There's some real cosmic intrigue in Slightly Stoopid's narrative arc — from San Diego skater/stoner punk band to San Diego skater/stoner punk band with songwriting chops. Of course, there’s more to the story than that, but a time traveler with a longboard would be hard-pressed to imagine Slightly Stoopid ca. 1996 headlining a place like Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, which they’ll do during a nice little weekend festival July 7-9.
Tropidelic kicks things off on night one, along with Jon Wayne and the Payne, Chase Makai and more bands. Campers get their Slightly Stoopid fix the next night, on top of a bill that includes Iration, J. Boog, The Movement and more.
caught up with co-frontman and -founder Kyle McDonald before the band played Charleston, S.C., earlier this month. Stoopid was in the midst of week three of a 12-week stretch of shows, reminding us all that these guys are perennially on tour, that magical place where a band meets its sprawling and devoted fan base. These days, the band is throwing down a two-hour show that covers the old stuff and the new stuff.
“We always get stoked to jam with the other bands,” McDonald says. “Every band we go out with we kind of become a family.”
And “family” is a good term to extrapolate here. With an impressive history that spans more than two decades and a lifetime of friendship, Slightly Stoopid and its fans are indeed family at this point. McDonald formed the band with his childhood bud Miles Doughty in the early 1990s, setting the stage at a particularly auspicious moment in SoCal history for something very special.
At the time, the whole region was buzzing with the electric ascent of Sublime, a band that fit naturally with its time and its cultural surrounding. Long Beach was a haven, where heavier and gentler sounds merged to form a unique bond.
“Miles and I, our first concert was Metallica and Motley Crue,” McDonald says. “When we saw that shit, it just really inspired us to play guitar and learn Metallica riffs. Heavy metal and shit: That’s what we were into when we were 10, 11, 12 and saw our first concerts. That’s what got us started..” (McDonald’s first record, he says, was an Eazy-E album.)
From there, the band’s early stuff was born out of a shared interest in NOFX, Operation Ivy, Rancid: the albums that were threading southern California’s high school punk scene in that era. But there was an omnipresent reggae influence in so much of the live music in San Diego and elsewhere, as well.
Early on, you see Stoopid tunes like “Smoke Rasta Dub” that foretell the genre-bending they would go on to pursue. It’s stuff like that — the early chemistry, the melding of local flavors — that got Sublime’s Bradley Nowell to take notice and sign them to Skunk Records. The Stoopid guys were still in high school, mind you.
“That’s just kinda how we got our feet wet,” McDonald says. “[Skunk producer] Miguel [Happoldt] told us some really good advice when we were young. He said, ‘No matter what you’re doing, when you start it’s going to take at least five years to get it to do anything. From there, you just keep touring and keep it on the road.’ We’ve been on the road for I don’t know how many years now — since we got out of high school. It’s kind of all we know, you know?”
Both the band’s self-titled album and The Longest Barrel Ride
came out in those halcyon days. Barrel Ride
is where you start to see the band stretching its legs, opening the album with the two-four rhythms of “Castles of Sand.” As time went on, McDonald and Doughty molded the band organically and developed their own individual sounds. McDonald would go on to craft memorable melodies in “Wiseman” and “Closer to the Sun,” and Doughty would do the same in tunes like “Collie Man.”
Through it all, there’s never been any real method for their songwriting, McDonald says. The band jams, and, like a lot of things in life, the good stuff just happens. It shows. “You can hear it in the music,” he says. “It’s like Bob said, ‘There ain’t no rules, there ain’t no vows. You can do it anyhow.’”
Last fall, the band returned to its roots in several ways. They teamed up with skater Danny Way to release a full album of punk tunes, releasing it in tandem with Way’s new deck. The project benefited Grind For Life, which funds cancer treatment and medical travel for children. “It was pretty cool, just to kind of take it back,” McDonald says. “Everything was retro; the skateboard was a retro shape, and the graphics on the bottom were all skulls. It was a throwback to our high school days.”
Next weekend’s festival will surely build on the summertime institution that Stoopid has built on the road — and brought often to the shores of Lake Erie. They’ve played the House of Blues and Jacob’s Pavilion in recent years (this writer recalls a few heavy shows at Peabody’s in the mid-2000s), but the Nelson gig will offer a sound setting for the band’s free-spirited blend of music.
“We’re excited to go to the Ledges,” McDonald says. “I wish I was there — might have to come in a couple days early if Cheech and Chong are gonna be there
. That’s some frickin’ good shit right there.”
As things stand now, the band is eyeing a new album with a lot of different styles of music. After this lengthy tour, the guys will return home to spend time with their families. Later on this year, it’s back to the studio to wrap things for the next LP. They hope to do some more overseas touring by the time 2017 skips into 2018. They were in South and Central America earlier this year, and McDonald says it was a fantastic trip.
“It’s a blessing to make music and to be able to go around and make people smile by playing music — and make ourselves smile. We don’t take it for granted. We feel pretty blessed and lucky to be able to do it. At the same time, we’ve been driving — starting in a Dodge Ram and making the rounds. We’re still mashing it.”
With Iration, J. Boog, Tropidelic and more
Friday and Saturday, July 7-8, Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, 12001 State Rt. 282, Garrettsville, 440-548-2716. Tickets: $110 weekend pass, $80 Saturday-Sunday pass, ticketquarry.com