The rock reggae group talks about life on tour and managing their own label.
“We butt heads a little bit but at the end of the day, we’re all friends. We’re like brothers,” says Ryan ‘RyMo’ Moran, drummer for the rock reggae group Slightly Stoopid. A fraternal bond seems not only convenient but also necessary for a band that two decades later, continues to produce new music and still spends most of its time on the road. “We’ve stayed relevant because we’ve stayed busy,” says Moran. “Nowadays, people have such short attentions spans that if you’re not out gigging and doing shows, people forget about you within a year. You can try to come back later but people have already moved on to the next hot thing. It’s a pretty unforgiving business, but I think we’ve been able to miss that by doing circles around the international stage.”
Slightly Stoopid will play the Joy Theater Thursday.
Life on the road has its obvious challenges. Several members of the band are either married or have children. But through such frequent traveling, the band has managed to create its own extended family within the music industry. “From touring so long, we’ve met a lot of bands,” says Moran, “We like to go out on the road and become friends with the people we are with, hang out and high five in the hallway. Because you are sometimes spending two months together, seeing each other every day, you might as well enjoy the time together.” Several artists who Slightly Stoopid has befriended on the road appear on their most recent record, Top of the World.“Over the years we’ve toured with Fishbone, we had Ian Neville come out on some tours, we’ve done tours with Don Carlos and Barrington Levy. Basically, we called these guys up, asked them if they wanted to come to the studio to check out a couple tracks, see if they were feeling it and would like to throw down some verses.”
The band’s hard work has paid off in other ways, providing enough capital to build a personal studio, complete with video games, skate ramps, and other oddities that would impress any teenage stoner, as well as start their own label, Stoopid Records. The new label carries on a tradition that stems from the band’s origins, when Bradley Nowell of Sublime and Miguel Happoldt took fellow Ocean Beach musicians and co-founders of Slightly Stoopid, Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald, under their wing at Skunk Records. “Now we’re on the other side of it,” says Moran. “We’re the older vets now and we want to help out artists that tour and travel.” So far, Stoopid Records has signed two bands, The Expendables, a rock reggae group from Santa Cruz, and Outlaw Nation, a New Orleans crew that deems its sound “Gutter Reggae Soul.” “Those were bands we respected in terms of being road warriors,” says Moran, “They were out on the road hitting hard. Those are the bands we wanted to support.” The band also looks for potential in its artists, not necessarily to profit, but to mature in their sound. “There’s so much fluff out there in the world, it’s easy to find the fluff,” says Moran. “It’s harder to find band with integrity who have the sound and can develop it.”
Managing their own label has also helped the band see more profits, most of which they put back into the studio and the recording process. “We want to work with good producers. We want to work with talented artists and sound engineers. All of that costs money,” says Moran. “We’re still in a space where we invest in every record, we take our time to put stuff out that we like and we think people will like. We’re not trying to score a big pop, one-hit-wonder kind of thing but put out an album of cohesive music where people will actually enjoy all of the tracks.” The interest in full albums stems from Moran’s early introduction to records by Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, Dead Kennedys and other punk rock bands praised by his older sisters. “It was all about the albums,” he says. “I didn’t even listen to the radio after that.”
Although life as road warriors can easily take its toll, Slightly Stoopid shows no signs of slowing down. They currently enjoy their largest following to date, with fans ranging from 16 to 60 attending their shows. The problem now, however, involves keeping it fun and challenging. “It gets a little monotonous sometimes because we do draw from a similar pool of tunes. I think the challenge is trying to keep stuff fresh, move songs around and please fans because they are paying good money to see the show.” However, being a drummer allows for some variety. “I think I have more freedom than the other guys,” says Moran. “I can throw a different fill in or I can play my parts ever so slightly different. But that’s one challenge every musician faces, how do you keep it fresh and exciting but also make it sound enough like the record so people will want to come see it.”