae traditional in the UK so I was wondering how you were received.
Kyle: We played a couple of festivals. We played the Boardmasters Festival right on the beach and we got to surf for the first time over there in Cornwall. It was really nice. It was nice to get in the water over there. We headed from there to Boomtown in England and played this big festival with Cypress Hill and Toots and the Maytals and it was really cool. Then we headed from there to Amsterdam and played at the Melkweg in Amsterdam. It was really cool. A lot of people came out from like Germany, Paris, the United States, all different places. It was kinda like a melting pot of people. There was a lot of love, just a lot of fun.
Jen: Maybe you will be picked up by one of the big festivals next year like Rototom.
Kyle: Yeah it would. You won’t have to twist my arm. You wouldn’t have to ask me twice.
Jen: You have Red Rocks in Colorado tomorrow night to a sold out show. There are not many people that sell out at Red Rocks, that’s pretty impressive.
Kyle: Our friend, he runs it, he’s kinda family, we’re kinda family and we’ve been playing there for a while now so when we go there it’s on a family level vibe.
Jen: A sold out show, that’s a big family.
Kyle: Colorado is like a second home to us. We got out of High School and skipped college and have been touring throughout the United States for years now. Colorado is definitely one of our favorite places to be. I love Colorado because when you go there now just because of where it’s gone with all the herbs. It’s awesome what’s going on in Colorado right now. It’s real exciting to be a part and to be there. We have a lot of friends in Colorado so we go out there and it’s just a lot of love and we get to see a lot of familiar faces and a lot of people just having a good time.
Jen: You are in Albuquerque tonight. Have you played in Albuquerque before?
Kyle: Yeah, we’ve been coming to Albuquerque a lot over the years. It’s beautiful today. The weather is super breezy, all the clouds in the sky are just rolling through, it’s beautiful out. It’s great weather today. We love the venue that we are playing. We are playing at the Sandia Amphitheater. The people that run that amphitheater are just amazing people and the amphitheater has a great sound. It’s going to be super, it’s going to be really fun.
Jen: I was checking out your album last night and I also watched the ‘One Bright Day’ video which is amazing. I loved the video. I read that it was made from actual art pieces which makes it even more exciting and you raised a whole bunch of money by selling the art, for the Global Bright Light Foundation.
Kyle: Yes. The artist who did the artwork and the video, her name is Danielle Zirk. She is really, really talented and they are just amazing beautiful pieces. She did all the pieces and made it into a video for the song and it’s just really beautiful images and then all the artwork canvases were put on auction and everything that was raised from the auction went towards Global Bright Light Foundation that uses solar panelling in villages across the world to help people through solar power. It helps a lot of villages, so it was really humbling and a blessing to be able to work with Daniel Zirk and Global Bright Light Foundation to do that.
Jen: How did you get involved with the foundation?
Kyle: They just reached out to us and said ‘If there’s any way you guys wanna link forces and raise some money to get some solar paneling to power up different villages that need power’. You know a lot of these places they go by candle light and, you know when you have kids and stuff and candles, shit can go down. You don’t want to be in the middle of some shit like that, especially kids, could be dangerous so solar power definitely helps a lot.
Jen: Yes, it also connects them to the rest of the world.
Kyle: For sure.
Jen: You’ve also raised money for other charities as well, like pediatric cancer research, so you seem to be involved in quite a lot of charity work.
Kyle: Well if you have an opportunity to do something to help people, you know, that’s the biggest blessing of all. We always say we love what we do, but if you can do what you love to help other people, there’s no bigger blessing than that. We’re really blessed to be able to do anything for anybody and the world is a lot smaller than people think. You know, shit goes down and it helps to have support and the more support everyone has for each other, it definitely goes a long way.
Jen: Yes, especially in these times.
Kyle: For sure.
Jen: So your last show this year is the ‘Closer To The Sun’ in Mexico. Tell me a little bit about that. That’s something you do every year, isn’t it?
Kyle: Yep. It’s down at the Now Sapphire Resort down in Puerto Morelos, and this year we have bunch of good bands that are friends of ours and like I say, it goes back to the family vibe as we’ve all toured together, we make music together, and when you become connected with different musicians you become family, so we’re all, you know, pretty much family but all in different bands. We all kinda team up and go down there and play a few sets each around the resort and just have a good time. People come out from all over the world to just enjoy all the different music and different festivities, snorkeling, scuba diving, checking out the ruins, the Chichen Itza ruins, jumping in the cenotes and going in like underwater caves on inner tubes and stuff. It’s pretty cool.
Jen: So what do you have planned for next year?
Kyle: Um, we plan to expand other overseas. When we do what we do we kinda sacrifice, being away from our family, we are not homies, that’s the biggest hardest part of what we do, is being away from family, our immediate family. If we are going to do what we do and make those sacrifices while we do it, we want to do it all in, all or nothing you know, we don’t want to fuck around, so to speak. We want to do that shit correct and show love overseas as well as in the United States. Sometimes when you show face, in places that you really don’t get to go to a lot, especially overseas, people really appreciate it, and if you don’t show face, people can kinda get bummed out, it’s like ‘Damn! How come you guys don’t come here?’ so we just try to expand where we go and go to places overseas as well as in the United States, so we’ll be trying, you know, like Hawaii, Guam, definitely we need to go back to Japan, different places in Europe. Just trying to expand or try to get more places overseas.
Jen: Eventually your sound will be popping up all over the place.
Kyle: Well I mean music is an international language so, you know, people are into it everywhere, so we definitely want to go over and play for people overseas as much as possible as well as in the United States and show face and show our appreciation, you know. It’s nice too, you don’t learn that stuff in school, geography, I’ve never learned geography like I have on the road. I never learned that in school, well I have, but not like this.
Jen: Yes, you find out about other places and it sticks with you more than what you learn in school.
Kyle: I feel the same.
Jen: Thank you so much for your time as I know you are super, super busy and I’m sure you have lots of stuff to do before your show tonight. So, have a great show and have a wonderful show tomorrow night at Red Rocks.
Kyle: I appreciate the support and the interview.
Jen: And we appreciate you giving us the interview.