Following up on a Facebook post I wrote earlier this week, I drafted a letter to Slightly Stoopid for our blog here.
Do you remember where you were the first time you listened to your favorite artist? I do. I was driving to high school on a brisk fall morning in New Hampshire, when my friend popped a CD in my car.
“This is new stuff from California. These guys were signed by Bradley Nowell”.
I didn’t need another push…
Slightly Stoopid’s “Live and Direct: Acoustic Roots” was blasting in my CD player, and I would forever be a fan. Little did I know that a few years later, I’d be living in their small beach Community in San Diego, pursuing my own dream as a musician in The StirCrazies.
My First Years In California
I graduated college in a small town in New Hampshire and felt like I was missing something. At the suggestion of a friend I went to school with, we decided to pack our bags and drive straight across the country to California. 3000 miles later, and I was standing on the beach in a state I had never been in, and smelling the warm Pacific air for the first time.
I struggled to find musicians I liked playing with the whole first year I was here. The feeling of getting a call from singer Kali Kole during a long day at work was one I will never forget. I felt drained from trying for over a year to find a band, and was considering throwing in the towel and giving up my dreams as a musician in California. I decided I’d give it one last shot and jam with him.
It turned out to be a jam session that changed the course my life. Next thing I knew I was offered a spot in the “The StirCrazies”, and we were writing new songs. After playing a few acoustic shows, I got my first real taste of accomplishment as we booked a full-band show at Winston’s in Ocean Beach.
This is a venue that Slightly Stoopid was notorious for playing back in the day (and even once in a while these days), and it was such an honor to be rocking the same stage these guys grew up on.
Sure, musicians and bands play here all the time, but to me it meant something more. It’s something that may be easily taken for granted by some, but the first live show I played with The StirCrazies as a full band was at Winston’s in Ocean Beach.
For a shy kid from New Hampshire trying to make his way in California, I felt pretty accomplished. I just remember thinking how cool this was… like I was following in some of the same footsteps as Slightly Stoopid.
Collaborating With C-Money
A couple years later we were recording our debut album. I can’t tell you how much work we put into making that thing. I had just started to play bass, and had no idea what the hell I was doing. I learned and relearned every song about 4 times before finally finding things that worked.
Somewhere about a month into the “Rise Against” sessions, I found out that Slightly Stoopid’s own C-Money was coming in to lay trumpet on some of our tracks and I couldn’t believe it.
I had now been in California for a few years, and up to this point I would get excited because I had the opportunity to grace the same stages that these guys had played on before. Now, I had one of their members coming into the studio I was recording at, to play on songs that we wrote.
My mind was blown. Once in a while, waking up here fills my soul with this surreal feeling… like, am I really in California? Did I really leave my family and all my friends behind to pursue a dream of playing music? Sometimes I just can’t shake the feeling.
And like a pinch in the arm to let me know I’m still awake, all of a sudden Slightly Stoopid’s trumpet player is on his way to our studio, and we had the opportunity for his trumpet playing to grace our music. (As time went on, I became accustomed to the fact that the world of music is a relatively small one, and paths cross all the time. Even the biggest rock stars on earth are just people, doing their thing. Regular people who do extraordinary things, that’s all).
I specifically remember waking up the morning he came in. I was a little hungover, and Kali Kole called me about 6 times.
“Don’t forget to get the vegetable platter. Don’t be late. Make sure you’re at the studio on time.”
Slightly Stoopid is coming to our studio to hang out, and Kole has me worrying about picking up a frigen vegetable platter at the store. (In Kole’s defense, the veggie platter was a big hit). When C-Money arrived with our friend Will, he shook all our hands and sat down like we had hung out a million times before. We spoke about girls, music and touring… he was the kind of guy who made you feel relaxed and very at at ease.
In fact, I felt so at ease, that I had to snap out of it for a second and really appreciate what was happening. When you’re sitting in the room with a musician this talented, and he tells you that he really digs a solo you did on a song, it validates everything that made you push on with music through all of the times you felt like giving up, or like you weren’t good enough to play in a band. It was a really beautiful feeling.
After hanging out for a while, he listened to the songs we were working on one more time and nodded.
“Cool, I think I have it…”
When Christofer (C-Money) went in to record his parts, I was quickly reminded that this nice guy who was hanging out with us was a professional musician, and a phenomenal one at that. He walked into the sound room to record and confidently told our engineer what he wanted his horn to sound like.
When he started playing it was an absolute spectacle… our jaws dropped to the floor. It was as if he had been planning his parts for years. Song after song, C-Money stood in there and played some of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard a trumpet produce.
I couldn’t have been any prouder that this was my CD he was playing on. Now I had been in California for a few years, rocked the same stages as my favorite bands, and had the opportunity to collaborate with one of their members… not bad for a kid from New Hampshire starting from scratch in California.
Rocking a show with punk-reggae greats
About a year after we had recorded and released our album we were booking shows from spring into summer. When Ocean Beach local Ted Wigler, one of the nicest people you will ever meet, told me that there was an opening slot for C-Money and the Players, Inc. (C-Money’s Slightly Stoopid side project) I was ecstatic.
The StirCrazies would open the night, followed by Agent 22 (Rymo, Slightly Stoopid’s drummer’s side project) and then C-Money and the Players, Inc. We were on the same bill, sharing the same stage, with 3 different members of the Slightly Stoopid fam to a packed house.
I popped up after our set to introduce myself to their drummer Ryan (Rymo), and he said,
“Oh hey man! You were the bass player for… StirCrazies, right? Sick set dude, keep up the good work!”
Then after the show, I was buying a drink at the bar and Slightly Stoopid’s percussionist OG was standing there next to me. I said “great show”, and he proceeded to tell me how much he liked our set.
“We grew up on that stage right there man, you guys are moving in the right direction. Keep at it young guy, we love to take local bands on tour with us!”
I left Winston’s that night with an unparallelled happiness. The fact that these guys I had looked up to since I was a little high school kid who could only dream of California were giving my band props, and that meant the world to me.
It’s All About Community
A few months after that awesome show, a dear friend and member of our community named Garret Rodriguez went missing. My not-so biological sister Katrina LeBlanc setup a beautiful day of music and friends to support a fundraiser to help find him.
We had some great food, drinks and excellent music by many local bands. When she told me that Kyle from Slightly Stoopid was coming by to support and help out, I couldn’t help but think of how awesome it was that he would do this on one of his only days off during the huge summer tour they were right in the middle of.
Sure enough Kyle stopped by, and just happened to bring reggae legend Don Carlos with him. They came up and played with our friend’s band “Bad Neighborz”, and played a beautiful 10-15 minute rendition of “Wiseman”.
It was such an intimate and powerful moment; only 20 or so of us standing there, watching these musicians come together and collaborate to help support a great cause.
Lately, life has really been piecing itself together. Our band The StirCrazies has some incredibly awesome stuff coming up for next year, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it. I write for Rebelution founder Marley’s Hill Kid Clothing blog. And I learn new things every day from the powerful music scene that surrounds me. I appreciate every moment of really learning what it takes to be in a band, and to do something you love.
As someone who moved to California to follow a dream, I can’t help but think that if you put yourself in the right place, with the right intentions, and hang in there long enough, good things will come your way. Sometimes it still fascinates me to wake up and consider how far I’ve come since moving to this state years ago, with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a dream to do something more with life.
Slightly Stoopid started for me as a band that I thought was really cool, and has evolved into a band that I strive to be like both on and off the stage. They really help me to remember what is important, and why I love music so much.
As The StirCrazies grow each year on our own musical path, I often find myself learning lessons from successful bands that do things right. In Slightly Stoopid, I see humble, generous spirits; always remembering where they came from, what is really important in life, and the amazing power of people coming together to make music.
Thank you for being people that I can be proud to look up to,
Brendan Bass of The StirCrazies