Like many bands before it, The Dirty Heads started out in a garage, for nothing but fun.
“We met in high school,” guitarist/singer Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell said in a recent phone interview. “We met through our older brothers. So we were hanging out. We always just did music for fun.
“We jammed all through high school,” he said. “My dad had built us a soundproof room in our garage and we would go there after a late night. We’d all would just sit there in my garage and we would literally make stupid beats on like the crappiest Casio keyboard ever. And we’d have 10 of our buddies in there, drunk, drinking 40s and making up rap songs. It was just hilarious. It was fun. I still have some of these tapes. So yeah, kind of from that, a few of us just kind of kept doing it. Now we’re a band.”
What was different for The Dirty Heads, who formed about a decade ago in Huntington Beach, California, is one of those early tapes turned a mostly-for-fun group into something different.
“We found a manager who had heard one of these little tapes, pretty much what I was talking about, and thought, hey, I can actually do something with these kids,” Bushnell said. “He contacted
us and said he wanted to manage us. And we were like ‘Yeah right, this guy’s got to be on crack, but we’ll go to that free lunch and listen to what he had to say.’”
It turned out, the manager wasn’t blowing smoke (or any other substance) when he brought up the notion that The Dirty Heads might have a future in music.
“He got us some meetings with record labels. One of them was Warner Bros., and they actually signed us,” Bushnell said. “Again, we were like what the hell is going on here? This is retarded. It was cool at first. They were a major label. We were stoked and we went from nothing to having this major label and managers, and they’re paying for us to make an album and all this stuff.”
To be fair, by this point The Dirty Heads - which open for Matisyahu on Saturday night at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach - had started growing into something more than a bunch of buddies goofing around in a garage. In its early days, Bushnell said, the group started writing some original songs and playing out in small bars and coffee shops.
“Little by little, people started showing up, and next thing you know, we’ve got 100 people packed into these little bars and these little spots,” Bushnell said. “Then it started growing and we started taking it more seriously.”
And after landing on Warner Bros., The Dirty Heads were experiencing the trappings that can come with being a professional band on a major label. For the band’s debut CD for Warner, it had Rob
Cavallo involved in the production. Cavallo, who has worked with groups such as Green Day, My Chemical Romance and the Goo Goo Dolls, is considered one of today’s leading producers.
“He came down to the studio a couple of times and gave us some tips and some players,” Bushnell said of Cavallo. “I definitely think in the writing process of that album we all really learned a lot, between the producers we were with, just being with a major label and going through all the business side of this.”
Unfortunately, after finishing the album, that’s when the seemingly charmed life of The Dirty Heads took a turn.
“We made the album and it didn’t really get released,” Bushnell said. “It was just sitting around. We didn’t know what was going on.”
Like many unproven bands on major labels in recent times, The Dirty Heads sort of fell through the cracks.
“That was (during) a rough time for all labels,” he explained. “It was like right when everything started going down, and they were concentrating on their big couple (of) bands and we just really
weren’t something they were concentrating on. So it was one of these things where (they said) ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to put it out. We’re going to do this.’ But it just wasn’t happening.”
But where many acts that get caught in this sort of situation end up fighting with their labels or have to go to court to try to get out of their contracts, The Dirty Heads fared much better.
“Eventually we kind of said ‘Hey, can we just go and do our own thing?’ They were actually really cool about it,” Bushnell said. “They gave us the album. We didn’t have to pay them back. So we took this album that we recorded with Warner Bros. and then we released it on Executive Music Group (EMG).
That first album is called “Any Port in a Storm,” and it very much put The Dirty Heads on the national music map after its release in September 2008. The CD, which includes guest appearances from M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold and keyboardist Billy Preston (yes, the one that played with the Beatles on the “Let It Be” album), yielded a single, “Lay Me Down,” that became one of the biggest alternative rock hits of recent years, holding the No. 1 slot for 11 weeks.
This obviously, gave The Dirty Heads a good head of momentum heading into its newly released second record, “Cabin by the Sea.” And the band, after releasing “Any Port In A Storm” on the EMG label, has moved up to the much larger Five Seven Music. The album was recorded in summer 2011, and Bushnell feels the band sharpened and tightened up its sound this time around.
What hasn’t changed that much is the band’s cheery brand of reggae and hip-hop influenced pop. A bit more mature and serious side to the band’s music emerges on songs such as “Spread Too Thin” and “Day To Day.” But overall The Dirty Heads remain a good time group on “Cabin by the Sea.” The title song and “Dance All Night” are excellent examples of the way the group mixes together easy-going reggae rhythms, a poppy melody and a sunny lyrical disposition. The hip-hop side of The Dirty Heads comes out in songs such as “Disguise,” which uses bright horns to add an island vibe to the song, and “Smoke Rings,” a hard-hitting track that features guest raps from Del The Funky Homosapien.
The Dirty Heads, which also includes Jared Watson (vocals), Jon Olazabal (percussion), Matt Ochoa (drums), David Foral (bass), will get an initial opportunity to showcase its new material
this summer on tour which stops over in North Myrtle Beach with long-time friend Matisyahu, who makes a guest appearance on “Dance All Night,” from “Cabin by the Sea.” Given their friendship, Bushnell said fans can expect some collaborations between the two acts during the evening, beginning with Matisyahu reprising his vocals on “Dance All Night.”
“I’m sure we’ll be playing that together, and then we’ll see what else happens,” Bushnell said.
For the most part, Bushnell said it should be business as usual for The Dirty Heads during their set, which means trying to get the crowd into the upbeat, grooving vibe the band tries to create on stage.
“We always try to bring a nice, fun vibe to the show,” Bushnell said. “We’re excited to get out and play the new songs off the new album. It should definitely be a fun, easy tour.”