Ryan Moran is back in Southern California at the moment, chilling out from the two-month American odyssey his band embarked upon back in July. The drummer for multifaceted SoCal reggae-meets-folk-slash-punk band Slightly Stoopid goes by RyMo to friends, and aren’t we all friends here? But Slightly Stoopid is not known to rest for too long. Before the week is out, RyMo & Co. will return to southern Florida for the Blackwater Music Festival and then head north, toward — among other locales — our very own Cleveland. The trip builds on the band’s near-constant devotion to the road and to their fans. With a new album in the works, Slightly Stoopid is as busy as ever — and it’s always fun.
“We definitely rehearse a ton to get everything together for this tour,” RyMo says. “We’ve reworked a few tunes — keeping the song more or less similar but changing the feel behind it, changing the rhythms behind it.”
He adds that the band has been spotlighting collaborations with early-tour partners G. Love & Special Sauce and Stephen Marley. When they hit Cleveland next week, Zach Deputy will be opening; there may be a sit-in or two as the night goes on.
That’s kind of a central nerve within the Slightly Stoopid story: This band represents a family — and families, with a few of the musicians now fathering children of their own. Since the beginning, they’ve come up in multiple sub-genres of music, culminating in a world of touring bands that dabble in hip-hop, punk, ska and much more. The guys in Stoopid have always recognized that, and those connections play deeply into the music.
“There are so many styles within bands that are on the road — a lot of bands doing the jammy reggae thing,” RyMo says. “A lot of those artists are able to work and collaborate with many different styles of other artists.”
Contrast early cuts like “Everything You Need” or “Closer to the Sun” against “Perfect Gentleman” or “Punk Rock Billy” — or, really, pick any other two-song combination and let the departures wash across your eardrums. 2012’s Top of the World features similarly diverse stylings.
That’s been the mantra from the beginning. Sublime’s Bradley Nowell, a major influence on and friend to the group before his untimely death, once said, “Good music is good music, and that should be good enough for anybody.” Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald, young guns with guitars and a song to sing some 20 years ago, took that kind of sentiment to heart. Slightly Stoopid sprang from humble beginnings in the mid-1990s as Miles and Kyle jammed their way across San Diego. Nowell took an interest in the duo and signed them to Skunk Records. At the time, Miles and Kyle were only in high school. The confidence boost and subsequent entrance into the region’s steadily growing music community buoyed their ascent into the 2000s. Early recordings reveal a heavy sound for such greenness: They dabbled in the punk and the folksy reggae for which they’d come to be known, and the fans showed up in droves.
As the new millennium waxed on, the guys expanded their sound and brought on RyMo, who had been performing in another band that toured with Stoopid in the winter of 2002. They became quick friends, lighting up stages across the West Coast. Oguer “OG” Ocon joined around then too, lending his percussion talents to the band and filling out RyMo’s beats with world music influences. (Having these two onboard from Closer to the Sun onward both broadened and deepened the band’s sound.)
After a tour with John Brown’s Body, some of the brass guys from that band joined Stoopid and brought the band to six members. The addition of keys man Paul Wolstencroft made it seven. They’ve been cutting albums — live and in-studio — since then. And the road beckons always. RyMo says that they’ll return to the studio after this current tour to wrap up work on the new album.
“There are sort of two angles to musical performance: You have studio performance and you have live performance. They’re really two different realms,” he says. “We’ve always been open to experimentation and trying to write different ways.”
As far as how recent times have treated the band, Miles and Kyle joined Ras MG and Jud Nester recently for a really slick tune called “Words.” Last year, the band released a live album recorded at Bob Weir’s studio in 2011. There are a number of terrific sit-ins throughout the collection. But even more illustrative is how the band elevates its repertoire in the live setting (cue up “Collie Man” and compare this version to the iconic 2003 studio take).
It wasn’t too long ago — St. Patrick’s Day of 2006 to be exact — that the band, already well into its career, played a show at Peabody’s, back when the venue was still open at East 21st and Euclid. The same level of dedication with which they threw down a monstrous set that night will be on display at the House of Blues this week. Slightly Stoopid has brought heat annually to the North Shore for years now, and they’re not the kind of guys who bail on tradition.
Slightly Stoopid with Zach Deputy 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $25, houseofblues.com.
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