Slightly Stoopid was founded by Miles Doughty (left) and Kyle McDonald (right) in 1994. Both players share guitar and bass duties equally. Photo by Dough Hac

Most guitar players suffer from bass envy. They crave low-end mojo and want to be cool in that detached, understated, bass-player way.

On the other hand, some bass players are frustrated guitarists and long for glory and a chance to step out of the shadows. Well, maybe not out of the shadows, but at least for an opportunity to play above the 7th fret. In most cases you’re stuck with your instrument and the role you’re assigned.

Unless you’re in the band Slightly Stoopid. Founding members Kyle McDonald and Miles Doughty prove you can have it all. Both McDonald and Doughty play guitar and bass, and both players take each instrument seriously. They play bass like a bass player—with their fingers, sans pick—and weave endlessly groovable lines that sit deep in the pocket. But watch out: Either player can just as easily strap on a guitar, step up to the front of the stage, grab a pick, and add layers of color and madness like you’d expect a guitarist to do. And their transition between instruments is seamless.

McDonald and Doughty founded Slightly Stoopid in 1994. Back then, they were eager young San Diego teens, lived near the beach, surfed, played guitar, listened to music, went to shows, and were basically inseparable. “We’re brothers from other mothers,” Doughty says. “We’ve been around each other more than we have most of our family—because we’re always on the road together and whatnot—even growing up, we hung out every day when we were young.”

“The role of bass is to create that pocket with the drums, so any vocal, piano, horn line, or guitar can drop in there—it carries everything.” —Miles Doughty

They were still in high school when they met Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell, who became a big brother, mentoring them and taking them under his wing. Under his guidance, Slightly Stoopid signed to Skunk Records, recorded their first album, hit the road, and built up a massive and loyal following for their infectious blend of punk-influenced reggae and groovable jams.

More than 20 years later and on the heels of their eighth studio release, Meanwhile…Back at the Lab, Slightly Stoopid haven’t stopped touring and show no signs of slowing down. “Most people can’t say they get to do what they love, travel around the world, uplift people through music, and uplift themselves every day,” McDonald says. “It’s a pretty big blessing.”

PG caught up with the duo to discuss their unique working relationship, the secrets of writing great bass parts, the deceptive simplicity of difficult reggae feels, their new custom Fader guitars and basses, and—in the spirit of their SoCal roots—glass guitars that double as bongs.

When did you first get interested in music?
Kyle McDonald:
I’ve always been into music but what really got me into wanting to play music was Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Def Leppard—I think I was 9 or 10 when I got into those bands. Those were the kinds of bands that made me want to play guitar.

Miles Doughty: I started playing guitar around 12 years old. Kyle and I both started playing around the same time and it just took off from there. We started on the acoustic guitar and then slowly started to play the electric. We started a band in high school. Obviously, we’re still doing it.

How did you meet up with the guys from Sublime?
We met them when we were young at a show in San Diego. It was at this place called Green Street. My mom had convinced Brad [Nowell], Miguel [Michael Happoldt], and Brad’s girlfriend to come back to the house the next day—my mom was pretty convincing back in the day. We had guitars and a 4-track set up, started jamming, and became buds. I was just a kid but Brad took on that big brother role and came down and jammed. I would cruise up to Long Beach and cruise with all the guys and go to the shows. I was a 16-year-old hanging out with all these cats and it was pretty rad man. It was a whole experience.

What did you learn from them about playing and recording?
We learned from them to take it on the road. No matter how many records you have out or how great a record is, you have to take it to the road, tour, and be a road dog. It will take about five years from the time you start to get anything off the ground. We’ve seen people that have been coming out to shows for almost 20 years now. We see them every year, they’re like family to us.

You both play guitar and bass, which is unusual. Why is that?
I think it’s a little easier to sing and play the guitar than it is to sing and play the bass. We do a little bit of both, but for the most part, the guy who is singing has the guitar.

Is it obvious who is going to play guitar and who will play bass on a particular song? Do you ever have to fight it out?
No. Usually if I write something on guitar, I play it on guitar. If Kyle writes something on guitar, he plays it on guitar. There’s no fight about it. If he has ideas about what he wants to do for a bass line for the song, I just learn what he wants to play. And vice versa. If we have different ideas about what we want to hear on bass, we both just learn what the other guy wants to hear and make it happen within the music.

McDonald: Really it’s just whatever is more natural. We feel it out.

Both of you play the bass with your fingers but use a pick for guitar. Why is that?
That’s the sound you want on the bass. You don’t want to play the bass with a pick if you’re playing reggae, blues, funk, and all that stuff. You’re not supposed to use a pick. You need that warmth from the fingers.

Most guitarists are horrible bass players—they overplay and their tone is lacking. How do you switch hats so quickly when you take on the bass role?
It’s just the vibe that you have to pick for each song. Obviously, as a guitar player you always want to add extra stuff. When you’re playing bass you have to be with the feel of the drums and of the other instruments onstage.

McDonald: I think if the drums are cracking and you have a really strong foundation of a drum beat—that’s what the bass line revolves around. Also, less is more. You have to know where not to play. Where you do play, keep it bubbly or keep it according to that beat. If the heartbeat is solid and strong, then the song will be too. The beat and the foundation—you just keep the bass revolved around that.