Grateful Web Interview with Slightly Stoopid
The Grateful Web's John Schumm chats with Slightly Stoopid co-frontman Miles Doughty about their live DVD filmed at Bob Weir's TRI Studios, their new studio/rehearsal space where their most recent album was recorded, the future of online streams and social media, their Summer Tour with Atmosphere, and bold, yet not reckless, predictions for the NBA Finals
GW: Alright Miles, you there?
MD: Yes Sir.
GW: Alright, let’s get it going, if you’re ready.
MD: Git r done.
GW: (Laughter) All right. So this is John Schumm with the Grateful Web, joined by Miles (Doughty) of Slightly Stoopid. Miles you’re the co-front man of the band, sharing vocals duties as well as playing guitar and bass with Kyle McDonald, correct?
MD: Yes, yep.
GW: Alright, let’s see, well the first time I saw you guys was back at the Rothbury Music festival in 2008, and besides being introduced to the music, I really remember the laissez faire approach to you guys sharing the instruments, and I was kind of wondering, has that always, the swapping vocals and instruments, been a component of the band, since you guys started?
MD: Yep, it’s been a component probably since right around 99’, 98’. When we first came out, Kyle predominantly played bass. I mean he still wrote songs, but during the live show I didn’t really play the bass as much. But then, after Barrel Ride, I started playing bass more and we started splitting up more of the duties, which is dope, just because it’s fun. It’s fun to play bass and guitar and sing and just kind of have that much freedom.
GW: I imagine so. Is that congruent with the studio albums you guys do, including the most recent, 2012’s “Top of the World?”
MD: Yeah, we both play on each other’s. You know, whoever’s singing and vice versa we kind of both play bass and guitars and things and it’s cool. I mean it allows the band, I mean, no one else does that, as far as switching up on stage and it’s something that’s kind of been a staple of Slightly Stoopid and I think it’s a lot of fun not only for us but it is for the fans too. When they see it the crowd erupts when we’re switching over just because really you go to a lot of live shows and you don’t see the two main guys that are playing switch their instruments throughout the whole set, every single night. So it’s really cool, man, and it allows us both to have our freedom vocally. You know it’s a lot harder to sing and play bass than it is to play guitar. (Laughter)
GW: Yeah, I imagine so. I would definitely say it’s refreshing to see. Going back to that first concert I saw I remember you guys even kind of tossing the instruments back and forth to one another on stage (Miles Laughs) and I know the audience really feeds off that every time that they see it, so, it’s definitely cool to see.
MD: Right on man. Yeah, I mean it’s a lot of fun to do, so it’s awesome that the fans like it and, like I said, it’s fun for both of us.
GW: Well cool, cool. So, the last album that you guys did, Top of the World, that was recorded in Slightly Stoopid’s new private studio, is that correct?
MD: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we have one here in San Diego.
GW: Nice, could you elaborate on that a little bit; what brought the idea to kind of get into your own space?
MD: Well, I mean for the most part getting into our own space is always been our dream. I mean we’ve been playing music together for a couple of decades and it’s just, it was time. We didn’t need to make music in other people’s studios anymore. We wanted to have the freedom to do what we wanted, you know what I mean, and not be on a timetable and a certain amount; you know a producer or studio itself we have to use. And for us we kind of created the ultimate man cave. I mean it has bomb ass quarter pipes and an Xbox room. We have a sixty inch TV in there so you can get your game on if you don’t want to, you know, if you don’t feel like jamming for awhile. And it’s got the kitchen, bathroom, big, big rehearsal space that’s almost the size of a summer time stage: massive, so you can set up the risers and full stacks and things. It’s pretty sweet. And then we have our recording room upstairs that we did the whole record in, and I mean, it’s honestly, we’re really happy with how the record turned out and we did it, you know, relatively low budget as far as what we had for recording equipment. You know, we use Pro Tools, but we didn’t have a bunch of crazy different preamps and things and all the extras that you’d have in the five million dollar studio, but we were able to capture a certain vibe that is, you know, what this band is all about in general and it was just nice having that ability in your own place to, you know, being close to home and, you know, to have an idea and go, ‘I’m going to go down to the studio real quick, because I can,’ you know what I mean, it’s there and it’s available instead of having to call a studio and say, ‘hey we want to book down for three weeks’ and then maybe them not being able to do it when you can do it. So it’s all just about being able to do what you want, and it was long overdue for this band and it was something that once we had the opportunity to actually achieve it, we just attacked it and went after it and made, like I said, the ultimate man cave. You know, when you’re at the pad and you just want to go make music you can just go down there and hang out all day because there’s something to do regardless, you know what I mean, it’s a lot of fun.
MD: And it makes it so you can make good music though, you know what I mean? You’re in your own zone and there’s nothing that can kind of deter you from what you’re willing to capture and what you’re able to capture in your own studio.
GW: Well it sounds like a blast, honestly. Being able to kind of have everything you need and not having to worry about anyone else’s studio time, and that. The Grateful Dead I know kind of did the same thing. They had a studio space and all that where they could hang out, rehearse, record, which Kind of leads me into what you guys just filmed a year or so ago, the DVD, Live at Roberto’s Studio.
GW: Which I believe, that is Bob Weir’s baby, TRI Studios, correct?
M: Yeah. It’s Bob Weir’s place, that’s why we call it Live at Roberto’s but it’s just live at Bob’s, you know what I mean?
MD: It was such a cool experience man. It was one of the dopest sounding studios as far as what you were able to capture in the live room, it was ridiculous, because we all just kind of sat in a horseshoe and played and the room itself, the acoustics, were off the charts, off the charts. It was just one of those things where you’re singing and all the reverb is perfect. The delays are perfect. The sound of the music is just crisp and mean and it was an experience, I’ll tell you that. I mean we had Ian and Ivan Neville, Don Carlos, Karl Denson, Bob Weir, I mean it was just like we were like kids in a candy store, we got to taste the best pieces (Laughter), you know what I mean? So it was really sweet to work with those guys, and Bob Weir was a G, hands down, as far as being such a cool cat and really easy to work with.
I remember this part of the night where right before we did the set, I was in Bob’s dressing room and we each had an acoustic guitar and we were just practicing the harmonies for I Know You Rider, and while I’m sitting there singing and Bob’s singing I’m just sitting in the back of my head going like, ‘Holy Shit,’ you know what I mean? You know, I’m sitting here with Bob Weir singing vocals in his dressing room at his studio, you know, it was just cool. Not only am I a musician, but I’m a big fan too, so it’s just so sick to be able to work with guys that were really legendary in the music world. And you know, we really based our whole tour life around, you know they had the DeadHeads and we have the Stoopid Heads, you know what I mean, and we’re a band that excels at being on the road and always touring and that’s kind of what they did, you know, they were kind of the anti-corporate world, so to speak, as far as all of that’s concerned, they didn’t need it. You know what I mean? They were their own entity, pretty much just touring and they didn’t rely on multi-platinum records, they’d relied on what they did on tour, and that’s kind of the same thing with Slightly Stoopid. We’ve kind of always been a band that’s always on the road and trying to bring music to the fans every year and you know that’s what it’s all about: having fun, making music, and traveling and experiencing new things.
GW: I can definitely agree with that. It seems you guys are always on the road. I feel like I’m seeing your name somewhere in some city, so that’s definitely good, keeping busy.
MD: Yeah man, better than not being busy.
GW: So kind of saying how the whole touring thing was kind of influenced by the Grateful Dead, did you or any of the other guys in the band really listen to much Grateful Dead growing up?
MD: I didn’t. I wasn’t really part of the whole Grateful Dead movement as far as growing up. I kind of missed that boat and didn’t get to appreciate it until I was in Slightly Stoopid, and you know, really traveling and experiencing the madness of what it is and you kind of appreciate it more and I don’t know, the way that they toured is kind of the way you wish every band could tour. They were bringing a movement to town, it was almost like a presidential walk; the presidential inauguration or whatever, you know, like that dude’s coming to town (Laughter) and that’s what they brought, it was just such a massive force that would wipe through. And they would play for three or four hours and you know people would lose their minds.
That was back in the day, you know, there are so many rules these days. So many laws: the government, the law enforcement, everyone is so on edge about everything. It’s almost like a no-fun zone, you know what I mean? We’ve done shows now where we were told ahead of time if we smoke on stage we’ll be arrested, and you’re like, ‘why did you hire us?’ You know who we are, why would you even bring a band like that in if you’re already telling them, ‘don’t do this.’ We’re a band, Like the Dead, and a lot of bands, that have always supported the marijuana movement, and it’s still silly, you know, you play in some parts of the county and their deadlocked against it. It’s like a sin, you might get struck down from Heaven just for doing it. It’s kind of crazy.
GW: Yeah it is a little weird. I’m originally from Texas where it’s obviously still very anti-marijuana, but I’ve lived in Colorado the past six or seven years and we’re having the whole legalization thing going on out here.
GW: You guys did the 420 show, with Cypress Hill at Red Rocks, correct?
MD: Yeah, that was amazing.
GW: I bet. All right, so back to TRI and Bobby. You kind of mentioned how it was a cool experience setting up harmonies on a song like I Know You Rider, which Weir has been playing since he was sixteen (laughter) and played for forty years with the Dead. What was it like having him play on some of your own originals? I believe Ocean, and Baby I like It made the cut.
MD: It was just cool, the whole experience, like I said. I was just kind of in awe playing with him. We play with Don Carlos and Karl Denson and the Neville’s all the time, even though we’re still in awe of them, but we’re with them all the time so it’s like, I don’t even know if you take it for granted or not but you see them so they’re like your best bros, and you roll in and get that vibe from Bob right out the gate. It’s like you’ve known him for fifteen or twenty years, it’s crazy. After talking to him for fifteen minutes we were literally just, boom, in mode, like we’d known each other forever. And it’s great, man, it made it so easy to play. And it was kind of funny because we have, you know, some of the lyrics in Baby I Like It are pretty nasty and it (laughter) was just kind of funny to see when we were rehearsing Bob just kind of, when he heard the actual words, he was like, ‘whoa’ (Bobby impersonation), like he couldn’t believe it. When he heard it, it was kind of funny to see because we were watching the rehearsal for it and you see his face kind of go, ‘whoa,’ and you could tell he was a little shocked by the language. It was pretty funny, I laughed when I saw that.
GW: To me, the fun part about live performance is the ability for the unknown to surface. Especially when you’re playing with so many cool guests, like you were saying, members of the Neville family and Karl Denson. Did you guys rehearse most of the 31 tracks that made it onto the DVD with the guys at TRI, or did you kind of just go with it? And was it truly liv, or did you ever stop tracks and go back through them again?
MD: No, it was live. There was no going back and redoing the tracks. It was a jam session, and as far as rehearsal, we did sound check pretty much and probably played for a half hour, noodling around, getting the levels right. So you know it was kind of just set up and get your jam on and have fun. You know, Slightly Stoopid, the core of our band has played together for so long that we’re fine doing whatever and we knew the other guys are all just heavy players and musicians of the highest caliber so it didn’t matter what we threw down. We already knew that they’d step up and butter it with some nastiness. You know? Having those guys, what’s cool, I think, is letting it be live and letting it just be. It’s ok to make mistakes. I think stuff that’s too perfect, you can tell it’s been worked on, whereas when you’re just going, and you just let it ride, that’s reality. Sometimes some mistakes turn out to be cool parts of songs, where you didn’t even think it was there, but it is, and for this band that’s something that we’ve always prided ourselves on. Just being able to play live shows when and wherever, know what I mean?
And not having to rely on anything like a lot of artists do as far as extra tracks and a million extra harmonies and things hanging over, and all the extra music, that’s just something we don’t do. We do samples of little tidbits and cool effects, but as far as vocals and music goes, what you see is what you get. And that’s what’s cool with live music, and even DVD’s. When you’re working in a room of that caliber, it’s like the sound quality is so sick it doesn’t matter, we knew that everybody would be able to play the jams and what was cool is we had a list of songs we wanted to play. We knew we were going to play this certain song, but it was just some songs we didn’t know what to expect, and we were just like, let’s do this, and have some fun (Laughter), you know what I mean? Luckily having the guys, like I said Don Carlos, Karl Denson, Ian and Ivan Neville, and Bob Weir, it’s like (Phew) that’s like a recipe for happiness right there (Laughter).
GW: Yeah, you know it seems to be a who’s who of a Jam Cruise Lineup, where you have so many cool bands. There’s no egos, everybody just gets together and lets loose. And I noticed on the DVD how you guys all feel off of each other whether it be the Neville’s or Karl D, whom I believe you guys have worked with quite a bit in the past, right?
MD: Yeah, he tours with us all the time.
GW: Right, so he played on the last studio album and toured with you?
MD: Yeah, yeah. He tours with us now. He’ll be on the whole summer tour. He does his tours around our tours, which is awesome.
GW: That’s great. The way that you guys were seated for the TRI show; is that something you guys ever do, where you’re kind of sitting there? I know the last time I saw you I mentioned you guys were running around tossing instruments back and forth to one another. Do you plan on ever doing shows like that, where you’re seated, or is that something that came about being in that intimate studio like that?
MD: No, I think we’ve actually talked about doing something like that in the future, maybe next year. Doing something like a small, boutique amphitheater tour where we have it stripped down and using acoustic guitars and a big twelve to fourteen piece band and making something special for the fans. It’s fun to play like that anyway. You can hear everything more when you’re stripped down and you’re tight together, sitting around each other as opposed to being spread out on stage, running around like maniacs.
GW: So that’s probably something we won’t be expecting to see on the upcoming Kicking Up the Dust Summer Tour with Atmosphere this July?
MD: I don’t know, we might sneak some of that style in there in the encores and what not, but I know we’re definitely planning on doing something like that in the future as far as a whole tour like that. Anytime we can play some acoustic stuff we try to mix it in.
And its just Kicking up Dust, not Kicking up the Dust, Kicking up Dust.
GW: Sorry. Kicking up Dust.
MD: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s all good.
GW: And you guys are also going to be joined by Tribal Seeds, The Grouch and Eligh and The Budos Band, I believe.
MD: Yeah, The Budos Band, I don’t know if they’re going to do it or not anymore. I think somebody’s got some personal stuff that they’ve got going and they’d have to miss the tour. Starting a family or something, I’m not really sure, but for sure Tribal Seeds and Grouch and Eligh. And Atmosphere is the main support, so it’s going to be ridiculous. It’s going to be a summer of madness (Laughter).
GW: I imagine. I know you guys play diverse styles and genres of music, and last summer you co-headlined a tour with 311, and now Atmosphere, who’s predominantly hip-hop, what’s the difference between touring with a band like 311 and then a hip hop act like Atmosphere? How does it change: the crowd and fans of hip hop and an act like Atmosphere, do they stick around and get into the show, like most of the Stoopid fans would?
MD: Yeah, I think so, because the whole show is a party. It’s what’s going on that night. I don’t think people would pay all that money and drive far to only watch one act and split. It’s going to be fun regardless. We play so many different styles of music there’s going to be something in there for the Atmosphere fans, and what’s cool is there are Stoopid Heads that are Atmosphere fans too so it’ll be a mixture of everybody, and what’s nice is reaching out to his fan base, and the people who haven’t heard of us that are coming to his show, they may walk away going, ‘hey, this band is pretty sick,’ or they may walk away going, ‘we only like Atmosphere,’ and that’s it, and it’s cool. At least they’re there and we are going to give it our best to win over his fans and I think we’ll deliver to them and they’ll be satisfied. The whole Summer is going to be awesome. I look forward to collaborating with everybody and having a good time.
GW: Absolutely. I know that concerts and co-headlining gigs are great ways to reach new fans, and going back to Bobby’s studio and what TRI does, they do a good amount of streaming shows live. Did you guys stream the TRI performance when you were recording?
MD: Yeah, it was on Palladium too. So it’s been on the airwaves.
GW: Thinking about that, with the future of reaching out to new fans, do you see these streams from a studio like TRI becoming a legitimate alternative for touring bands like yourself, or is the live performance always going to trump the connectivity through the internet?
MD: The live performance trumps everything. It was fun recording TRI but you don’t get the energy. It’s like a drug almost, you don’t get the high you get from being on stage in front of ten thousand people, know what I mean? You’re blood is pumping when you walk out on stage and they’re singing your song. You can’t beat that (Laughter). There’s just no comparison. Is there an alternative to regular records? Yes. The streaming thing is huge. You end up getting so many fans, because they want to hear more music all the time, you know what I’m saying, and that reaches so many more people that even just have Palladium and were sitting at home going, ‘huh, I wonder what this is?’ and clicked on it and enjoyed it. Next thing you know, you have those people at your shows. Even doing that co-headlining tour with 311 impacted our Midwest shows. When we did our Spring tour this year, you know, we did way better numbers than we did before because we played in front of their fans instead of just playing in front of our fans. It totally helped our numbers in the Midwest and there’s something to be said about that. We’ve been headlining or co-headlining for the past eight years and each time when you co-headline it’s such a benefit to both artists, because of the fan bases you get. The live streaming thing is great too just because of the millions of people you can reach at once (Laughter). It’s an instant thing and really broadens your fan base and gives them something special too at the same time. You could go and do one of those every year and have a collection of DVDs. It could be something that’s really special and cool and when you have a place like Bob Weir’s it makes it a lot easier to do.
GW: Can we expect anything similar to Bob Weir’s studio within your own studio, as far as being able to record and stream online while you’re hanging out there or throw a video or something up of a jam you’ve been putting together? Anything like that?
MD: There is for sure. We are still improving our studio every day so it’s not a little process, you can’t build it overnight. We’ve been slowly getting it going, and that’s kind of the dream for the future, is to have it set up like TRI where you cans stream right away, you know, live rehearsals, and letting the fans be more interactive, and I think that helps tenfold for their excitement towards the band and not just a band that plays and gets out. People who know us know that we’re a band that loves to hang out with the fans, and not to use the summer tour name loosely, but that’s what Slightly Stoopid likes to do. It’s fun to hang with the fans after the show and I think doing that live stream is the next best thing, where you’re in the studio and ten thousand people are watching you do an hour rehearsal while you’re messing around. It’s so cool. I think the way the world is today you know with the social media and how it keeps progressing by the second (laughter) that it’s something that you’ve got to keep up with. It’s amazing what people can do. I’m not even very computer literate, but what people can do on a computer blows me away, so you’ve got to keep up with the times.
GW: Well, that covers pretty much all of my questions musically and about the DVD. One last question I’d like to ask, and I don’t know if you watch the NBA, but do you have any thoughts on who’s going to win Game seven between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers tonight?
MD: Oh, the Miami Heat is going to win. Indiana isn’t going to come into Miami and win. I think Miami is going to suck it up and hold out for a victory and get their battle on against San Antonio. So, I think guys definitely need to play better. A couple of the starters, of the big three, are moving a little sluggish right now, so guys off the bench are going to have to step it up in order for them to win the game. It definitely can’t be a Lebron only show. Unless he scores fifty points they’re going to lose the game. They need to get everybody involved. When they were successful last year they had everyone involved, and that’s the biggest thing, and I think if they do that they’re pretty much unstoppable. You saw what they did during the regular season. If they lose a couple of games it’s just because they need to be slapped a couple of times by the coach and he’ll let them know what’s up and they’ll be fine. Once they get home and have the energy of the crowd they’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to a little repeat this year.
I love Tim Duncan though. He’s like the sleeper cell for the Spurs, you’ve got to watch out for him. He’s like the silent hero. I think he might have four NBA championships.
GW: Yeah, four. This would be the fifth.
MD: They never talk about Tim Duncan. He doesn’t want that notoriety. He just wants to be under the radar, which is cool. But he is so dope, you know what I mean, he just wins. So on the other hand, I wouldn’t mind seeing him win, just because he’s thirty seven and might only have a couple of years left whereas Lebron is only twenty eight and is going to win another championship, maybe even three, down the road. I almost wouldn’t mind seeing Tim Duncan get one more. I always like the underdog, even though they’re both right there.
GW: I think that’s probably a safe bet. I know I read earlier that Floyd Mayweather Jr. has over five million on the Heat to win tonight, so some people have a lot of money riding on it.
MD: Wow. That’s just silly money right there, silly money.
GW: That is silly money. Well, in closing, I’d like to once again thank Miles Doughty of Slightly Stoopid on behalf of the Grateful Web. You can purchase Slightly Stoopid Live at Roberto’s Studio in stores or online as part of a four part HD Download at SlightlyStoopid.com for $4.20 cents. A portion of the proceeds from the DVD will go to Save the Children and World Food Program, and you can catch Slightly Stoopid all over the country starting in July, on their Kicking up Dust Summer tour with Atmosphere and special guests, The Grouch and Eligh and Tribal Seeds.
MD: Yeah man, going to be fun. Thanks for taking the time, I appreciate it.
GW: Cheers, Miles, good luck to you guys this Summer!