The Dirty Heads
From So Cal, with Love
By Hans Fink
Culturally unique Southern California serves as an incubator for distinct “sounds” of music, be they the fat and juicy beats that typify West Coast hip-hop or the punk-and-reggae-influenced style of rock made famous by Sublime. So what is the next logical step in the evolution of the famed “So Cal Sound?” Enter the Dirty Heads, an OC-based group founded by childhood friends—singer Jared Watson and singer/guitarist Dustin “Duddy” Bushnell. Their recent hit single, “Lay Me Down,” features guest vocals from Rome, the new singer of the recently reformed Sublime. Armed with a new, organic tone and refreshingly positive attitudes, the Dirty Heads are being hailed by the likes of Rolling Stone as the new torch bearers of the So Cal Sound.
In this interview, Bushnell kindly takes the time to indulge a barrage of question from CULTURE on the band and its newfound success:
I understand that you’ll also be touring with Sublime.
Yeah, we have the upcoming tour circuit. “Lay Me Down” is doing well—we’re real excited about it. Right now, we’re just really focused on touring, getting out there and playing shows to a lot of the new fans we’ve made with the single. It’s really starting to happen with that song on the radio, so we have a lot of people now who haven’t seen us who want to see us, so we want to get out on the road as fast as we can.
Does it surprise you that “Lay Me Down” became a hit radio single?
Definitely a surprise. It wasn’t even on any of our albums—we just recorded that song for fun. We had actually been friends with Rome before the whole Sublime thing. So he was just up at our house, and we wrote a song together, “Lay Me Down.” It wasn’t even on an album or nothing, so when I heard that was the song they were playing on the radio, I was definitely trippin’. But I was stoked because I really like the song.
You have a new lineup since the last time I talked to you. Back in the day it was just the four of you, including a DJ named Rocky.
Rocky . . . wow, that was a long time ago. It wasn’t a bad split at all—we were recording our band, we were doing a lot of recording and studio stuff, we weren’t touring, and Rocky made his money at the time by DJing. So when we started recording, the songs we started writing were more live. There wasn’t any DJ stuff. There were live drums and bass. It worked out where our set didn’t need a DJ anymore and he was doing his own thing anyway. It’s all good, I still talk to Rocky—he’s my boy.
So with the new players on board, is it a family situation or a “hired guns” situation?
No it’s totally like family. The new drummer’s been with us for, like, two years now and the bassist over a year, but the bassist was from another local band that we’ve known forever. The other band stopped playing, so we asked him to come play for us. Yeah, our band is definitely like a close family, for sure.
Any plans for post-tour recording?
Yeah, definitely, after summer. We were going to [record] earlier, but with the whole “Lay Me Down” track, we had to get that song out. So we released a special edition of our album with that song, it just came out not too long ago. We have a lot of new fans now, and they want “Lay Me Down,” so we gotta put out an album now with the song on it.
I heard that the band’s name derives from a childhood incident involving a liquor store . . .
[Laughs] There’re a lot of different stories. It’s something that our friends and our parents called us. One of the first songs we wrote had a line that said “dirty-headed boys from the city of HB”—we were playing with this other band and we didn’t really have any songs, we went up to just jam and do that one song. So people would call us “dirty heads” and the name kinda just stuck.
OK, you knew it was inevitable that the interview would go this direction, being that this is a medical cannabis magazine: How do you feel about the state of California’s medical marijuana program right now?
I think it’s great. I think it’s good that people who really do need it have a spot where they can get it legally and locally. And for another reason, people smoke pot, you know? That’s just how it is. I think it’s better that people go to a store and buy it safely, rather than getting it from drug dealers off the streets and whatnot. I think it’s a good thing.
Have you experienced any legal run-ins with it, as artists are prone to do?
You know, I’ve been so lucky. I’ve been caught one time with it and it wasn’t even a big deal. I was driving home from the studio, got pulled over, had some weed on me and the cop was actually cool about it—he actually gave half of it back after he gave me a ticket—it was a $60 ticket—and that’s about it. I had to take some classes, but it was pretty easy. So, you know, I haven’t had too much trouble with that. Then again, we’re lucky we live in So Cal. They’re not going to throw you behind bars or nothing.
Any credence to the “pot helps me be creative” philosophy?
I think it just depends on who you are and what you like to do. Me personally, it helps me relax and get into writing music. If I’m going to sit down and play guitar and write a song, I definitely like to be high, for sure.
In your experience, what qualities do people need to show most in going after your dreams? What would you tell our readers?
I think that it’s just like you’ve heard in the past: It’s hard work. Keep working at it—you’re definitely not going to become an overnight rock star. You’ve got to go out there and grind, work hard and practice at it like any sport or anything. Keep working, keep practicing, and don’t let people tell you that you’re not doing the right thing. Just keep working at it and believe in yourself.