Grateful Web Interview with Slightly Stoopid Drummer, Ryan Moran
Slightly Stoopid, a prolific band touring for over a decade – modeling in their own way such acts as the Grateful Dead, Phish, Dave Matthews and similar acts. “Slightly Stoopid”, is a band name conceived while frivolous and young. Now after years of touring, they’ve added experience, family life but continues to tour. Slightly Stoopid talks to Grateful Web about tour experience, music, their continually growing fan base, and how they sustain such touring feat.
GW: Hello, this is Grateful Web Vinh Nguyen with Ryan from Slightly Stoopid. I appreciate your time here Ryan. I’m going to throw questions your way.
Ryan: Sure. Ok, cool.
GW: Yesterday in a coffee shop, I played Slightly Stoopid’s tune loudly on my laptop with the headphones unintentionally unplugged in. Heads around were bobbing to the music which led to the discussion of the band’s name, Slightly Stoopid. What’s the origin of the name?
Ryan: You know, the name came even before my time. Just picture a bunch of kids smoking and drinking a bit and tossing band names around for their first gig – pretty informal. The guys were basically sitting around like “how about slightly weird”, and someone was like “uhh slightly stupid” and everybody laughed. And, that became the name of the band.
GW: Haha. I see now there is eight band members. Were there eight at that time?
Ryan: No, in the beginning there was just a three piece. The guys were playing more punk, ska and some reggae as well. But yeah, the band has grown considerably. When I first joined, the band was a four piece. That was a little bit over ten years ago. We met a couple of horn players. We hired them and became six. Then, picked up a keyboard player – that’s seven. And then lately, we’ve been having our friend Karl Denson who is a great tenor player. He’s basically an unofficial band member at this point. He’s been doing a lot of gig with us. So yeah, he became an unofficial eighth member.
GW: What’s the rationale for that. You have three, then four member, etc. Does adding members something you look for in your sound? Or, does it just happen, and it complimented the band and decide to stick with it?
Ryan: I mean it’s both really. Obviously, the more players you have in the band the more possibility for texture. You have more guys playing instruments. You can create all these different types of textures – two or three guys at one time, all eight at one time, sometimes there’s six guys playing. We do kind of an adding and subtracting of members as we go through the night. Sometimes we’ll have the whole band. Especially for the reggae stuff, the horn guys will play the key and everything is going strong. And then we do punkier, sometime more ska type songs, we have only you know four of us playing – the guitar, bass, vocals and percussion and drum set. For like encores, we’ll do acoustic stuff where it’ll be Miles playing the guitar, all our keyboard players, and OG our percussion player kind of doing a trio format. It enables us a lot of flexibility musically and gives us the ability to do different type of textures – having a full in your face sound with all guys or a lighter more acoustic sound with three guys.
GW: Sure, and I guess it gives the guys a break, except for the drummer (Ryan).
Ryan: Yeah, exactly. I don’t really get a break. The horn guys get to take some breaks and other guys as well at some point. So, that’s pretty good.
GW: Before your latest album “Top of the World”, I hear you guys been touring for over a decade straight!
Ryan: Yeah, we’ve been touring a long time. The band is basically built on touring. We’ve never really sold a ton of records. We’ve always maintained our independence. We’ve actually been touring more than that. The band has been going close to 20 years. Miles and Kyle…started doing gigs back in 1993 or 1994. Then, it started picking up around 1995-1996 when they met Brad and Miguel from Skunk Records. Put a record out, started getting out on the road and doing gigs probably I say around 1995. We’re pretty much road dogs. At our peak, we were probably doing 180 days a year. Right now, we’re doing closer to like 80 to 100. A lot of us have families, kids and stuff so we’re trying to be home too and maintain our touring schedule pretty consistently.
GW: You want to continue this path of being a touring band?
Ryan: Absolutely! We kind of model ourselves after the bands we look up to – bands like the Dead, bands like Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and other acts. They get out and tour and tour and tour, grow a following and maintain it. Maintain their relevance more through touring than putting out like hit singles, you know.
GW: Right. Now, for most of us laymen with 8-5 jobs, can you tell us a little bit about the tour life experience?
Ryan: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. We’re hopping on planes all over the place. Most people see this glamorous side of music. And, it is glamorous: the stage, the show and when you got a great crowd. No feeling like that on earth. What people don’t see is the hours of driving, the hours of flying, the hours of being in airports with people who are uptight and stressed out. That is kind of a downside to what we do. Most people don’t think of that. They just see the show, this and that, and you get to party. To be honest, after you’ve been traveling so much, sometimes you do need a couple of beers just to come back down to earth, you know, or a smoke or something. That’s one thing I tell people a lot is that there’s this idealized, glamorized view of the music world thanks to music videos and stuff like that. The reality is that we get paid to travel and we enjoy playing music for fun. I always joke that we get paid to be in airport, and fly, and be in buses, drive through the night…
GW: And you are working and it’s not just a ten years party.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean if you’re trying to sustain you want to stay healthy and do it as long as you can because it so exhausting, you know. Even if you’re a healthy person, it’s still exhausting -- if you add all the party favors and everything that comes along with the lifestyle. A lot of my friends don’t do it anymore because they go too big. So, you have to learn to pace yourself, take care of you body, make sure you’re resting, hydrating and all this stuff people don’t think about, you know.
GW: Right, how do you guys or what do you do to wind down on the road?
Ryan: I have a family. As soon as I get home, it puts me in a better place than being stuck in the plane with a bunch of people who is stressed out. I love to surf, I’m pretty active, I like to run, ride my bike and do all sort of stuff. Pretty much, exercise helps me kind of get back to normal when I’m home off the road. Lot of the guys surf, a couple of guys are into Yoga, everyone has their own hobbies as well as musical projects to keep the creative juice flowing and fresh.
GW: So on the road, you really have to try and maintain your normal life style. So, you’re not constantly on the bus but flying home and flying back to the tour date.
Ryan: Yeah, it depends on what the itinerary looks like. Yeah, in the past, were on the bus for eight straight weeks. And you know, the buses look all cool, shiny and everything. But when there’s twelve grown men sharing one of those thing, it can be a little nuts, you know. The partying, having fun, some guys like it quiet, some guys like it wild and crazy so you just have to learn to maintain your sanity while traveling with twelve of your friends and still focus on having a good show night after night.
GW: Right, you guys obviously have a huge fan base. What do you attribute that to -- the building of such a huge following?
Ryan: Well, two things. They have to like the song first and foremost. You can tour until the cows come home, but if no one likes your music you’re not going to make any money and you’re not going to draw a crowd. Miles and Kyle write great songs that you connect to – that’s the most important thing. Immediately following that and maybe as important is that we’ve stayed consistently on the road very consistently. I can speak since I’ve been in the band almost 11 years. We’ve been on the road so so much – at minimum of five and a maximum up to eight months annually. We’re going from city to city going “hey, we’re here again, we’re here”. When they see the band, they’re going “oh look. That was a fun show last year. I’m gonna come back out and see them again.” You know, we do all the major markets, the major cities, but we also do the secondary and what we call the tertiary market, which are just like smaller town in the middle of nowhere. So, we do all the major cities of course, and then the semi-major cities, and also the ones most touring acts don’t go through. I think that has helped us sustain because we’re able to go in and connect with fans maybe who are a little more music starved in smaller towns. And, they are always more appreciative to see bands they like coming into their town.
GW: At this point after touring so much, you get to know your fans better. Have you done anything different in your touring acts or is it fairly the same?
Ryan: No, we tailor our act nightly. We typically during the show ask the crowd what songs do you want to hear. Miles and Kyle will look out and someone will call out a song.
GW: You’re kidding.
Ryan: No, we do that all the time. So, we try to play what people like to hear. And nowadays with social media with Twitter, Facebook, and all that stuff, we’ll ask the fans hey what songs do you want to here at this show and people will send in ten songs they want to hear – and we’ll play at least eight songs out of those ten. We try to tailor our set to really make people hear what they really want to hear. We definitely don’t play the same thing night after night. We’ll pick from a similar pool tour after tour but we’ll always throw some curve balls for ourselves to keep things fresh and also for the crowd.
GW: Right. “Top of the World” is your latest album. Tell us about this album and maybe how it’s different from previous albums.
Ryan: Every album is different because an album is really like a picture taken – that era of your life, a short video really. It’s just a capturing of where we are at that moment. And so that’s why artists sometimes have really great records and sometimes not as great records because they’re people, they’re human. As an artist, you have to go with the way you’re feeling at that moment. I’m really happy. I think that this is one of our best record to date. We made Top of the World in our own studio in San Diego. We took our time basically. We’ve been touring so consistently year after year after year. It was hard for us to take a year off and just record and focus only on that. We just took our time with it. We had a bunch of friends come in and sit in. We had Don Carlos, Angelo Moore from Fishbone, Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, G. Love from G. Love & Special Sauce and I know I’m missing like ten other people. We had a lot of great friends and artists come and sit in to add their vocals or add their instrumental abilities to the record. It’s really one of my favorite record for that reason. It’s pretty diverse, stylistically. There’s some kind of hip-hop flavor to it, some funk, reggae, and some world beats kind of vibe. It’s diverse musically. It was a lot of fun for us to make.
GW: You’ll play some this stuff on your Spring Tour.
Ryan: Yeah, we try to play songs from about every record – the really, really old ancient stuff, some the punk rock stuff from the late 90’s to newest song from “Top of the World” to stuff we haven’t released yet that we have been rehearsing in our studio. It’s usually a broad spectrum of repertoire.
GW: You’re getting ready to end your Spring 2014 (May 2) tour here and starting your Summer 2014 (July 9). Are there differences in the Spring vs Summer tour or is this just giving you guys a break?
Ryan: It’s a whole different line-up, a whole different roster of bands. The bands we’re touring with this next leg that ends like you said at the end of the first week of May – it’s a different support act. We have Mariachi El Bronx from Los Angeles. They’re a phenomenal group. It’s actually a mariachi band but they have a punk edge to them. They also have a punk band called the Bronx so they’re basically an extension of that. There is also a hip-hop duo called The Grouch & Eli that are great out of Hawaii and LA as well. So yeah, that’s going to be this coming leg. The summer thing is a whole different line up. There are about four or five bands through the summer that we’ll be touring with on the west and east coasts and a couple of midwest states as well. NOFX will be on that and Cypress Hills doing some dates. There’s a bunch of other bands that are also on those shows.
GW: That’ll be great for the fans. Well, I appreciate the time giving us insight into Slightly Stoopid. We have better idea what you’re all about. Before I close this out Ryan, I like to leave the last word to you, anything on your mind, anything for the fans.
Ryan: Yeah, I just want to say thanks first of all to you for interviewing me – that’s cool being part of it. Also, just to the fans for the support. I know it sounds cliché, but seriously without the fans, we wouldn’t have jobs. We always try to tip our hat to people who come out to support the live shows, buy the albums, buy the t-shirts because that helps us continue to do what we love to do. It’s a relationship we definitely appreciate.
GW: Thanks for that Ryan. April 19, you’ll be at Red Rocks. We look forward to that, the remaining tour and the start of the Summer session. We appreciate it again for your time – it’s very gracious of you.
Ryan: No problem. Thanks for having me.
GW: We’ll see you soon.