Monday, 22 April 2013 13:57

Slightly Stoopid (Rymo)

Slightly Stoopid stubbs austin 2013 2

Written by: Shawn Hallman

Slightly Stoopid seems to sell out Stubb’s BBQ every time they roll through, and things were no different on this tour. The large downtown venue had a small line of people waiting when I first showed up over 2 hours before the doors to interview drummer Rymo. The show did not disappoint, with Tribal Seeds as an opener, their high-energy, prop supported set got the crowd in the right state of mind and filled the room with energy before Stoopid took over. Their setlist took hits of old and new and merged them into a great live show. The set showcased Stoopid’s ability to change dynamic levels and song genres in a flash. These guys can set up almost any mood they desire using only their two hands and their voice. Watching Miles and Kyle trade off instruments is always a joy to watch. The chemistry between these musicians exceeds almost all other bands in the genre. These guys are all friends who push and motivate each other musically. Watching the instruments react to each other on stage is like watching the natural flow of a beautiful conversation. Highlighted horn accents and extra percussion add the timeless classics we love and bring a different energy to newer pieces. Thankfully with the punk rock Stoopid brought, I was able to drag my date and myself up front to catch a close look of a perfect night.

The night’s set list went like this:

Chicken Fried Ragga, Don’t Stop, Anywhere I go, Ska Diddy, Till it Gets Wet, Somebody, Digital, 2AM, Dancin Mood, Pon Da Horizon, Runnin with a Gun, Officer, Wicked Rebel, Mr.Music, Operation, Babylon, Fat Spliffs, Closer to the, Sun, Underneath the Pressure, Serious Man, False Rhythms, Sturggler, Hold onto the One


The Fruits, Don Carlos Cover, No Cocaine

The interview took place in the back side room of Stubb’s. It was a nice sunny day so we sat outside on chairs that were set up outside of the shade. C-Money was about 15 feet away from us doing another interview for a dispensary magazine. Rymo was very welcoming and even gave me a bottle of water before the interview started.

I started off the conversation by asking RyMo about his instructional YouTube channel.

Yeah, I’ve been doing it for a little while now. A buddy of mine in San Diego got me started on that stuff. I haven’t done one for a little while because I’ve been so busy on the road. I’ve got about 60 videos up, somewhere in the 300,000 total views. They’re all different drum lessons songs and technical exercises.

What made you want to do that in the first place?

A buddy of mine in San Diego named Marty Schwartz has been doing YouTube videos for guitar for years. He’s one of the most widely viewed instructional guys just because he got in it so early. He kind of parlayed that into a website where he sell instructional DVDs. He gets traffic from YouTube and parlays that into an email list for his store. He’s making a living doing that now. He was tired of making 50 bucks a night playing at shows trying to feed his family. He started doing that and has done really well for himself.

Slightly Stoopid stubbs austin 2013 0
Is that something you’re going to continue to do?

Yeah. It kind of takes a backseat when Stoopid is busy, but when we’re off the road for a little while it’s a way for me to stay active and keep playing.

Are you from San Diego yourself?

Not originally, I’ve lived there for about 20 years now, but originally from the Bay Area up in Northern California. I was actually born in San Fransisco and then raised up in the burbs in San Rafael. I moved to San Diego to go to San Diego State and have been there ever since.

Do you like one area better? North versus South?

My childhood was up North and my adulthood has been down in the South. I guess I like them evenly, but both for different reasons. I used to mountain bike and do a lot of hiking when I was up in the North and surf a lot. The waves were a lot bigger and heavier. I miss certain geographical aspects about the north, but in terms of Southern California, that’s where my life is now. School, music, I’m married and expecting a kid.

Kyle and Miles both have young children, what’s that like for them when while they’re on the road?

I think it’s hard. Both of them have young ones, maybe between 1 ½ to 4 years old. It’s a pretty crucial time for us to be around. We are still touring 5,6,7 months out of the year. It can challenging, I know. FaceTime and Skype help with that a little bit. We at least get to see each other even though we can’t touch each other.

Do you think having children will slow down the productivity of the band?

I don’t think so. I think it will just change the way we select what we’re doing. Instead of going out and doing runs where we’re just going, going, going. I think now we’ll do a few shows and then make sure we take a couple days off so some of the guys can fly home and see some of their kids. We’re starting to route our touring a little differently. As of now it hasn’t really slowed anything down.

How long have you been drumming?

I joined the band 10 years ago exactly this July. I’ve been playing drums since I was maybe 10 or 11. I’m 36 now, so a pretty long time.

What drew you to joining Slightly Stoopid?

I met the guys a couple times. I played in another band in San Diego called the B Side Players. I knew a lot of the other bands in the scene. We did shows with Slightly Stoopid around San Diego back in like 1997 and 98. I’ve seen them play a whole bunch in Ocean Beach when I lived there. We were kind of acquaintances through that era. I hit it off with the guys and at that point they gave me a call around the middle of ’03. They said “Hey, we’re about to do this tour for about 2 months, would you like to come out and give it a shot?” And the rest is history.

What do you think about Mike McCoy and the new management of the Chargers?

It’s good. It’s a refresher. They’ve been on the brink of being a great team for so many years. They’ve been a good contender for years, but I think out with the old in the with new. If they can stay focused and iron out the offense, I think they’ll be in contention again.

Since you were born in the Bay Area, are you more of a 49ers fan yourself?

I used to be heavy into it, but I guess since I’ve been in San Diego so long I am now officially a Chargers convert.

Are there any songs or albums that you wish you could go back and change a part on?

Not really. I look at the album process as sort of like taking a photograph of where the band is at that point in time time. It’s a photograph that’s not just snapped in one moment, it’s actually snapped over however long the recording process takes, but it does sort of document where the band is at that point in time. Of course I look at some of our stuff and think “I wouldn’t mind playing it how I play it now, or how we do it live because it’s evolved or grown through repetition”, but I don’t really regret any of it. We always get the chance to recreate it live.

Slightly Stoopid stubbs austin 2013 5How do you know when a song is ready to be recorded? When is it no longer a work-in-progress?

We’ll record a groove or a drumbeat or something and then record 2 or 3 different tune ideas over the same beat. We did this one particular song which is still a work in progress. One version has the same beat and it’s a hip-hop tune, and then another version will be a throwback to an old soul song, and another version will be like a hip-hop/reggae kind of remix thing. I don’t know if we ever really know when it’s done other than when it feels complete and it has to be turned in. If there’s a deadline and it has to be done, that’s something that forces us to stop working on stuff.

Does trying to fit certain genres into an album effect the album writing process?

I don’t really think so. We try to select songs that we like. I don’t know if there’s really a formula to what we need to do in terms of genre. Some of that stuff just happens. We’ve always been able to cross different genre lines. I think it just happens.

Now that the group is much larger, full horn section and auxiliary percussion, does that make the creative process harder or easier?

I guess both. Creatively, there are more hands in the soup. There’s more input. That can be a blessing, but sometimes it can be difficult to keep stuff simple. When you have eight guys and everyone wants to play and add their two cents to the song. Sometimes certain songs need more of a minimalist approach. The good thing about everyone is that there are 8 of us and everyone has their ideas of what’s best for the song. It’s never really an ego battle. We all kind of take breaks on certain types of songs. We try to mix the instrumentation up depending on what’s right for the song. In a nutshell, it’s more challenging to stay simple, but also easier because we have more inputs to make stuff sound really full.

Slightly Stoopid started off as mainly a mix of punk and reggae and have grown ever since. Can you tell us more about the evolution of the band?

When the guys first started back in the early 90s it was all about reggae and punk. Over the years with the growth of the band, everyone has been listening to different stuff and experimenting with their own favorite styles of music in terms of listening and/or writing. Now it’s evolved to where all of us listen to different stuff. Some guys listen to jazz all the time, others listen to just reggae or just punk. We’ve all had these different phases that we’ve gone through over the course of our musical influences. I think now we can approach different songs and decide on the song’s mentality. We’re 20 years in to our musical careers. A lot of the stuff that we’ve been listening to is now coming back out of us.

Who are some of your own biggest inspirations musically?

Some of my all-time favorite in a nutshell would be Fishbone. They’re amazing. They’re in my top 5 all time. I’m a huge Led Zeppelin fan. I grew up listening to Rush and more progressive type music. Radiohead has been a favorite. The reggae list is huge. Don Carlos and Steel Pulse have been a big influence. Punk stuff, NOFX, Rancid, Pennywise, and Bad Religion have been big inspirations. We’ve got a pretty deep pool of listening, so it’s hard to pick just like 5 or 10 bands.

In the song “Top of the World” one of the lyrics is “The reason everyday is not a holiday is cuz the government steals your pay”. Is that a political statement that you all believe in?

Kyle wrote those lyrics, but yeah…that’s one way of looking at it. We all have to pay taxes, so…death through taxes. You’d have to ask him what he meant.

Slightly Stoopid stubbs austin 2013 1What are the biggest pros and cons of having a career in the music industry and being in the public eye?

The biggest pro is traveling. We’re able to travel pretty much year round. Sometimes you just want to be at home and you have to travel, so it can be a double edged sword. Trying different restaurants and meeting people in different cities. Those are definitely super fun perks to the job. Sometimes it can be difficult when you have people who are so stoked, it’s their big night out and they’re going off while you’ve already done 10 nights in a row of drinking and drinking. You can get tired and need a little space. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a big night out, but it’s a job for us. You’ve gotta kind of pick and chose the nights where you go off and the nights where you try to just get some sleep. We’ve been all over the place in Japan, Australia, Brazil, and Europe. Being paid to travel and perform is really a blessing for sure.

You guys like to cover a lot of songs. What makes a tune stand out as a possible candidate for the whole band to cover?

That’s a good question. I don’t know. I guess if we all like it or one of the guys really wants to do this. We all learn it and listen to it a bunch of times. We’re probably gonna do a Don Carlos cover tonight. We’ve been doing “Express Yourself”, the original version by Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Watts Band. It’s kind of fun, it just throws a curveball out.

As far as your music career, is there a planned retirement date or do you plan to just keep doing it until your body can’t take it anymore?

No time soon hopefully. I don’t think any of us want to stop anytime soon, that’s for sure. Probably by the time we get a little bit older we probably won’t want to be doing it the amount we’re doing it now. It does take a toll. The random food, the airports, the constant hotel room to hotel room, it can be a little difficult, especially now that lot of guys have families. If we can keep going until we’re old and gray I’m sure we will.

Apparently Kyle did a mix album under the name Kyle Korrupt. Are there any further releases planned in the future?

I’m not sure. He’s always writing. He’s one of the most prolific writers I know. He’s a phenomenal writer. The guy has music coming out of him 24/7. I don’t know what he plans on releasing. We’ll be in a hotel room and he’ll have his phone recording an idea he’s got in his head and he’ll just sing it into his phone using a voice memo. He’ll play it back and we’ll listen to it. The guy is made of music, I’m sure he’s got enough for 15-20 albums as of now.

The first time I saw you guys I was 16 and you were on tour with Pepper. You guys used to tour a lot, but not so much recently. What’s the relationship like now?

We’re all great friends with those guys. I actually just had Kaleo over at my house last week for a BBQ. He lives right down the street from me and we hang a good amount. We go surfing together a lot. We haven’t done anything musically with the boys for a little while. There were talks about them getting on some shows this summer, but I’m not sure where we are with that. We’re always open to work with them. I hope we do, because we’re all great friends. Maybe we’ll do something this fall with them, because it’s been 4 or 5 years.

They’re no longer on Silverback, is that part of the issue?

No because if we want them to come out, we’ll make it happen. I think the issue the past couple years has been, when we’re out on the road they’re working on albums and vice versa. It’s been an opposite schedule thing.

If somebody had never heard Slightly Stoopid before, how would you classify your music?

In a nutshell, reggae/rock/funk/punk. I think that covers all the angles in four words. To just call it any one of those would be not as accurate. Same with Fishbone, they’ve got songs that sound super funky, then some crazy upbeat ska, and then some almost punky stuff as well as some rootsy goodness.

Some argue that every creative idea had something influencing it. That nothing is new, everything is just rehashed with a different spin. Do you agree with that and to what extent?

I would agree with that to a certain point. There’s only 12 notes in an octave. Including all the half-steps there are only 12 notes. At this point a lot of stuff has been done. Hopefully it’s been done better with each successive time. Especially in reggae, you’re sort of paying homage to someone if you use an old plate. Even Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” borrowed an old plate. Even more modern artists are still borrowing from classic stuff. I would agree that a lot of great stuff is borrowed, but that’s not to say all music is borrowed. There is an element of using some similarities and paying homage to other artists before you. We’re all a product of our listening. Ideally, you never want to like byte one player’s style. I’m not trying to be Jon Bonham, Stuart Copeland, Dennis Chambers, or Vinnie Colaiuta, or Tony Williams, but I admire all those guys for different talents that they have. As an artist I want to take all the music that I love of theirs and it hopefully goes into me and comes out in different ways. We’re all a result of listening, whatever music you listen to is going to come back out of you when you’re creating your own music. I feel like as you become a better musician it becomes a little more subtle. When I was first playing drums at 10 or 11 I had Bonham cranked. Zeppelin was full blast on my stereo and I would just try to play along to it and emulate them. A little later on I started getting into a lot of jazz music and listening to Tony Williams and Jimmy Cobb and all these amazing jazz musicians, which was another phase of my listening. Then getting into Steel Pulse and listening to Grizzly, their drummer and listening to Carly Barret from Bob’s band. Just taking pieces of all these different things sort of becomes this soup that turns into you musically. I would agree that there is a certain amount of limitations to being totally brand new, unless you’re playing purely improvised music, which you’re just drawing from your brain and your stream of consciousness.

Slightly Stoopid stubbs austin 2013 10Did you ever run through Real Book tunes during your jazz phase?

Absolutely. For years I played in big bands and jazz combos. I love that music it’s always been close and dear to my heart.

Do you have any advice for young inspiring musicians?

Listen to the masters and work as hard as you can. With music there is no faking it. You’re as good as you are that day. Even if you’re the best musician in the world you’re gonna have some days where you’re feeling great and everything is lose and just happening and some days where you are just really struggling to make stuff sound good in your own mind. At the end of the day, if you can practice as much as possible, that’s the best way, but also, just living a balanced life too. There’s more to life than just practicing Real Book tunes. Take it serious, but also have a couple beers that night and not think about it. In the balance of life is where art can excel because you’re able to let your mind breathe. If you’re just frantically focusing on one thing and your killing yourself, you’re going to get tendinitious or have mental breakdown and there are artists like that. Phenomenally genius artists, musicians, writers, but for me it’s always been a balance. Play some drums, then take a break and go out to lunch, then come back and play some more. Try to use other ways of inspiration to inspire your music. Stay hungry and try to listen to a broad range of music. When I first went to SDSU back in the day I knew I was really into jazz and rock and stuff that I felt was cool. When I started taking courses and studying music there it was all about classical and world music classes. It totally opened my eyes and my ears listening to Bach and Brahms. What those guys were writing has absolutely stood the test of time, evem more than anything now. My advice to younger musicians is listen to everything and realize that everything is just a mood, musically. If you’re in an aggressive mood you’re going to throw on some Metallica or punk rock and if you feel like studying put on some classical. If you’re going cruising you might listen to some reggae or some hip-hop. To me every song has a wavelength, like a mood, a vibe.

What do you think about how technology and how it’s changed music marketing?

Just in the last 20 years the whole thing has shifted. Since the early 90s we’ve seen things turned upside down with the internet. Even in the early 90s you had record labels dominate as a ways of distributing and accessing music. You go to the record store to buy a record or you turn your radio on. Those were your main outlets. Now days computers have been an open door, a pandora’s box for music. It’s leveled the playing field in a lot of ways. You can be Joe Schmo from wherever. If you have brilliant internet marketing you can be on the level of some of the huge stars. That couldn’t happen 20 years ago because of the control the record label has. Now days you see music transferred a lot for free, burning discs and transferring stuff off the internet. To be honest, that’s never really bothered this band. Our band has always been based on live shows and touring. We work on albums and dedicated ourselves to making a good album, but it’s always been more about how we can get on the road and stay on the road. To us, an album has been a tool to stay on the road. You put an album out and it gives you a hype, or vibe behind you. You go out and support the album by touring on it for a couple years then go back and do it all over. It’s really changed things a lot. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, Bandcamp, there are millions of sites dedicated to helping artists get their music out to the mainstream public. It’s great, it’s making artists go back to their roots. If you want to make a living now you have to be on the road. If you want a song for free, you’re going to figure out how to get it. I was watching a documentary and Mr.Brett from Epithath Records spoke how people have no trouble going to Starbucks and buying a cup of coffee for 3 or 4 dollars, but it’s like pulling teeth to get someone to pay 99 cents to buy a song you worked hundreds of hours on. There’s been a devaluation of music and the only way around that now is for bands to get out and get on the road. It’s making artists put their money where their mouth is.

Slightly Stoopid stubbs austin 2013 7What do you guys think about all the music reality shows that are coming out like The Voice, American Idol, etc?

Cool! I think what it does is show people that it’s not easy. Everybody thinks because they can sing in their shower that they can get in front of 10,000 people and sing and rock the crowd. I think it’s a wake up call for a lot of people that consider themselves to be very talented. You put them in front of four heavy-weight judges. On top of that you have a large crowd, and nerves. The whole thing changes when you have to be in front of people. I think those shows are pretty good because they are showing the public that it’s not easy to do it. To be done well it takes years dedicated to your voice or your instrument to just be able to throw down on a dime. It shows people that they’re tough.

Have you ever had any problems with stage fright or presence?

Totally. I’ve fallen on my face in front of audiences many times. It’s not easy to be in front of people. I think one of the things you learn as you go is that you just do it. Some nights, even to this point, with bigger crowds, there’s always that little bit of butterflies that you get. That energy, not as much nervous from fear, but anxious. I definitely had those times as a kid playing piano recitals where I just locked up and couldn’t play.

As far as collaborations, when you start a song what makes you seek out a certain person to be in the song with you? Is it people that you already have connections to?

Usually. On this last album we had Angelo Moore from Fishbone, because we’ve toured with him now quite a few times over the years. He was a natural guest for the ska tune that we did. He came in and just killed it. We had Chali2na from Jurassic 5 for a hip-hop type song and had an open space so we sent it to him and he just killed it. We’ve done some tours this last summer, we had Don Carlos out with us. We’d do three or four of his songs during our set and he’d come up and sing so we did some collaborations with him. We did one or two more that didn’t make this album. Most these guys are musicians that we’ve been friends with and/or worked with over the years. Really it’s just guys that we’ve sort of toured with or worked with before that fit the genre specialization.

After the interview, RyMo invited me onto the bus to get my Antonio Gates jersey signed by the whole band, except C-Money. This once in a lifetime experience left me pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t sleeping. Miles was dominating some Call of Duty while the rest of the guys hung out. Kyle showed his face and seemed very friendly and open. OG was by far the most talkative. They were all cool and down to earth people. They even offered me a beer which I had to decline in order to not fall asleep during their set that night. I now have my ticket and jersey waiting to be framed so I can keep this memory forever.

Written by Shawn Hallman

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