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Amazing stories abound in the entertainment industry and sometimes we are taken in by circumstances that seem to good to be true. We seem to be especially rapt and invested into stories of the underdog, and that might just be what we have here today.
Dirty Heads is a band on the rise, with the successful record "Any Port In A Storm" to their credit and some notable Hollywood attention for their songs, this band founded way back in 1996 is finally seeing the traction it deserves and might be the next hot act for the campus market. Campus Activities MagazineŽ brought you Fall Out Boy and Plain White T's just before they exploded and were still affordable, so this might be an act you want to take a closer look at.
Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, this standard rock quartet has an eclectic blend of styles that makes them anything but the norm. Blending the stylistic influences of the band's members equally, the result is an amalgam of reggae/rock/roots music that is hip and catchy and will surely connect on your students' level.
They've toured multiple times with legendary reggae/rock acts like 311, Pepper, Kottonmouth Kings, Unwritten Law, Matisyahu and Sublime with Rome. Their hit song, "Lay Me Down" written with Sublime of Rome member Rome Ramirez, went to number one on the U.S. Alternative and U.S. Rock charts.
On the edgier side of the market's music scene, this probably isn't the band you want to bring in for little sibs' weekend, but for student audiences, this act represents the youthful, trendy and edgy entertainment they crave.
Jared Watson, one of two founding members of the band, gives Campus Activities Magazine the lowdown on the band's history, show and the fascinating story of how the Heads signed a deal with Warner Bros., recorded an album, had the deal fall through, yet somehow walked away with their master recordings!
Probably the most obvious question that pops into a reader's mind upon seeing this story is the origin of The Dirty Heads name. It's a humorous story, though not an entirely wholesome one. But again, neither CAM or The Dirty Heads are claiming these guys are completely straight-edged, though they are older and more mature than the teenagers they were when Jared his pal Dustin "Duddy" Bushnell stole a 12-pack of beer and someone shouted at them "Come here you little dirty heads!"
The core of the band has been around since 1996, but it is really coming into it's own only just recently. "Today, I think we have finally figured out 100% who the band is and who is in the band and have tightened up the style of music we play. Now we are very comfortable playing live and our only goal now is touring our asses off. We want to make our live shows as tight and fun as possible. Now that we are all so comfortable with each other, we can jam, do covers and have a lot more fun, rather than mechanically going out and playing our songs trying to make them perfect every time. It is a lot of fun for us now, very cool. The crowd's are growing, every show is getting bigger and we are very happy with where we are right now. The payoff is finally coming."
The band plays a variety of shows including the college market, festivals and clubs. "When we are not out with a big headliner like Sublime With Rome or 311 doing the big arenas, we are playing clubs like House of Blues type venues. Usually the shows range anywhere from 500 to 3000 kids, it depends on where we are and the exposure in that market as to how well we do there."
The band has been so busy touring with the mega acts at the big shows that they almost lost sight of their own glow. "It is funny, we just did our first headlining show in two months. I forgot how much fun they were. We have been with Sublime forever in all of these huge arenas with big tickets and assigned seating and VIP areas in the front... ugh. The shows we play ourselves are real. Those VIP areas are just filled with like a bunch of rich douche bags that don't really care about the show, they just want to impress their chicks or something."
Taking a rock show to a level like that is a strange dichotomy; transplanting an art that is inherently rootsy and homegrown in a garage and turning it into a very corporate money-making atmosphere. There is also the important detail that while The Dirty Heads get great exposure to thousands of new fans, the audiences in the arenas are not there to see The Dirty Heads. "You take one of those giant arenas with like 5,000 or 10,000 people peppered with maybe 500 to 1000 Dirty Heads fans, who are all locked into assigned seating, there is a separation there. Last night, we played in New York in a headlining show and it was all of our fans, right up front, smashed up against us. We could hear every word they were singing with us, it was so much fun. We totally forgot how rad headlining shows are and how intimate they are; you can really connect with the crowd."
Despite missing the feeling of being the headliner, these guys are smart enough to count their blessings. "I think some support bands in the past have carried the sentiment of being under-appreciated when on tour with a big headliner, but honestly I don't think we could say there is a bad side to it. There is definitely the feeling of not connecting with the fans as much because so many people there don't even know who we are, but are just listening. Now, when you finish a song and a crowd full of 311 fans goes nuts, it is great, but during the songs, half of the crowd is just like 'Who are these guys?' they don't know every word, but it's fun to win new fans and I don't think there is a down side to it. From a business aspect, getting in front of as many people as possible is kind of the point (laughs)."
This is a good attitude to take for an approach to the college market, where many venues will house audiences new to the band. "Doing Warped Tour and some of the bigger festivals really helped me, as one of the front men, develop a better ability to win new audiences. In Warped Tour, there are so many people and so many bands playing, you have to like...yell at the mf-ers to come and watch you. It's like 'Hey, come over here and listen, I know you are here to see someone else, but check this out for a second.' My goal is to have people walking away saying 'Man, I saw 15 bands today and The Dirty Heads was the one that blew my face off. I definitely have that mind set now and it's really fun and kind of a challenge. I don't think about it too much or let it bug me, but I do go out and play every show the best we can and want people to leave going 'Holy shit! That opening band was better than the headliner!'"
The band has some interesting flexibility now that they have hit their stride. Many artists, in the interest of protecting their artistic integrity, may opt to play only their original material in a show, but The Dirty Heads see the wisdom in pumping a crowd up with old favorites. "We actually do a lot of older shit. Right now we are doing a cover of The Rolling Stones 'Paint It Black' and other stuff we really like. It is more about what we want to play more than the hottest new tune the kids want to hear covered, that's not really our gig. But, we also do look for songs people know because we realize that when we are playing in front of a new audience, they can automatically connect to a cover song."
Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin and The Stones are all included, but the choices also have to be carefully vetted. "You have to pick the right songs for your band and vocalists, you don't want to just go out there and murder a great classic. We try and do a new cover every tour and are very careful about what we pick. We want the widest appeal and something that will turn the most people on. We definitely aren't into the human jukebox thing though (laughs). We probably won't ever play anything that came out in the last 5 or 10 years." Sorry Lady Ga-Ga fans.
Probably one of the most interesting stories about this band is how their record, Any Port In A Storm came into existence, or rather, how it almost didn't. "There were definitely a lot of ups and downs and a lot of the kind of cliché music industry BS you hear about. Me and Duddy first met in high school before we were actually The Dirty Heads and we hung out a lot listening to music. We wrote some songs around 18, but it wasn't until we were 21 or so that we started doing little acoustic shows and selling them out. That's when we realized we could really do this, about six or seven years ago. We put together a band and played the Roxy a few times, selling it out just based on a demo. We got hooked up with a manager and Warner Bros. got ahold of us."
And the plot thickens. "I would love to have about three albums now, I can't wait to get the second one out, but this is why we have been around so long but don't have a catalog: We got with WB and were the happiest dudes ever thinking 'Oh my God, we're on a major label! This will be great!' Well, the music industry took a big shit right when we were signed and we were a tiny little fish in a huge pond. All of the bigger bands got the attention and Warner Bros. put us on the back burner for about a year. We were kind of stuck and going crazy, we couldn't get money together to tour and had no record to support. That held us up for a long time."
Then, something amazing happened. The band had already recorded, mixed and mastered their album. In most situations, this would have been retained by the record company and relegated to some lost and dusty corner never to be heard from again, but the band's exec at Warner did something remarkable. "They basically said, 'Okay, we're not going to be doing anything else with you guys because business is on the skids, we don't see eye to eye, so we'll give you the album back. That was too cool. Tom our exec was very cool about it, I think his kid was into our band and that might have had something to do with it. I don't know what his reasons were, but we're grateful. We were able to get away with the master, get new producers and get it out. Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise, because now we own the album and it's doing well. It worked out amazingly for us. Even though it held us back for about three years, we got an album recorded and paid for completely by them and then handed to us for nothing. That is not a normal story in this industry."
And if your campus brings in The Dirty Heads, it won't be a normal show. This young, hip and high energy band has just the right spice to appeal to your students on their level and will respect the band's authenticity. With the success of Any Port In A Storm and their huge tours with headline acts, they are sure to be a great draw.
BOOK IT! For more information on bringing The Dirty Heads to your campus, contact Corrie Christopher at APA at (310) 888-4228. For virtual links, log on to our website at www.camusactivitiesmagazine.com