Interview with Miles Doughty
And the road to life
Yes it goes up and down
Doesn’t really matter
As long as the music goes on
— Slightly Stoopid, “Collie-Man”
When it comes to music that is especially meaningful, people can often remember the first time they heard a particular song, album or artist. For me, I’ve been listening to Slightly Stoopid for close to twenty years, yet I can specifically recall the exact moment I first heard their music.
For that, I can thank the local college radio station, which I preferred most of the time for its penchant for playing cutting edge music, unlike the rest of the stations higher up the dial which continually regurgitated the same classic and modern rock. I had been driving at the time and I vividly remember “Collie-Man,” from the Acoustic Roots LP, striking a chord deep in my soul.
Still today, I get chills when I hear this song, with its beautiful melody, Miles Doughty’s dulcet singing and reflective lyrics. (While the song may be ostensibly about a weed connection, it nevertheless contains some memorable lines like the one quoted above.)
There was no such thing as Shazam back then, so I assume the deejay must have said the band’s name, and the first thing I did when I got home was jump online and search for Slightly Stoopid (probably spelled “Stupid” for lack of knowing any better) in the file sharing service I had been using at the time, i.e. Napster or Kazaa.
Looking at my collection of mp3s which have been essentially collecting dust ever since the advent of streaming music, I had managed to download (by individual track) most of Acoustic Roots as well as a good portion of their self-titled debut and follow up Longest Barrel Ride LPs. Additionally, to my intense delight, I also had acquired a bunch of bootleg songs from venues such as The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, Jaxx in Springfield, VA, Winston’s in Ocean Beach (12-22-01), and The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano (10-18-01.)
Listening to these bootlegs for the first time in years, my initial thought is one of gratitude to whoever recorded and uploaded them to the web back in the day. (If you happen to be reading this article, thank you!!) Secondly, man oh man, I hope some of these old recordings still exist in good condition today so that one day hopefully they can be released.
Along with the epic songs from Acoustic Roots and the reggae cuts from Barrel Ride like “Struggler,” “Mr. Music,” and “Jedi,” these old gems catapulted Slightly Stoopid instantly to one of my favorite bands, where they’ve only solidified this status with the last two decades of releases and tours. I can remember being mesmerized and overjoyed at finding this band that had created their own style of music, a truly original sound that blended roots and even dancehall reggae along with acoustic and electric rock, ska and even punk.
Among my personal collection of these rare nuggets that hooked me to Stoopid for life are an acoustic version of Kyle singing Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight,” a cover of Peter Tosh’s “Stop That Train,” an earlier version (I’m guessing) of Dennis Brown’s “If This World Were Mine” that had been titled “Black Roses Dub,” a stripped down rendition of Don Carlos’ “Lazer Beam,” an acoustic version of “Bandelero,” a live version of The Mighty Diamonds’ “The Right Time” attributed to a performance at Reggae on the Rocks, a cover of Bad Brains’ classic hardcore thrasher “Paytocum,” an early version of what would become “Officer” that had been titled “Soul’s on Fire,” a live version of “’Till it Gets Wet” brashly titled “Pussy Gets Wet” and a song Kyle introduced as “Mexico” by Peter Tosh, which I admittedly can’t recognize or find any other reference for. (Which by the way, segues into a killer medley of Kyle free-styling over a roots reggae beat amidst flurries of that signature Stoopid guitar.)
Yet, I digress from the purpose of this article, which is to commemorate the legendary Acoustic Roots album, due to its impending release, after all these years, on vinyl. Like myself, this masterpiece served as the introduction to Stoopid for many fans, and it remains a favorite body of work amidst the release of seven subsequent studio albums and one amazing live album, all of which just crush it.
Simply put, Acoustic Roots is exceptional. Of course, it starts with great songwriting, and then performance-wise, contains skilled playing, sweet, spirited vocals including that legit Jamaican cadence that Stoopid is known for, and heavenly harmonizing. Like at the time of its release, still two decades later, the album stands out as wholly unique with two vocalists singjaying over acoustic reggae and rock riddims.
Surely a treasure like this had to have been strategically planned and meticulously rehearsed, right?
As the story goes, the performance that led to this timeless album couldn’t have been more happenstance. You can read about that below as, to celebrate this momentous occasion, Rootfire (in pure 2020 fashion) Zoomed with Stoopid’s Miles Doughty to discuss the album’s origin, the band’s history and their trajectory over the years.
Below is the (lightly edited) transcript of that conversation.
RF: I just want to tell you a bit about what brings me to this interview. I’ve been listening to Stoopid for about 20 years. I was introduced to the band when I heard “Collie-Man” on a college radio station around the time that Acoustic Roots was released, and I was blown away. And I hate to confess this, but I went home and downloaded all your music from Napster or whatever file sharing service I was using at the time.
Miles: That’s all right, man. That’s part of the game. That’s how we even got out to that realm before the social media streaming world really exploded, you know? So that helped us back in the day. Cause we were flyering towns and doing all our own street team and everything.
RF: I mean, it was, it was a different world promoting music back then. That’s what you had to do, right? You had to hustle and grind. You couldn’t just throw up a link or whatever. I sometimes would feel guilty about that, but then I think about how many people I turned on to Stoopid over the last 20 years, how many shows I’ve gone to and all that kind of stuff. And I’m like, ah, it probably all comes out in the wash anyway. You know what I mean?
Miles: Hey man, we appreciate it though. That’s what’s cool. But that’s what’s awesome about the Stoopid fan, is that it was so organically built. It’s kind of created this longevity and craziness where the Stoopidheads have now grown up with the band, where they’re bringing their kids to the shows. The same people that have been coming for 15 plus years have now introduced it to the younger generation. When you go to the shows, there’s literally someone like 10 years old and someone who is 65 years old. So it’s a blessing and it’s just been a crazy awesome ride.
RF: We are doing this interview to celebrate the release of Acoustic Roots on vinyl, which is very exciting for all of us Stoopidheads, so I was hoping you could provide some context about this album. At the time, you had two previously released albums that were pretty raw ska/punk, with a little bit of reggae, but an entire acoustic albums seems like a real departure from that sound. I was curious how the acoustic radio performance where the album was recorded came about. Were live acoustic gigs something that you and Kyle did or was this just kind of like out of the blue?
Miles: I had done a bunch of the coffee shop circuits in the Ocean Beach, Point Loma, La Jolla area, like Java Joe’s, this place in O.B., and a couple other spots. So, acoustic music has kind of always been part of it, but obviously we were still, you know, those punk rocker kids from the neighborhood, kind of rebelling against society and all that kind of crap. So we had never really done those kinds of shows together, even though me and Kyle grew up since diapers, you know what I mean? It’s basically the closest thing to a brother that is not blood.
And Acoustic Roots, honestly, almost didn’t even happen because we didn’t even have a drummer at the time. Well, that’s why it did actually happen. Al Guerra, who kind of put all of it together, was like, “Hey, why don’t you come down to the radio station and play some songs for us.” And we didn’t rehearse anything. We didn’t have anything set. I was literally on my way to the beach to go throw the horseshoes and surf and chill with friends. And Matt (Phillips, Stoopid management) was like, “Dude, you can’t, you got to go down to this little studio and you and Kyle need to play some songs.” It was funny because we literally showed up with a couple spliffs, a 12-pack of Coronas and sat down, and he hit record and it was full, straight live. There was no repeats. It was just literally like 38 or 40 minutes of jamming that happened. And that’s why, even between songs, you can hear the breathing and all this stuff. Just nothing really, you know, edited and fixed or anything.
So it was really cool.It was very organic, spontaneous. Hey, what should we play? Let’s just write some songs down and just go, you know? And that’s how it happened. And that’s always been part of our culture and soul, just growing up, listening to our parents’ classic rock and folk music and to put it all together on the spot was really cool. It was meant just to be kind of like a throw and go, and it turned out so good. We were like, “Hey, why don’t we just press, you know, a thousand CDs?” Next thing, you know, we sold, sold those out in like a second. And we’re like, “Oh, well, maybe we should press more.” And it kind of organically took its form. And 20 years later, it’s still a piece that the fans seem to love. It was just a cool moment that almost didn’t happen.
RF: It’s unbelievable, when you think about it. If you blew it off because you’d rather go to the beach or whatever? I mean, that experience probably opened doors. I really think that probably set you guys on the path that you’re on more than the first two albums, you know?
Miles: Yeah, I agree. I think when people first heard us, they were like, you know, who are these Stoopid guys on Skunk Records? Kind of a ska punk band and whatever. And then when we did that record, people were kind of like, “Oh, these guys can actually play other stuff and have harmonies and melodies,” and certain things that didn’t necessarily transpire on the other records, even though there was those kinds of songs on Barrel Ride — not acoustic, but you know, like the reggae stuff where we are singing — and not necessarily just have that punk rock mentality. But it was definitely a blessing, and it really opened up a different avenue of fan base to move into the next realm for us.
RF: It’s amazing the musicianship on that record. I was recently listening to Barrel Ride, and I remembered that two of the tunes, “Nico’s” and “Couldn’t Get High” are like buried in a secret track after “Free Dub” at the end of the album. And, that came beforehand. So, I’m trying to make sense of that. Could you talk about that?
Miles: Yeah. We kind of liked to put those little secret songs on some of the records where it just would play way later. “Couldn’t Get High” was a song that Kyle’s neighbor at the time, someone that was friends with his dad…we would have these parties at his house. You know, it was kind of like the surfing/body-boarding crew of Ocean Beach, you know, along Dog Beach area, and his band was kind of this rock band and they would play that song. And Kyle always loved that jam and kind of put his own twist to it.
And “Nico’s” is my favorite Mexican food spot in O.B., growing up. I’ve been going there since they opened in the early eighties and we’re friends with the owner and it was just kind of always like, “Hey, if you like Slightly Stoopid, if you come to O.B., this is the place to be, right here is the spot to come to.”
And so there was nothing really thought out, going, “Hey, it’s just going to be on the Acoustic Roots record” or anything. It was more just like, Hey, let’s just bury a couple songs in the back.” Even like the “Prophet Jam” (buried behind “To a Party” on the debut self-titled album) was in that acoustic realm of Barrel Ride.
RF: So those songs were already in your repertoire prior to the radio station gig?
Miles: We weren’t playing those live with the band, but those were just something that me and Kyle, we played on our own, at the time. And we just wanted to kind of put them at the end of that record, kind of hidden tracks.
RF: So beyond those two acoustic tracks that we’ve been talking about, the other songs on Acoustic Roots hadn’t been released yet. Were those songs that you had been playing live in some capacity, or were you planning on putting them on a future album? Like, where did they come from? You went into this radio gig and you played like a dozen songs that weren’t even on the other albums. It’s odd, so I’m curious how that came to be.
Miles: I think a lot of it was just stuff we’d do at rehearsals and things, but not necessarily planning to release it for any sort of record. Just because, at the time, we were kind of like a punk/ska, mix in a little bit of reggae, kind of band. We weren’t really a band that was playing a lot of the acoustic stuff. ‘Cause we were playing like the dive bars and the punk rock clubs and things.
And I think, having done the radio show at Rock 105 with Al Guerra, that we were kinda like, “Oh, that went better than we thought.” And some of these songs sounded great and we always had different visions for them than just that acoustic record. “Devil’s Door” is a perfect example. I waited forever for us to actually put it on a CD where we had the full band behind it and the force and the kind of the vision behind it.
Songs like “If This World Were Mine,” the Dennis Brown cover, we made our own kind of live version of it, a Stoopid kind of version of it. And it just became one of the staples in our set for years. Except for on Acoustic Roots, we haven’t really released anything on it. So certain songs we never even thought about where it would go, you know, if it would take that next step to the later CDs or not, or what we were planning. I think at that time we were just stoked to be playing anywhere.
RF: It’s funny because our conversation is leading into my questions that I haven’t asked yet. I love when that happens because it’s like there’s a flow to this. The next question I was going to ask was how some of the songs from Acoustic Roots ended up on other albums, you know, produced with the full band, whereas other ones have not. You kind of answered how that came to be, but I was wondering if there may still be a future for some of my favorite songs on the album that only exists in that acoustic version. I mean, I love them that way, but I’m curious if you guys ever think about taking another one from that collection and recording it with the full band for a future album.
Miles: Well, what’s kind of nice is that, when you have your own studio, we’re able to mess with those songs so many different times. And we actually — just last year – when we did our Closer to the Sun event that we do each year in Cancun, we actually did the entirety of the Acoustic Roots record there. Plus we added a few extra things. And it’s something that hadn’t been done in 18 years, 19 years. And it was cool. The fans were like, “Oh, Christ, you know, this is the first time we get to actually hear these songs the way it was done.” But we added the band too, we put some flavor in there, but we still kept it stripped down, and a little bit raw.
I think the door’s always open for any of the songs that didn’t actually make the record.
Cause just like any recording process, you always record more than you release. So, we have a vault of music that still, no one has heard. Some has been played live, some hasn’t, some is in between, like every now and then you’re just like, “Hey, let’s just try this one. What key is it in? All right. You go, here you go there, let’s go!”
And that’s, what’s awesome about being in the same band for so long and having basically like your brother as your partner in crime. You already kind of know where the other one is going to go. And if you don’t for a second, you just pull back, listen for the key and drop back in. You know what I mean? So it’s definitely a blessing.
I’m not sure what’s going to be released beyond that from that record, but there’s definitely always a potential, just because when you get in the recording room, it’s awesome to see where you can take some of the old songs.
RF: Speaking about the musical rapport, you know, beyond the personal rapport that you have with Kyle, it allows for some great jamming in the live shows, which is another element that I love about this band. I think that comes with the longevity of your musical relationship.
Miles: Yeah, I think what’s good about Slightly Stoopid is when you go to the show, we play so many different styles. I always like to call it a melting pot of madness. If you’re the punk rock fan, we’re going to play a couple of punk songs. If you’re the reggae fan, we’re going to play the reggae jams. If you like the folk kind of classic sound, we’re going to play that. At the shows, we play funk and jazz and a little bit of in-between, hip hop. So, for us as musicians, it keeps it more interesting.
So many bands, they have their one style and every record is basically kind of the same. And what we try to do is, even though we have our Stoopid sound, we try to make sure that there’s a flow of just different kinds of vibes throughout a whole record. Like when you hit “Play” on song one, it’s just like a little roller coaster ride going through all these little turns. To us, it’s basically like each record is a story.
Me and Kyle are so different and that’s what makes the band so special. Most people can’t say they’re friends with anyone for more than 10 years, and we’ve been friends for 40 years and we’re only, you know, 42, 43 years old, and we’ve gone through so much crazy shit together.
I think a lot of the draw towards the way we play music is that we reach out to so many different sides of the spectrum because we’re so different in life and on stage. Our voices blend well together, but stylistically, we go on different tangents. And when you put it all together, it’s something special. You can tell we’re a family and we’ve been through so much together, so it’s pretty rad.
RF: One of the things I love about the covers that you choose to play is that you never know what you may hear from Stoopid. You guys do a cover of John Denver, which is actually music that I grew up on in my house, which brings back memories of my youngest years, and you did a tribute to Kenny Rogers, for example. These are musicians that might not be something that a lot of Stoopid fans listen to or appreciate, but it speaks to, I’m assuming, the wide variety of music that you guys grew up with. Is that true?
Miles: Yeah, for sure. Cause you gotta remember, growing up, our parents were blasting their style of music, so it kind of gets embedded in your head. But to bring up John Denver and Kenny Rogers, those were two just great storytellers. And if you listened to the music, everybody can relate, because they’re literally just talking about regular life, you know? And their delivery between their vocal harmonies and their melodies is incredible. And, like I said, we always try to put our own twist on those stories and the way it’s delivered to our fan base. I mean, if we didn’t write that it was John Denver and Kenny Rogers, a lot of people probably wouldn’t even know that they weren’t our songs.
Even the Wyclef song, “Perfect Gentleman,” you know, we did it in a punk rock way. Kyle came to the studio or the rehearsal or whatever and he’s like, I want to do Wyclef’s “Perfect Gentleman” punk rock style. And honestly, I like it better than Wyclef’s version because it’s rad, Kyle’s voice sounds killer. And it just creates a different element where it appeals to our fan base.
You know, music to me, from that era between like ‘60 to like ‘85 realm, there was just such great songs written. You know what I mean? If you listen to the stories and the way the band members were playing their instruments, everything, the whole ride, it was just a great time for writing and music. So many great artists out there that yes, they were huge in their own element and in their own right — they were some of the biggest bands in the world — but the younger generation, sometimes it gets lost to them because they didn’t grow up with that or they didn’t see it. And for us, if we can take their version and try to make our version better or on the same plateau of it, I feel like we’ve done our job.
RF: That’s awesome. I admire the fact that you guys have such respect for a lot of the music that came before. Speaking of which, The Grateful Dead. As a Deadhead myself, I have to ask about TRI. I know a little bit of the story of how that came to be because John (Phillips, Stoopid management) once told me about how he went to Bob Weir’s high school and grew up a diehard Deadhead, but can you speak a little bit about what that experience was like for you guys? Were you fans of the Dead at all?
Miles: Yeah. I mean, honestly, I was geeking out a little bit, you know? Just because of the legendary status of what the Dead has done and the platform that they created for the live touring band. You know what I mean? We always like to kind of say where the Deadheads meet Stoopidheads, you know? We’d taken a lot of similarities as far as how our touring fan base travels to show to show to see us play. Like some will go to 10, 15, 20 shows during the tour.
And when I was playing those coffee shop kind of little acoustic gigs, “I Know You Rider,” was in my set list. One of my dad’s friends at the time was a guitar player and he introduced me to it.
His name was Chris Gibbons and he introduced it to me and I was like 15 years old at the time, maybe 16. And he was, you know, my dad’s age, and we were playing together and, and we were doing these little coffee shops, messing around just to have fun. You know, I was still in Slightly Stoopid, but it was just something we were doing to play locally. And, “I Know You Rider,” to me, the way the harmonies rolled out, and the story, that kind of got me. Like, “These guys are rad!”
The Dead actually didn’t write that song – it was actually an old traditional song that most people think The Dead wrote. And even I did, I didn’t realize its origin, but they just really kind of eclipse a different level of touring what you could do, a “sky’s the limit” kind of mentality to the open, outdoor show, you know? The hell with the clubs — they brought this touring fiasco all around the country where thousands and thousands of people would just go and lose their minds for a few hours every night. And they became events!
And what’s funny is now, in the Stoopid realm, there’s all these Stoopidheads showing up like at noon, like way before soundcheck, and, you know, they somehow all have the family backstage pass, hanging and cruisin’. And we are like, stumbling off the bus going, “What time is it?? What day is it??” and they’re already there. And it’s a blessing.
The power of music is crazy just ‘cause I don’t care who you are, where you are, music touches somebody all over the planet, you know what I mean? Even if you’re the craziest motherfucker or the mellowest person, there’s something about music that could bring everybody together into that moment, in that place and time. And it really just heals people too.
This crazy 2020 is a perfect example of just how much people need music, you know? This is the longest I’ve ever been home since I was, in a sense really, probably 19 years old. So it was kind of a trip to navigate through that, especially when you’re so used to being on stage for all those people and just releasing that kind of energy. Because for us too, it’s like the best drugs on the planet. You know what I mean? It’s like something that they inject in you and you get that excitement, that adrenaline from the crowd that you can’t replace with anything. Like when you step on a stage and there’s 10,000 people there screaming, (mimics fans cheering) it’s literally like the best thing on the planet.
And it always keeps a smile on our faces. When you see the reaction from the fans, you know, when they’re singing back the songs and you look at the expressions on their faces from the stage, you realize, like, man, “Pinch yourself.” Like you’re part of history of life, and a part of how people have overcome certain problems in their life, through your music. You know, we get so many of those stories where, “Hey man, your music helped me get through this and that.” And that really is what it’s all about, because people get lost and caught up in so much bullshit all the time. When really, if we all came together in a common goal, you know…I live in that fantasy land in my head where there’s actually something for everybody in the world.
I also believe in heart, you know, working your ass off to get there. And we really busted our ass forever, just sleeping on floors, you know, making enough money to put a little gas (in the tank) and maybe some Taco Bell in your belly, and go show to show.
I remember we did this tour with Pepper back in the day. We did like 48 shows in 57 days driving in a van. And that was pretty intense, you know, just partying late, leaving after the gigs, you know, probably shouldn’t have been driving, but we made it. And just those kinds of memories and that kind of stuff that you’ll take with you all the way till you’re dead. You know what I mean? It’s been incredible man.
RF: Absolutely dude. That really rings true. I mean, music is medicine, you know? Music is spiritual. In my house, we call live music “church.” That’s our religion. Where else can you go and vibe with so many like like-minded people? Literally, vibrations are running through you, and you’re feeling fulfilled from it. And you guys are the ones who are creating those vibrations. I mean, that is special. That is a special role in life to have, and a responsibility.
So I appreciate that you recognize that, you know? Because sadly, like — Bradley’s a prime example — I often think like, “Wow, the things that he could have done…” Just think about what he did when he was here and how quickly he left us. But it’s almost like a responsibility because there’s people that really cherish what you do. And so, God willing, you guys will be doing it for as long as it means something to you.
Miles: Yeah. I think the way we built the band is what has created this longevity because of the grassroots, organic style that we came up through, you know, touring, touring, touring, and hitting those same towns over and over and over again. And word of mouth kind of started to spread and people started to realize the energy and the fun that was happening at these shows.
And I’ve always been, in the moment we’re here now, let’s crush this moment with everybody out there. And I always keep like, you know, politics out of shit. Music is a place for all of us to escape and breathe. And like, just pretend like all of our troubles in life are gone, you know?
You could be having the worst day and all of a sudden you’re in line, about to get through the entrance, got my beer, got my spliff, my best friend, my girl, whatever. And the music’s about to kick in and all of a sudden any sort of frown just turns upside down and you get to just release and enjoy those moments in time.
Because it moves quick, especially once you have kids and things. I don’t know if you have kids or not, but I have three kids and man, like once you have kids, my dad used to say, “You don’t even realize it, it goes by so fast.” And I was like, “Yeah, whatever, Dad, whatever, you don’t know shit!” Even though he did exactly what we did. And now that I’m here, I’m like, “Holy shit!” Like it’s just like lightning speed.
I’m 43 now and I have an 11 year old, one’s turning nine and a four year old, and it’s just like a bullet train going through because by the time you’re done with their day, all of a sudden it’s like 8:30 at night and I still haven’t even gone to the studio. You know what I mean? So I just try to enjoy it, man.
We just appreciate it all the time. There is no rhyme or reason as far as how successful we’ve been able to be, but the message to the people has always kind of been the same, you know? And I think that our fans and other people, you know, once you come to a Stoopid show, it’s not like the record. It’s way more fun.
When you get out there to the show, the energy that you get, all the guest stars we bring — we try to bring all these people that we grew up listening to and were fans of just to introduce them to the masses today as well — just always appreciative, man. It’s a gift, and I’ll never take it for granted.
This time at home too has been incredible. Just being home this long with family. It’s never happened for any of us. We all have kids and usually it’s like, “Okay, bye Dad.” You know, “I’ll see you when I see you.” And now it’s like we’re home and actually enjoying a little bit of that aspect in life. And I think it’ll just make us go out and crush 2021 like it’s going out of style.
RF: Absolutely. Like you said, it’s been the longest amount of time since you were a teenager that you haven’t been on the road and probably, to some degree, a blessing in disguise, cause you got all this time with your kids. And I’m sure they appreciate it. But then, when the time does come and concerts return, you won’t take that for granted either because it was taken away from you for a long time.
Miles: Definitely, we did a couple of drive-in shows last month, one in San Diego and one in Ventura. And honestly we all had perma-grins just because it was — I have a couple of guys in the band that live on the East coast and I hadn’t seen them since February! And so it was cool. Like they were all in town, we’re on stage looking at each other, like we just took seven months off and the band sounds great!
And the vibe was insane. We had brought Angelo Moore from Fishbone, Chali 2na, Marlon Asher. It was just crazy, man. The energy was just off the charts. I actually kind of liked the setup where you kind of get your zone with your car, as many people in your car. They should do it, but actually let people, they should charge a little more if you bring your own cooler, you know what I mean? Just let people fill up a cooler that way everybody’s not running around like crazy, but it actually creates a space where people aren’t all like, you know, nuts to butts jammed up and the front row is getting crushed.
It was really cool. I mean, they haven’t even said what’s going to happen with music in 2021. So that could be the new way they do things. And you know, if it is, we’ll embrace it and go out there and crush it and enjoy every minute of it. Man, like I said, dude, life’s a gift, every day. When you’re looking down at the grass, it’s better than looking up at it. You know what I mean?
RF: I agree about the drive-in show. I’m glad that you mentioned that, ‘cause I was curious how it was for the artists. Because I’ve done one of those shows and I had the time of my life. Pandemic or not, I hope this is a thing to stay because I like it for several reasons. Like you said, you have room to breathe, your own space, and it’s like you’re tailgating. Which everyone loves to do before the shows, but you’re tailgating through the show. I love that aspect. But of course, you have to have a good sound system, because I’ve heard reports of people, other friends of mine that have gone to see drive-in shows, and they didn’t have a good parking spot and the sound sucked or they could barely see anything.
So I think some venues are doing it better than others. In our case, we were like in the second row of cars, this was at the Circle Drive In outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania. And the sound was unbelievable. It was so loud and so clear, the PA was just killer, and it was a drive-in theater, so they had a huge movie screen where they were projecting the band, so you could see great, you know? Now, I don’t know if it was as good for the cars farthest in the back, but I’m sure it wasn’t terrible.
But I think that could be something that sticks post-pandemic, and it could be a lot of fun. So I’m glad to hear that it was enjoyable for the artist as well, because the band that I had seen, they’re called Blackberry Smoke, sort of a Southern rock band that I love, the singer Charlie Starr was saying that it felt really strange for them to be so far away from the audience because they’re used to playing smaller theaters and stuff, so I was curious if there was a disconnect there for you guys or if you were able to bridge that?
Miles: I mean it’s not the same obviously when people are right up against the stage. But I mean, we play the outdoor amphitheaters all summer and the fans are already 15 feet from the stage anyway because of the stupid barricade. So honestly, it didn’t feel bad at all.
We had the 360 screens around the whole stage, so everybody saw everything, and we always bring in more than they usually provide, so the sound was thorping. We had our regular stage set up, our regular monitor system, so we didn’t miss a beat on stage. It sounded exactly like it does anytime on any stage we are.
And we just made sure that we had enough sound system to make sure the fans didn’t have to — you know, they were trying to say, “Hey, just turn into FM 87 point whatever” and not watch the show. No way dude. People want to feel music, not just listen to it.
And so we made sure no matter where we go, first of all, we always bring the PA. We have one of the loudest PAs in the country, period. Like that’s just how we roll. We want your face to kind of get peeled back a little bit, you know? Your hair should be moving when that PA’s moving.
And the fans loved it. Honestly, we had nothing but great feedback. I didn’t see or hear any complaints as far as the sound. The sound, the visuals, everything was awesome. The band played great. We were all smiling at each other. You know, people can see our love for what was going on. And I think when you see that, — it sucks if you go to a show and someone’s just preaching darkness, the world sucks, this and that. We go up there, we’re like, “Dude, we love this shit! You guys are great!” Like they could see we’re just energies crushing, and it’s electrifying, man. It’s just like anything. When you wake up with a smile on your face, usually good things are gonna happen. That’s it.
RF: I love what you said about, you know, the loudest PA. I mean that is really important with all live music, but especially reggae. You gotta feel it, man. It’s part of it. You know what Marley said, “One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain.” Feeling the vibrations.
Like I can’t tell you like how many times I’ve been at a reggae show or a sound system event and I huddle up close to that wall of speakers so I can feel it coming through the floor, through my feet, my knees, up through my heart. You know what I mean? That’s what reggae music is to me. You can just feel it vibrating through your whole body, you know? And so it’s just not the same if you’re tuning into the FM radio or whatever.
Miles: I mean, you want that low end to be kind of rattling your whole rig. You’re just like, “Oh, I could almost like shit myself at the low end.” Just like (mimics sound of vibrating bass) we love that!
I don’t get a chance to go to a lot of shows just because I’m always playing shows. But when I do, it’s like, you want to just, like you said, you want to feel it. You want to be able to close your eyes and the music is literally moving you.
RF: Absolutely dude. So, I had a few other questions, but the way our conversation has flowed, it’s not totally in context, so I am going to shift gears here.
A big part of you guys getting your start was, as we mentioned earlier, meeting Bradley (Nowell, of Sublime) and playing on Skunk Records. I’m just curious how that all came to be. How did you meet Bradley and so forth?
Miles: So Brad and Sublime were playing at this little local bar called Dream Street in Ocean Beach. It holds like a hundred, maybe 120 people tops. I had gone down there. My mom’s friend had made me a fake ID, California license, and this thing was so legit. You could hand it to a cop. It had all my info on it, except for my birthday was different. And it was so legit. It was crazy.
I went with my mom, her husband at the time, Kyle’s dad, a couple of other people, you know, that group of friends in the neighborhood. They were playing the show there and there might not even have been more than 60 people at the gig. This was a couple of years before they exploded. And somehow my mom got to talking to Brad and Miguel, ‘cause they found out my mom’s husband was a doctor and they were trying to figure out a way to, you know, get Bradley clean.
And my mom was like, “Well, hey, how about, you know, my son has a bunch of guitars and recording equipment. Why don’t you guys come over tomorrow and we’ll talk about it.” And sure enough, Brad and Miguel and Brad’s girlfriend at the time, Troy, who ended up being his wife, they came to my house when I was like 16 years old.
And this was a band that Kyle and I were huge fans of. You know, we had the 40 Oz. to Freedom cassette and we’d go on surf trips down to K-38 in Mexico with Kyle’s dad just thorping this 40 Oz. to Freedom cassette. It was really cool. So Brad comes in and then they didn’t even want to talk about any of that other shit. They saw the guitars and four track and they’re like “Oh dude, let’s just play.”
So we started jamming and from there they just kind of took us under their wing a little bit. I would go to Long Beach all the time with Brad and Troy and Brad didn’t have a license, so I would be driving around all over the place, and go to the gigs and be like the little guitar tech, you know, this little kid, going to raging parties after the gigs with all these like 25, 26 year-olds while I was 16. It just kinda opened my eyes to this crazy world of music, you know, and we were just like this little garage punk ska band and Brad loved it. You know, he was just like, “Yo, I want you guys to come up and record.”
They had this place called the Fake Nightclub off of Anaheim in Long Beach. And believe me, it was by no means any sort of glamour studio at all. It was kind of like the local rat-hole hangout for all the boys. It was dirty, you know, all graffiti tagged and they had this eight-track reel-to-reel recording machine that we recorded the self-titled record on. And it was just a cool time of life, man. You know, we are these kids looking up to, they were like basically our idols at that point, you know? We were like, “Oh my God, you know, we love this band and he’s asking us to come play” and over the next couple of years before he had passed, I was just always up in the scene.
That’s how I met John Phillips and his brother, Matt. Matt and them have been with us since I was a teenager. And it’s really good. You know, we’re all about family. We’re really loyal with the people we have and it all started way back then. And like you said, unfortunately Brad was taken too soon and he didn’t even get to enjoy the magnitude of what happened because when the music exploded, they were the biggest band on the planet. What’s funny is that grunge took us out of hair metal, Sublime took us out of grunge. Sublime, No Doubt, 311, there really wasn’t any other kind of bands like that. I mean, obviously Fishbone, but they were before all that, you know, that’s where the Chili Peppers got all their kind of vibe from was Fishbone.
It was really cool. Like we were the baby band of that genre and, and people would go, “Hey, let’s go check out those Stoopid guys” ‘cause they were on Skunk Records.
And slowly everything was kind of like the snowball effect. It starts out real small, small, small, and we’ve always had this kind of slow gradual incline and I think that’s what’s been awesome for the band. I think anything that was sort of peaky or valley, we wouldn’t have been able to survive that level of success or failure, really. I think just having that gradual climb and really having to work and earn it, you earn the respect of your fans. You earn the respect of the venues, the security guards, the bartenders, everybody.
Back in the day, we’ve shown up in places where there was literally nobody there. You’re literally playing for the bartenders and the security guards. And you’re like, “I still need to get that a hundred bucks.” So I must just play my hour set, and that was the reality. And sometimes you get somewhere, they’d be like, “Ah, you know, it’s cheaper for me just to close up. Uh, here’s your hundred bucks, get outa here or whatever.” But what’s cool is those people were like, “Hey, we heard this band…” and they tell five friends. Next thing you know, there’s 10 friends there, to 20, to 40 to, you know, and, and so on.
And we played a million of those shows. That’s what I think gets lost in today’s, you know, “I want it right now” mentality. You forget the grind is basically the reward. You know, everything you get after that is the reward from that hard work of the grind. And so many years of just never being discouraged by the movement and how fast it went. You know, it makes you strong mentally as you can possibly be when you can go through all that.
And then by the time you really do sell out your first show, you’re just like, “Holy shit, this is insane!” There’s 300 people here tonight instead of 20, you know, and then it just kept going and going. And we’ve been headlining amphitheaters now for 13 years and you just kind of go, “Holy shit, this is incredible!” Considering we’re not on any sort of major label. We never really had the huge radio push. You know, we’ve had radio success, but I’m talking like we’ve never had that, like Taylor Swift push, you know what I mean? Like not to use her so much as an example, but it’s like, when you hear someone on the radio, 50 spins a day, whatever.
RF: Sublime is the perfect example, like how they blew up. They had tons of radio airplay, you know, everybody knows Sublime. I don’t even listen to the radio really any more, but I don’t think you guys had too much of anything like that. So, like you said, it’s just been organic. It’s been word of mouth. It’s been grassroots.
Miles: To me, that’s the best, because, so many of these bands we’ve played with — platinum artists that don’t draw 500 people — so like for us to headline over those… sometimes you go, “Oh, I don’t know if I want to really play after these guys.” But it’s like, we worked our asses off to be there, and our fan base has worked their asses off to get us there. So many, you know, street team members from back in the day flyering towns, to even now just them pushing the social media and everything. They really, you know, they’re so prevalent on the development and the growth of Slightly Stoopid. And we never take that for granted, man, that we have some of the greatest fans in the world. We’re one of the only bands that have the craziest backstage I’ve ever seen.
Like we tour with some people that are like “No, you can’t get up on stage” and we’re just like, “Hey, have you ever looked at a Stoopid show? There’s like 120 people up here!” Then you go backstage, there’s 300 people back there. And I feel like, because we came from that era, we still embrace it, where a lot of these new artists aren’t really in that mindset, and in that realm.
We want people to lose their mind at our show. We want you to leave the show going, “Holy shit, this was the greatest fucking night that I ever had!” You know?
For us as well, like we’d like to leave the town going, “Hey, this is the town that we know, no matter what, the craziest people are going to come out to the show.” And, and we gear up knowing that before the gig, going, “All right, we need to step up our game tonight. We know these people came to party and we want to give them everything that they deserve.”
RF: That also touches upon one other thing I was going to ask about or comment on. I love the fact that you guys take the time after the show to mingle with fans, especially at the level you’re at now, pretty much like the apex band in the American reggae scene, if you will. And you guys still make an effort to get out there and talk to people and meet people. I just think that’s awesome, man, like that you guys care enough to do that, you know?
Miles: Well, I mean, honestly dude, I don’t have a job without the fans. And I think that when you just kind of put on your turtle shell and disappear, that’s not really where it’s at. You still have to get out there and mingle. I mean, we enjoy it anyway. So, for us, it’s like second nature. It’s not like, “Oh God damnit!” (Feigns exasperation.) It’s like, after the show you’re just like, “Whoa, let’s get out there, grab a couple of drinks, you know, tear up the town a little bit!”
And I think that’s one of the things that people gravitate to the band about. Cause they can just see what you see is what you get. Like, we don’t sit there and go get ready to play. What I put on during the day is what I’m walking out on stage in, you know?
Like the only thing we do to get ready, we always have like some sort of shot together and we have a cocktail or two or three, you know, before we play. That’s just kind of our routine before a gig, you know? And I don’t think that’ll ever change, really. Just maybe the intake isn’t as much as we used to, even though we still, I mean, we’re seasoned partiers, so I still feel like anyone that tries to like step up the game and you’re going to see them (mimics crashing to the ground).
RF: You do what you have to.
Miles: Yeah, when you’ve been partying as long as we have, it’s kind of like second nature, just like anything, you know. Everybody’s Friday night is our Monday night. So I love it when you’re on the bus and someone’s like, “All right, give me that Jaeger bomb. Let me get that bong load. Let me get this…” and all of a sudden you see them dropping out of the mix and you’re kind of laughing, you know?
Cause they don’t get that, once we get on stage, that adrenaline and everything kind of pushes all that out of you. So you could even start again when the show’s over and you’re still just like fully charged and jazzed from the night.
RF: That’s another thing that adds to my love of the band. You guys are the most down to earth people. Like what you said, you get out of bed, you throw on some clothes and that’s what you wore on stage. It’s like, no big deal, man. We’re just going to play some music. I just appreciate that about you because in the music business, there are some egos out there, and sometimes, you know, you could be a huge fan of a band and then you meet the musician and they’re kind of an asshole, and all of the sudden, the music doesn’t sound as good, you know? So it’s always a relief when you meet bands that you like and they end up being good people too.
Miles: Yeah. I appreciate that. I mean, honestly, that’s happened to me where someone, I’m not going to say what bands they were, but some of my favorite bands, you meet them and you’re just like, “Really?? Like, I’ve been waiting all this time to meet you, and that’s how you are? Like fuck you bro.”(Laughs)
Honestly, I mean, we’re just some lucky beach kids from Ocean Beach, you know? We grew up surfing, skating, boogie boarding, and that kind of vibe kind of translates into how we do things. We all have families and we grew up in a tight kind of community where, you know, anywhere me and Kyle go in O.B., someone would be like, “Hey!” (Voices enthusiastic greeting.)
Just ‘cause this is our hometown and we’ve never deviated from that. You know what I mean? We’ve never tried to be better than that or act like this is not where we’re from. I think that shows and, like I said, life’s short man, you got to enjoy every moment of it. There’s always going to be highs, always going to be lows, and in-betweens. And it’s how you come out of that that kind of reflects everything that you’ve done.
RF: Dude, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure to meet you after all these years of going to your shows and everything. I wish you the best of luck and hopefully I’ll see you in person one of these days soon.
Miles: Yeah, man, we’ll be in Jersey soon. I mean, hopefully 2021 they let us get back out there.
RF: Kyle was just out here! Like last week, and I couldn’t go because I actually threw a reggae event of my own with some of the bands from my local community. We had a reggae weekend, so I was like, “Oh man, why does this have to happen at the same exact time? You know?
Miles: Yeah, Kyle hit me up cause I was actually on a family RV trip that we had planned for a long time. And they’re like, “Hey, we need you to play this gig.” And I’m like, “Dude, we got the RV, we got everything set. I just can’t. I can’t go!” But I heard it was amazing. And Kyle held it down fine. And what’s good is, you know, if one of us can make it, which is usually never, we’re always together anyway, but there’s still going to be a great vibe there.
And Jersey has been great to us too, man. I’ve had so many great times at The Stone Pony, from playing the indoor little crazy bar to the big stage and also playing a couple of festivals in the old, like, I don’t even know what that building was, looks like a convention center, kind of along the boardwalk over there. So, it’s been awesome. And I mean, we’ve played places like Hoboken, you know what I mean? And, and just random spots and, I don’t even remember the name.
RF: Maxwell’s? That’s the only place with live music that I can remember in Hoboken.
Miles: It probably was. But yeah, like I said, we always have such a great time in Jersey anyway. Like what’s funny is when you’re on the West coast, people talk shit about the East coast and when you’re on the East coast, people talk shit about the West coast. But to me, what’s nice about the East coast, when you’re playing in the summertime, is people just got done dealing with six months of shit weather and they’re just ready to wow out. You know, like sometimes on the West coast, people are so used to this climate because it’s like this all the time. They don’t understand the struggle of like having to shovel snow and like being stuck in just freezing cold for months. And then when you finally get that hot sun, you’re just like… bikinis, board shorts, you know, raging all night long. And the energy is…
RF: You go all out!
Miles: Yeah, I really enjoy that. And, my family is from Rhode Island. So I understand, like the whole vibe out there and just, you know, the energy that people have.
RF: I could see how, on the West coast, maybe you can get a little complacent ‘cause you take it for granted. Every day is beautiful, you know, unless there’s like fires or something.
You mentioned the snow, and it reminded me of this time I saw you guys in New York City at Irving Plaza and there was a raging snow storm going on. And I remember leaving there at like 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning, and I had to drive back to Jersey in like a blizzard. There was like buses going off the road. It was mayhem!
Miles: Dude, I totally remember because we actually got stuck in New York!! We couldn’t leave! They got 24 inches in 24 hours. It was like one of the craziest storms they ever had. And when we started the show, the night was completely clear. There wasn’t a speck of snow on the ground.
And then when we walked out, it was a complete whiteout in New York City. There wasn’t cars on the road — there wasn’t anything! We were literally running and doing, you know, all those run-slides on the street, standing up. You just run as fast as you can and slide on your shoes. And that was one of the craziest times ever.
I always remember it because we literally got stuck there for like two, three days. We couldn’t fly out. We were stuck in some shitty hotel and we didn’t have any real money to get a bunch of rooms. So we were all just jammed up in these hotel rooms and couldn’t go anywhere. It was pretty wild. Those are the kinds of moments that you always remember when you’re on tour, you know? And we sold out both of those nights at Irving Plaza, so it was just kinda raging. Now, we got a snow storm, we are like running through the streets in shorts just going crazy. It was awesome.
RF: I love that you remember that. Of course you must’ve gotten stuck. ‘Cause the city just like shut down. And I remember saying, do I want to try to drive home in this? Or should I just ride it out, not knowing what was going to happen. But I was like, screw this. I don’t want to get stuck in the city because I don’t know where I’m going to stay or how long I will get stuck.
But I remember when I pulled up, I actually got parking right across the street from the front door of the theater, which is pretty lucky in New York City. And I remember there was no snow at all. And when I walked out after, I was like, “What the hell is going on here, man??” And then it was sketchy as hell driving home. But that’s so cool that you guys had that experience!
I know you got to roll bro. Thanks so much for your time.
Miles: Yeah, you too, man. I appreciate you taking the time dude. Good to meet you, and hopefully we’ll see you when we’re out in Jersey.
RF: I hope so too, man. Be well.
Miles: All right, brother. You too.