It’s not that often that Pop-Break revisits bands they’ve interviewed. In 2011, we spoke with Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell of the The Dirty Heads, who, at the time, had one album out, a blazing hit single (“Lay Me Down” featuring Rome from Subline) and was grinding it out as the supporting act for bands such as O.A.R., 311, and Gym Class Heroes. It’s amazing what this talented group of musicians from Sacramento, CA can accomplish in such a short period of time.
Since that interview in October 2011, The Dirty Heads have become the band in their world of rock, reggae and ska. They dropped two more records, both charting on the iTunes Top 5 (which spawned three more hit singles) and are about to drop their fourth record, Sound of Change, and embark on a nationwide summer headlining tour with Pepper and AER in tow.
Now, three years later after speaking with “Duddy B,” we got the chance to chat with Jared “Dirty J” Watson about the band’s ever-growing success over the last three years, covering Coldplay, and their upcoming tour which brings them to Philly (7/22 at River Stage @ Penn’s Landing) and New Jersey twice (7/25 at The Wellmont Theater in Montclair and 7/26 at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park).
Pop-Break: We spoke to you guys in 2011, back when you only had one album. Now flash forward three years. Now you’re about to release, Sound of Change, your third album. What keeps you motivated to keep making new music?
Jared Watson: Umm new music. (Laughs) The thing is we sat on that first album for like four years between getting dropped from Warner, finding a new home, having trouble with all these crazy label and business problems. So that album didn’t get released when it was suppose to so we sat on it and played the songs for so long and only played that album for like four years. So the time that was released we couldn’t wait to actually play live new music and every time a new album comes out, and we play new music it totally rejuvenates what you do for a living. It’s a cycle like “okay I have one of these songs now, lets write another.” It’s just so much fun all over again. That’s one component and our fans, and our love for music is another. It is what we do for a living. We chose it because we love to do it. The drive is there and has been since the beginning and I hope it stays there till the end.
PB: Was there anything you guys set out to do differently with the latest album?
JW: We purposely wanted to something that nobody else was doing that we thought at the time and nothing that we had ever done. We just wanted to go left. We wanted to not make the same album we had the last three times. Any Point in a Storm was pretty diverse so if anything the new album is like that because it was a very eclectic album. Then there was Cabin By The Sea, which is very mellow as well as the acoustic album. We wanted to do something innovative for ourselves and to do something different, but always keep it Dirty Heads. We took a lot more pop and weird indie rock elements that we have been digging on. I think it’s just a bigger, and tighter album. That’s what we fell like we needed right now just because we had done stuff that was so mellow.
PB: How did this upcoming co-headlining tour with Pepper come about?
JW: We played in Hawaii and a few shows in Guam with those dudes. We’ve known those guys for years, since we both started out a long time ago, but we never toured with them for some reason. They are great guys. We partied with them in Hawaii then sat on the plane and did this whole little run down with them. We said “this summer it has to be done, it’s been too long.” So we had this band-to-band agreement and we heard that Aer was looking for spot and they asked if they could hop on and they are a really dope up and coming band. So I think this bill is the best place you could go for the summer.
PB: Well it sounds like a blast. I haven’t had the chance to see The Dirty Heads play live yet, but I have seen Pepper and they are insane. I’ve seen videos of your performances and I can tell you have that same energy. I can only imagine how amazing this show is going to be.
JW: It’s going to be a pretty big party.
PB: For the new album, you have brought in some of the best producers around, including Supa Dupes, Dave Bassett, and your longtime friend and now lead singer of Sublime, Rome Ramirez, what was it like to collaborate with them on Sound of Change?
JW: That was something else that we also wanted to do on this new album is we worked at 17th Street Recording Studios with one producer and maybe one or two on the last three or four albums. So we wanted to go see it was like to get out of our comfort zone and see what it was like to work with other producers. Not always going to our studio in Newport, ten minutes from home where we are comfortable and know everybody and blah, blah, blah. Lets go out there and find some producers that we like and respect that can think and push us to places that we wouldn’t go like Niles and Supa Dupes. With Rome we didn’t know how he was going to do as a producer, we just gave him a chance. We just came in to write with him. We went in to write with him because it works. It’s proven, fun, and we work really well together. Then he started producing stuff for us and it just kind of rocked. We were like dude this stuff sounds amazing what do you think about producing some of it? He was like “I’m so stoked that’s all I’ve been working on, I’ve been wanting to do that.” So I said lets give him a shot, if it doesn’t work out we can get someone else, but he knocked it out of the park. We were all on the same page. For some reason we were getting magic. Everyday making a song we would get that song done in one day. Then we would go to the next day and it would happen again. So we were on a roll and we didn’t want to mess that up. But we also wanted to go to guys like Supa Dupes and Niles. So we probably did half the album with Rome and the other half with Supa Dupes, Dave, and Niles. Those guys are so insane I can’t say enough nice things about them. We are just stoked to be able to work with people like that.
PB: What was the inspiration for the new album?
JW: There wasn’t any. The weird thing is sometimes I will get inspired with what I am hearing now, what’s coming out, new bands or hip-hop artists and I am just blown away by these albums. I find myself saying oh I want to do something like that or I got to make stuff like that, but make it Dirty Heads like we always do. With this album we didn’t do that. We just went in and said lets see how it goes. We kinda wanted to get away from the reggae/rock on this album. We have a couple songs that have that influence, but we wanted to make it more of a hip-hop reggae album. With the hip-hop being really big and also add in alternative and indie instrumentation. I don’t know where it came from, but it started with us talking about what would be cool, what would fun, what would be different, and what we aren’t hearing right now that would get us excited. There wasn’t any one thing, it was just us sitting and talking. So as vague as it is, music inspired this album.
PB: Going back to your first album, I was a huge fan of your cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.” Whose idea was to cover that track?
JW: I think it was me and our percussion player Jon Jon because we are actually both Coldplay fans. We were doing this thing called RAWsessions, which is an acoustic YouTube channel where you came and broke out a few acoustic versions of your songs, but you had to do a cover of a new song on the Top 40. It was just like pop, pop, R&B, R&B, country, country, country, we were like “ahhh what do we do?” Then there was Coldplay and I was like dude there is Easy Star All Stars that take things like Radiohead and make it reggae. I was like let’s just do this Coldplay song and everyone was down for it. It turned out well. It was a great song to begin with so all we had to do was flip it and make it a little bit more reggae and a little bit more Dirty Heads style.
PB: Now that you have three albums, do you find it harder to create your set lists for each night of the tour?
JW: I think it’s getting easier because we have more material. We get to play them for a while, find out what really works, because we want our show to be as exciting as possible. To the last note we are there to make everyone in the room have a great time. So we want to play what they want to hear. So we are going to play all the bangers off each album. The more albums that we have, the more fan favorites or more songs that people really love and connect to makes it a little bit easier because we get to substitute songs that people really love, but now they are stoked for the new stuff. You don’t want to be that band where you have a new album and you play the whole brand new album and like three old songs. Because we are also fans of music and we don’t like going to shows where they have one new album and they don’t play any of the old classics.
PB: You have been making music for almost 20 years, what has been the highlight of your career so far?
JW: Holy shit.
PB: I always save the hard question for last.
JW: (Laughs) Yeah. I mean the gold record was out of the blue and that was career changing and helped us grow. So that was one of them. Selling out an almost ten thousand person venue in our hometown was a huge accomplishment. Just the whole ride. Getting to work with all these people. Getting to work with all these producers. Now we are working on this album and we are playing Red Rocks, which is my favorite venue. We are headlining Red Rocks! If we sell out, and it wont be just us it will be because of Pepper and Aer. If we sell out Red Rocks it will be the highlight of my life, hands down. I will probably shed a tear. Just to say “I headlined Red Rocks” is crazy to me.
The Dirty Heads will perform with Pepper and AER on July 26th at The Stone Pony Summer Stage. Click here for tickets.
all photos courtesy of shore fire media
Al Mannarino is a Senior Writer and a frequent contributor to the Singles Party column for Pop-Break as well as the host of the News Over Brews Podcast. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History and is currently a Promotions Assistant for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino