When they were 16 years old, Slightly Stoopid’s Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald were discovered by Bradley Nowell, (the now-deceased frontman of Sublime) in their hometown of Ocean Beach, Calif.
Nowell invited them to play at a “cowboy punk bar,” liked what he heard and asked them to record an album for his label, Skunk Records. The rest was history.
Almost 20 years later, the marijuana-fueled jam band includes six additional members and has released seven studio albums. On Thursday, they’re returning to First Avenue to play songs off their newest record, “Top of the World,” and never-before-heard jams off their new album, due out this fall.
Last weekend, A&E caught up with Miles Doughty and drummer Ryan Moran about songwriting, Minnesota and, of course, marijuana.
You guys were in Minneapolis this time last year, right?
Miles Doughty: Yeah, Minneapolis is the spot. Basically every time we go out there it’s just crackin’ and the vibes are good.
I was just listening to “This Joint” and heard a brief Minnesota reference in there.
Doughty: Yeah, it’s a song just about, you know, being on the road and just talking about different spots and the good herbs along the way.
Would you say there’s good stuff in Minnesota?
Doughty: It all depends, you know what I mean? It all depends on who you know.
Along those lines, have you guys faced a lot of criticism over the years for openly singing about, talking about and smoking weed?
Moran: I’m sure there’s some people that hate on it. But you know, we are who we are, and we’re not afraid to take a stance on things we believe in. There’s always gonna be people that agree or disagree. You know, if you’re too square, you’re too crazy, too liberal, whatever.
For us, it’s like part of our lifestyle and, you know, we’re not ashamed to talk about it, and we don’t think weed should be demonized this day and age. Back in the day, obviously, it received a bad rap, but now people are accepting it as a medicinal possibility and for us, it’s recreational. We enjoy it and we don’t think it should be hated upon. But yeah, there are always people who are going to be judging you critically on both sides of the line, you know?
Do you guys have medical marijuana cards?
Miles: No, I don’t have it. I don’t really feel like I need to be in the system. I’ve always believed in the independent growers and I don’t feel like I should go into shops and pay a tax to the government. You know, they’re still raiding these shops after states have granted immunity to it. So it’s kind of silly. State laws and federal laws shouldn’t be able to be so intertwined. I mean, if the state agrees it’s gonna be legal, the feds should have to stay out. It has nothing to do with them.
Moran: [Mumbling in the background] Don’t do that!
Moran: Sorry I was talking to my daughter. She was ripping apart some foam squares and making a mess. Sorry about that. When you’re home, it’s always kids’ time as well.
So you guys are letting fans request songs through your Facebook page. How many of those will you play?
Doughty: We try to fit in about 10 of them. We play about 20 songs over the course of the night. A lot of times, just as the show goes on, when people start throwin’ out [song titles] from the crowd, we throw that in too. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s the fans who make it possible for you to do what you do, so you gotta play what they wanna hear.
Are there any new songs you’ll be playing?
Doughty: Yeah, we’re gonna be playing some new jams. We’re recording right now, the new album, so we’re gonna be playing some of those live and also some of the staples.
You guys are a songwriting powerhouse. Where does this stuff come from? How do you keep it fresh?
Doughty: I mean honestly, I think it’s just having inspiration in your own personal lives, just what we’ve seen on the road and just realizing we’re still blessed to even be doing this job — it’s just inspiration in those aspects. You get to be on the road with your best friends half a year and play before so many dope bands and fans. It’s really cool. When you’re in the writing process, it’s a lot of that you kind of reflect on. Once you actually sit down in the studio for a couple months, ideas just start kinda pouring out.
So is songwriting in general more of a collective process for you guys?
Doughty: Of course, I mean, there’s ideas that Kyle and I bring to the table, and then everyone else has their own ideas within the song. When you have an eight-headed dragon, it’s kind of foolish to not use it. As a writer, it’s important to take the ideas of the guys in your band.
Moran: [yelling in the background] No! You’re spreading that stuff all over the yard right now! Pick that up, please. No! Pick that up please, thank you. Right now. Sorry.
What was playing Skunk’s 25th anniversary like?
Doughty: It was rad, just bringing back a lot of old memories and seeing a lot of cats from back in the day. It was nice to reflect on, ‘cause 20 years ago was when they gave Slightly Stoopid our chance, when we were just kids. … We looked up to Sublime so much when we were 15 and 16 years old, and it was just cool to be part of that family.
What: Slightly Stoopid with Mariachi El Bronx
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: First Avenue, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $26 in advance, $30 at the door