(Photo by Green-Eyed Blonde Photography)
December 27, 2019 | By Amber Crouch
2020 looks to bring a change in the air as it relates to the world of music. It’s the sound of change, and a band that’s leading the pack in this seismic shift is comprised of a bunch of dudes from HB, and they call themselves Dirty Heads.
DH brings the sound that personifies our infatuation with the endless summer. Not only that, but they are able to bring a little slice of home wherever they play; and their fans love them for that. The 6-piece alt-reggae-rock-ska band has used its unique mix of the ALT ROCK umbrella sounds and they’ve mixed in hip-hop and rap while embracing a heavy Southern California beach vibe. Their sound is somewhat reminiscent of their brothers-in-arms, Slighty Stoopid and local old-school icons, Sublime.
So where did these cats come from? Their story is very interesting, after all, who doesn’t love a good origin story… this band has one. DH was formed in 2006 by Jared Watson (aka Dirty J), and Dustin Bushnell (aka Duddy B). They’re from HB and they grew up in a time where they were surrounded by great-great bands. The OC is a hotbed for ALT Rock, Punk, Ska and Reggae bands. The number of highly successful bands that’ve come out of the OC is just staggering. Consider this, from this one slice of SoCal, old school bands like the Righteous Brothers called OC home, so have punk rock legends Social Distortion, The Vandals, Agent Orange and The Offspring. Then, there’s ska legends Reel Big Fish and 3rd wave ska OG’s Save Ferris… and let’s not forget The Aquabats! The list goes on- and-on-and-on; then, there’s Dirty Heads.
Needless to say, inspiration and competition has always been around them. Trying to get noticed and keeping up with the Jones’ is an accomplishment all in itself. Somehow, they didn’t let it overwhelm them. Now, getting back to their origin story, the duo met at a party during their freshman year of high school. When Watson heard Duddy’s demo rap tape, he was in… hook, line and sinker. There was a challenge, Duddy was already in a band, whereas Watson had no experience whatsoever at the time. As the music fates would have it, the two stayed in touch, and eventually began writing music in Duddy’s garage. They penned hip-hop /rap themed songs that had reggae and punk overtones. That combination was lightning in a bottle, and BOOM; legends were born!
(Photo by Green-Eyed Blonde Photography)
As for the band’s name, it stems from their older brothers and family, they loved calling them “dirty heads.” It’s funny how some things in life always seem to follow us. The rumors are true, the two had interests in rap and hip-hop groups like A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang and The Pharcyde. They also dabbled in love for other genres. They loved the Beasties, boy did they love then… they also loved Bradley Nowell and his music from Sublime. Watson grew up listening to the LBC juggernauts before it was cool to know who they were or wear their t-shirts. More contemporary influences include bands like the Black Keys. The band loves their ever changing musical style, which many say keeps that band relevant and fresh.
As for their plan, the dynamic duo had one. It was a good one and it wasn’t rocket science. Almost immediately everyone who heard their early work knew they had something special going on. In addition to their sonic vision, the guys had common sense and a good inner compass. They knew success would not happen overnight. They had the wherewithal to recognize that, and wanted to do music the rest of their lives. Truthfully, there was no rush in their camp to put out just any sound; they just wanted to put out their sound, a good sound. They had great support from family and fiends which have kept them humble and forced them to keep their head down and stay grounded. They’ve managed to keep focus on the things in life that matter. That’s a good formula for any plan in life.
For their fans, they jumped on board the DH Train from Day 1. The release of their first album “Any Port in a Storm” in 2008 provided a large stepping stone for the band. With a radio-friendly sound, it helped get the broadcasting door. Songs like “Lay Me Down” took off. This is a song they collaborated with Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome. They also featured “Stand Tall” which got the attention of the right people. Since then, the band has put out 7 studio albums, all different than the last, including their latest one titled “Supermoon.” It’s been described as a 70’s Western with a little Tarantino Twist.
(Lay Me Down feat. Rome Ramirez from the Album, Any Port in a Storm)
For their fans, they’ve been treated to albums coming out consistently. On average, it’s like one per year. In addition to the new tunes, they’ve toured consistently playing a wide-range of venues. They’ve even been featured as headliners at reggae festivals worldwide for years. Some of the US shows include the Vans Warped Tour 25th anniversary Tour, Riot Fest, Life Is Beautiful, and they’ll be playing in Vegas at the Reggae Rise Up fest in a few weeks.
With all their touring and work, the question you have to ask is how does the band ever have time for a personal life? The answer is weirdly simple… the do the best they can. Recently we chatted with front-man Jared Watson about this very topic. The answer was very direct, Watson said you have to make time for the things that are important to you; and that’s on you if you don’t. Watson went on to say you also can’t fool yourself. The urge to play music constantly, and the need to promote your music can be a tiring and time-consuming process. It’s easy to get sucked into that vortex, but you have to stay true to yourself and who you are. If family and friends are important, then, they will always be important.
The trials and tribulations of being in a successful band are not always rosy. Their song “Celebrate” is a good assessment of life on the road. Truthfully, to make it in the world of music you have to love the game and embrace the pain. Celebrate has lyrics that haunt us and taunt us, while expressing a real word truth. The lyrics to that song paint a picture… “Mom, if you can hear me, I think I made it! Tell my little sister I said hey, one day I’ll come home, we can celebrate.” The song goes on… “these late nights and these long drives, full moons under dark skies, tears fall behind phone screens, lonely hearts lead to bad dreams; wish that I could be there for you… I hope that life will be fair for you, it’s hard to sleep ’cause I’m always thinking and passing out off of codeine.” It’s lyrics like that which have infectious hooks have created a legion of loyal fans from cost-to-coast and around the world.
For Watson and his bandmates, life has been good to them. Maybe because they all have good sense and appreciate the life that music has given them, but not forgetting the people who made life possible for them. So far, the plan has worked and they remain on track.
(Celebrate featuring The Unlikely Candidates form the album, Swim Team)
On a personal level, life has been surreal, almost sublime for Watson. The past year has brought a new edition to the clan, his baby girl, Knox. When he and the wife, Kate, have down time from caring for the little one, he’s busy working on his solo project titled “Sword Beach” which is a musical fusion of heavy hip-hop and grunge so-to-speak. Look for its release sometime in the very near future. Watson went on to tell us that each day he’s home is like a little slice of heaven.
Somehow the band collectively balances their time with their love of music, surfing and skating. It’s these other interests that have kept the guys feeling their creative juices while at home. As for the other frontman, Duddy along with his brother Jake Bushnell, they host a podcast called “Feelin Good with Duddy.” The podcast revolves around music, random life encounters and everyday things that make them smile. Oh yeah, can’t forget about the ever-changing list of guests they have working with them on any given project. Bands like Pepper, Sublime with Rome, MMA fighters and members of the music community are always around and participating.
Today, the band simply electrifies their fans no matter where they play. Their stage show is top notch, their sound is piercing, booming, blood curling and at the same time soothing and melodic. Watson is their lead vocalist, but shares the mic with Duddy who also plays guitar. The band rounds out with Jon Olazabal (percussion), David Foral (bass), Shawn Hagood (keys / vocals) and Matt Ochoa (drums). Simply put, the guys have developed into a tight group of great musicians. At their shows, you can see fans singing along to every word of every song. Those songs include uber-hits, My Sweet Summer, Cabin By The Sea, Burn Slow, Oxygen, Spread To Thin, Sound of Change, Vacation, That’s All I Need and their current hit Lift Me Up.
(Lift Me Up from the album, Super Moon)
Bottom line, this band is fun, energetic, engaging and their music is just really, really good. Any time you go to a DH show, it seems like it’s a high school reunion; everyone seems to know each other in one way or another. Even though they call California home, their energy and soulful sound can engulf us no matter where we call home.
ONE LOVE CALI REGGAE FEST takes place February 7, 8 and 9th at Queen Mary Park. The event gathers some of the greatest bands in the reggae, dub, ska and Alt Rock music and social cultures.
DAY 1: Features Dirty Heads, Sublime with Rome, Pepper, Matisyahu and Atmosphere.
DAY 2: Features Rebelution, Stick Figure, SOJA and Long Beach Dub Allstars.
DAY 3: Features Slightly Stoopid, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Iration, J Boog and the Green.
Over the three day event you can catch at the Roots and Culture stage bands like:
Steel Pulse, The Wailers, Black Uhuru Wailing Souls, Pato Banton and many more.
For more information on the event:
The Queen Mary is located at:
1126 Queens Hwy
Long Beach, California 90802
ONE LOVE CALI REGGAE FEST