This summer's Unity Tour has 311 teaming up with Slightly Stoopid to hit 38 cities. Houston of course is along the road.
Known for never sticking to just one specific genre, Slightly Stoopid will hit the stage at Cynthia Woods Sunday evening. Rocks Off got to speak with drummer Ryan Moran, aka RyMo, about SS itself and what makes each stop a little more tasty.
Rocks Off: Now I kind of got started with the band when I was in high school, probably because I was such a huge Sublime fan. Slightly Stoopid started out with just two childhood friends, Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald, who were discovered by Sublime lead singer Bradley Nowell. The band started as a duo and has grown into a six-piece or more. What brought you into Slightly Stoopid?
Ryan Moran:Basically Miles and Kyle, childhood friends, grew together and made music together, had another friend that was the drummer back when they were in high school. They ended up meeting Brad Nowell from Sublime before Sublime was anything as what they are known as today.
Miles and Kyle played some songs for Brad and Brad was like, "Yeah man you guys are really good. I want to sign you to this record label I'm putting together."
This has to be in about '94 or '95. So Skunk Records was just getting started. So basically the band kind of started that way. The original drummer left and they went through about five or six different drummers over that period of time from about '98 to about 2002.
At that time in early 2002, I was playing with another group, also from San Diego. We were on a tour with Slightly Stoopid. We all just hit it off. It's just the way that fate works.
The band I was with at the time started plateauing and wasn't really touring very much at the time. I happened to cross paths with Slightly Stoopid's tour manage, who told me the guy may wanna give me a call. Well we ended up talking on the phone, did a couple of rehearsals and that was that. And that was early 2003.
I guess around '05-'06 is when we meet DeLa and C-Money, who were playing trumpet and saxophone from a band from Boston. We kind of hit it off. It was a similar situation, really, where we had done a whole tour and became good friends.
After the tour Miles and Kyle called them up and said, "Hey you guys wanna be in our band?" I guess we sort of came together strangely through different groups, and here we are today.
RO:Starting from the simple basics as bass, guitar, drums and now y'all have saxophone, keyboards, congos and more. This transformation just took place -- there wasn't any plan, I'm guessing.
RyMo:Yeah, things just sort of evolved. This wasn't like the grand plan to go from three guys to eight guys. Every time you take on more members, often you take on more drama or who knows what. You're taking on another personality, basically. Things don't always work out.
A lot of times people add members to their band, and that member added happens to break up the whole band. With us it's been more of an evolutionary sort of scenario. You know we'd meet someone and the vibe would seem right and things would go from there.
We've been really fortunate. We all want to be full-time musicians. We don't want to change our circumstances and slow things down. We all see the potential of this band. We love the music, and at the end of the day it's all about making music with our friends.
RO:What are y'all's influences within music? Slightly Stoopid doesn't just fall under one genre. There are so many. Even more recently, y'all took on a hip-hop perspective with the song, "The Other Side," featuring rapper Guru.
RyMo:What separates us from other bands is that we've stayed independent. From the beginning, that is. There are a lot musicians and bands out there that could do this kind of thing, This cross-genre thing.
But a lot of times record labels want to put a stamp on you. Are you alt-rock indie-pop, Latin-funk? Whatever it is they're putting a stamp on you and defining you. They are trying to figure out a way to market you.
In my opinion the difference is that we've never really been a band that's had to rely on that kind of thing. We built our own following independently by touring, word of mouth and Internet and stuff. Taking that route, which is maybe a little more time-consuming in certain ways, has also given us artistic freedom to explore different genres, whether it fits or not.
So we're able to go in these different zones musically and play. We played a Snoop song when we toured with him a while back, and he was rapping over us playing. We've had other guest artists along with us like reggae legends, even G love & Special Sauce and ska songs with Angelo Moore from Fishbone. So we've been able to sort of do this cross-genre thing fairly effortlessly because we are defining our music on our own terms.
So I think really the freedom of not being locked into that "record label situation" is actually been beneficial in that we can explore different musical territories because all of us are pretty much music nerds. We listen to everything. I mean you name it. We're music fans as well. One of the things that has kept us growing and still a band is that we've been able to take some chances and explore different genres and things like that.
RO: Do you think that the fusion of different genres and instruments is one of the main things that keep y'all growing?
RyMo:Yes and no. It definitely helped. I don't think it has hurt us in any way. I feel like because each of us is all adults now. We have had life. We've been through ups and downs. We've been through some good times and bad times, of course.
We've had different musical inspirations throughout to reflect those different cycles of life. It different hasn't hurt us that we have more people now putting their input into the creation of our music. If anything it just helps.
RO:Each of y'alls albums is just different. I never really know what to expect. It's a surprise and I love that. The new album, Top of the World, drops August 14 -- what can fans expect from the new album?
RyMo: I think probably just more uncertainty. I think I have to agree. Albums are basically a snapshot in time. For us the goal is to make some music that is timeless. Whether that's every track on the record or just one or two songs, that's up to the listener to decide.
What we want to do as artists is to continue growing and continue exploring different artistic sort of spaces. I feel like this record definitely captures where we are. I mean on a personal level most of the guys are married, a couple guys have kids. We're kind of growing up a bit.
We're not going as hard as we were a couple of years ago and I feel like that is a positive thing. I feel like this album is just great. It's very diverse like the last four or five records have been. It's not strictly reggae, with ska and punk. It's a little broader.
There's sort of some of hip-hop influenced stuff, reggae of course, even some bluesy, country-ass kind of style. There's a broad offering. If the people like the band and coming to shows, I just have a feeling they're going to love the record.
We have been playing a few tracks off the new record every day. Our plan is to play at least four or five new hits off the new record winding that into some more familiar stuff as well.
RO:The Unity Tour is just getting started. Joining forces with 311, I'll be honest and say I've never been so excited about a tour in quite some time. Y'all are hitting 38 cities. Is each stop its own, a little different, and why is that?
RyMo: Oh absolutely. Every city has its own vibe, own flavor and its own history. We've literally been around the country plenty of times now. We kind of know what to expect I feel like with many stops. But yeah, every city there is just certain things.
For us most of the time is spent around food for stops. A lot of time spent together. We're either traveling on the bus, on stage doing a sound check or a show, or we out cruising on foot, because we're on tour and don't usually have cars.
A lot of times it's like, "Hey I know a good restaurant down the street, let's go." That's the fun part; we get to explore different foods. If you're in New York you got to have a slice of pizza. Texas, of course some barbecue. A lot of the fun is eating regionally, of course!
RyMo:Yeah, Tex-Mex is great. We won't turn away from that one.
RO:How may the Houston stop set away from other stops along the summer Unity Tour?
RyMo: Well we've been through Houston many of times, but we haven't really played this venue ever. This will be the first at Cynthia Woods. We've done a couple different venues in Houston, but this will be a new spot. Each different venue has its own flavor so I'm excited.
RO:So lunchtime is it? You made me hungry, dude.
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Slightly Stoopid plays with 311, 7 p.m. Sunday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.