Reggae Ska Punk Equals Slightly Stoopid: A Not-So-Stoopid Conversation with Kyle McDonald
By Bruce Moore
Oct. 2, 2008 – For more than ten years, Slightly Stoopid, the California-based reggae, ska, and punk band, has been making music their way and touring the world. On July 22, they released their latest recorded effort, Slightly Not Stoned Enough to Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid, a CD containing, what the band calls, a collection of “odds and ends.” The disc includes songs that were written for the last release and a few new songs, as well as a cover of the UB40 tune, “I Would Do For You.” Once dubbed by Spin Magazine as, “One of the top ten bands least likely to succeed based on their name,” these guys are intent on proving their critics wrong. The bands longevity can be attributed to their rabid fan base and their constant touring. I recently had the opportunity to interview guitarist, vocalist, and one of the group’s leaders, Kyle McDonald. Here’s our conversation about the band, touring, and their new record.
You guys were on the road this summer with Pepper and Sly & Robbie. How did that go?
I think it was the best tour that anyone could ever have. We hit the stage hard every night with great audiences; it doesn’t get any better than that.
Your new CD, Slightly Not Stoned Enough to Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid, was released this summer. Now that it is out, how do you feel about it, and, are you satisfied with the outcome?
It is a great record and there are a lot of cool things about the record that I love. We had so many songs that we put out an EP, but people like CDs so much, and they were unable to get this, so we added songs to it and put it back out as a CD. I think it is a really good disc.
Are you guys still on the road or are you on a break right now?
Well, we just got off the road after a two-month tour of the US and we are taking a few weeks off, then we are going back out with a band called Outlaw Nation. We are pretty much always on the road, we are road dogs.
What was the reaction of the crowds out on the road?
They were great. They were wonderful. The fans are out of their minds at every show just going nuts. They have a good time and show us love and we all feed off each other. So it worked out pretty good.
What song off your newest disc is the most exciting for you to play live?
Honestly, it is whatever the crowd wants to hear. They call out a bunch of different songs and we play them. On this tour, we did a song called “No Cocaine” where we had Robbie, from Sly & Robbie, come out and play bass on it. We always had the crowd helping us sing it. It was unreal.
You guys all got along pretty well out on the road?
When we go on the road, and we are going to go out there for a few months, we like to have a family vibe, kind of like we are all brothers. We try to create time every day where we can all hang out, do Jaeger Bombs, and just have fun.
Let’s switch gears a little bit. How do you think internet sites, such as Myspace, have impacted your band and do you think downloading helps or hinders the artist?
I think the internet is pretty much the way things are going to roll, especially in the music business. Not very many people use CDs anymore, and if they do, it is because they burned a CD from their laptop computers. People go to the shows and post them on the internet right after they have just been played. It is so fast that I think it is a great outlet for music, and it lets people be in control of their own music. Nowadays, you have the tools and the opportunity right in front of your face to make things happen. Everything that you do on your own is going to be better, of course, than [how] someone else is going to do for you. Record companies and MTV, that shit ain’t going to fly anymore. So I guess you just go with the times.
How do you guys prepare for the physical demands of all the touring you do? I am sure it gets pretty hectic?
Yeah, sure. I am not going to lie at all; there are some things that can be a pain in the ass out there. But, it is just like in any circumstance, I look at the brighter side of things that outweigh that shit. There are so many dope things going on. I mean who the hell would listen to us if we complained anyway. Nobody.
What do you think is the most important lesson you have learned while recording and touring?
I would say geography. I never did really well in school so at least now I know where everything is.
You guys have done a lot of US tours, have you toured abroad?
Yeah, we like to go to Japan. We have done Guam, Australia, London, and Amsterdam, as well. And we are hoping to go overseas again in 2009.
With all that touring do you have a favorite country to play in?
The USA, baby.
When you guys are in the studio how quick are you? Can you usually knock out a song in a couple of takes?
Honestly, I don’t even like studios. I like to record in my pad and to just play live with the band. Sometimes you just get too caught up in taking too long to do stuff. If you could just go in there and [make a] hit record, it would be fun. But when people start thinking about what they are going to do next with overdubs and all, it can sometimes become not about the music. Look at Pro-Tools, where all you do is look at a screen. I am not into that shit. I would just rather hit the record button and record it.
What about the writing process? Where does your inspiration come from?
It comes from everyday life. Wherever and whomever we are with, we are going to make music. Whether it is the ants in the ground or the bugs, it doesn’t matter. Wherever we are, whomever we are with, we are musicians and we get inspiration from a lot of different things. Sometimes we are out in the ocean and the water gives us inspiration, or someone will die, and even though it is a terrible thing, we get inspiration from that.
I know you guys have been on the road and toured a lot. Are there any stories that stand out in your mind as being exceptionally strange or odd?
I just think this world is strange. It is smaller than a lot of people think. It is connected in all sorts of ways, pretty much every way, and a lot of people don’t even realize it. As a musician you get to see a lot of things that people working a regular nine-to-five don’t get to see. I consider us to be on the outside looking in, as opposed to being on the inside looking out. You learn a lot of different things out there.
I know you said you were going out on the road again in October. How long of a tour is that going to be? What do you have planned after that?
I think it is going to be a month long tour with Outlaw Nation, and then a couple of single shows here and there. We are also playing Austin City Limits [TX] and a couple of shows in Santa Cruz [CA]. Then we will be putting together a benefit show for an organization called I Went Hungry. It is something the Wailers came up with where they sell bracelets for two dollars to feed hungry children. We just want to get the word out to all the people that there is something they can do. If anyone is interested, they could log into the Wailers website and follow the links.
This is something you are heavily involved in and believe in?
They told us about it and we thought it was such an awesome idea. We wanted to help in any way we could. It is a really good thing. With all the things that go wrong in this world, it is something that we all can do to help out. Yeah, it is just a cool thing.