Los Angeles-based rock act Dirty Honey has been making a lot of noise in the rock scene as of late. The group’s debut single which was released back in March 2019, became the first track by an unsigned group to reach number one on Billboard’s mainstream rock chart. The band has already open from legends such as The Who, and Guns ’N Roses, just to name a few.
Soon, the group will be releasing their highly anticipated self-titled debut album, and I spoke with vocalist Marc LaBelle, and bassist Justin Smolian about their sound, what went in to making the record, and maybe when we might see them on the road.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. We’ve been following you guys for a while and I’m excited to finally be able to do an interview with you guys. How are things going? I know the pandemic has hit all the bands hard. Especially you guys, because you were starting to blow up and see some major success, but with COVID, it kind of shut everything down So, you know, what’s that kind of done? What kind of toil has it taken on?
Justin: I think it was kind of hard emotionally at first, but in the end we had more time to write and rehearse and work on the record. So we definitely came out with a better record at the end of it. So I’m grateful for that.
Marc: Yeah. I’ve given us some time for reflection on what we’ve accomplished so far. And I think it’s helped certainly personally, and tell helped me identify what I want this to be going forward, and what I want to achieve with my life. I got some clarity, both on the future and the past. It sucks to not be able to go out on the road and tour and play shows and do what you love, at the same time that the break has been nice and I got to see family that I hadn’t seen in a while. Just got to roll with it as best you can.
Yeah, I’m here in Detroit and everything pretty much just shut down. You know, there was just a big urban city with nowhere to go, nothing to do. I became a homeschooling mom, so, you know, there we go.
Marc: How old is your kid?
She is Sven. So luckily, it wasn’t too hard to do first grade, but you know, it was quite different from chasing rock stars like you guys in the pit to sitting down and teaching basic math.
Marc: I bet it wasn’t that much different. I think rock stars to be a bit childish bunch at times though. (laughing)
Yeah! And Marc, I wanted to ask you, what was the most challenging part of coming out of the situation you were in when you came to Los Angeles? We know that at one point you were living in your car, how did you go from there to forming the band and, get to where you are?
Marc: It was a struggle needless to say, but I think I got some good advice from one of my best friends that was living out here before I moved here. And he just said, if you books paid gigs would be able to get some pretty good musicians to come and play with you and if you’re playing regionals or whatever. It just helps you expand your musician network, just to meet some of the right people.
And fortunately, I was able to meet John and Justin, who introduces us to Corey, and it sort of organically happened that way over the course of a couple of years. But, I’m still not what I would call financially successful or stable has at the moment of the, you know what I mean?
I do, actually. I lived in LA for ten years, down in Redondo Beach, and it was working two, three jobs just to live.
Marc: Yeah. And I was certainly doing all that sort of stuff and figuring out how to book shows from a wifi hotspot at whatever cafe that I was temporarily moving out of when I was sleeping in my car. It’s a struggle, but I think if you’re passionate and you love it, it doesn’t really feel like work at the same time.
Your new LP is about to be available, and the pre-orders are already on. You made the best side of a bad situation with the pandemic and you got extra time, I think to focus on your album. Did you feel any pressure coming up with a release date, or did you feel more relaxed with it? Because not having a label makes deadlines a little less of a headache.
Justin: Well, we were actually about to leave for Australia to make it back in March of last year when the pandemic shut everything down. So we obviously have more time to work on it and got more songs out of it. But for the release day, I think it’s that we just had to try to figure out what time to release it, so we can at least get out and support it on the road to, to a certain degree. I think that was the only stress about it.
Marc: That’s kind of the struggle is just trying to figure out how to properly market it and then giving it what it needs to be successful. I think we’re all really excited about the record and they were really confident and pleased with the way it came out. I think it’s a really great body of work for a rock and roll band. That was the only struggle was just figuring out the right time to do it so that you can go out and tour and also.
The album features eight songs, which can seem kind of short at first glance, but there’s no interlude to the tracks or anything of that nature. So it’s enough to be a great listening experience. Do you think that you left out any material on record for one reason or another? Or did you go in with the intent and making an eight-track album?
Justin: We actually recorded three more that ended up not making the record. Especially having some time now and looking back on it, like the songs that we put on it is really concise and they really fit well together. And the three, I love all the other three, but maybe they’ll make the next record. They just didn’t quite fit in with the concept of this record.
Marc: I think we made a really good statement with the EPA and I think we want it maybe to be equally as great as the LP. And I think we honestly exceeded ourselves. I just want the body of work to really stand the test of time. I don’t want any filler. And I think we all have fun playing all the songs that are on there. And, if that’s the case 5, 10, 15 years from now, I think time will tell if we made the right choice.
Yeah. How did the pandemic affect your recording process and what was it like having those virtual sessions with Nick DiDia?
Marc: Honestly, we were all surprised. We were all worried about the workflow and how that was going to pan out, being that he was in Australia and we were in LA. But the guy that started this phone call, Owen, did a really good job setting all that stuff up for us, setting up the zoom, setting up, iPads and iPhones to make sure that everybody had a visual access point to our producer. And all the technology worked seamlessly.
Justin: It was pretty neat. It was almost like having them in the room.
Marc: Yeah, not quite. We missed making lattes with them.
Justin: It was a great experience. I did not expect it to go that well not at all.
Marc: And ultimately it all comes down to how good is the material that you’ve been working on because Nick really understands how to capture the nuance of everybody’s performance. And if the material is strong enough going in, you know, you’re probably gonna come out with something pretty good, because it’s just, it’s up to you to not to fuck it up.
Justin: Really. We were pretty lucky. We did it in studios, which Nick worked at for like 20 years, and he got one of his friends that still works there. So having the two of them work was definitely ideal for that situation, I think.
That’s great that it worked out like that. Many bands try to nail the classic sound of genuine rock and roll music, but not everyone seems to hit the mark, but your recent single ‘California Dreaming’, just kind of nails that timeless sound. It’s reminiscent of the seventies, but it just feels modern. What do you think was your major influence and what was the process when it comes to capturing that classic tone?
Marc: That’s a perfect explanation of what I think we were going for, like something nostalgic, but also fresh at the same time.
Justin: Yeah. Have more what I like to say is, pick us torch as opposed to just trying to perfectly replicate it. Because we still want to be ourselves. And I think that’s very important. Marcs got a very unique voice and I think when Corey and John and I when we play together like I don’t get that feeling playing with other people as I do with them.
Marc: Yeah. And I’m certainly not tooting my own horn here, but, I just think there’s a uniqueness to any vocalist, whether it’s Axl Rose or Chris Cornell or Steven Tyler, Robert Plant, that really helps to give some identity to those bands. All those bands have similarities in the music.
They’re all kind of like blues-based rock and roll. And then you put, they all have nuance in them that makes them unique. And then when you throw a singer on there, that’s got some nostalgic qualities and he could be reminiscent of some people or whatever. But so long as it’s still got soul and authenticity and a little bit of uniqueness, it’s not gonna sound like anything else.
Justin: Yeah. I think we’re a lot of people actually miss the mark is when they try and do it too perfectly, or they may try and sing it too cleanly. Marcs got a really nice rasp voice. It feels more appropriate. There’s a lot of great singers in LA. It’s just, do you come across in the recording as soulful? And I get a fireball, I played that, you know, sometimes can get overlooked. People strive for perfection and not a performance, maybe enough. So that was the essence of our record.
You guys have an incredible backstory of how you got together, how you formed. And you’ve had actually a lot of major success without the help of a record label. Do you think that labels are necessary or do you think that you can be freer with your music? And not have to worry about the pressures and the stipulations?
Marc: We’ve never toured with an artist, that told us how much they love their record label.
Justin: And I think for us personally, it works better. We like having control. We like having fewer cooks in the kitchen. But at the same time, record labels can be good for some things but they can really screw you over in other areas of the business. But for us, for me personally, I love not having to worry about these arbitrary deadlines for when shit has to be released or finished.
I want to make sure that it meets my standards before it gets released to the world. And I think if we had a label that gave us a deadline of September 1st to deliver a record, for whatever reason, they had some marketing schedule, they need to stick to you. then I don’t think that’s the best thing for us. Certainly not for me. I do like deadlines when I need to finish something that I’m already passionate about, but I don’t want to be forced into inspiration. That’s not a good way.
When it comes to touring, do you have any on the horizon? Things are opening back up with certain regulations of course, do you have anything planned?
Marc: There’s a lot of TBD that can’t be disclosed. A lot of TBD for the summertime. I went to a hockey game for the first time last night. I was in New York city yesterday. I am totally cool being around people. I don’t care. I’m vaccinated. We don’t care at this point like you want to be respectful, but I think everybody is dying to go pick that shit up, you know? So I’m like, I want to be able to go see a movie too.
We’ll make sure to keep an eye out for some future dates.
Marc: We’ll definitely roll through Detroit when, when the time comes.
Justin: Yeah, Marc wants some Redwings tickets.
Marc: I want to go to another Redwings game, I want to play Detroit more than anything.
I want to ask, you’ve opened up for some really major names already. The Who? Guns and Roses. But what would your dream lineup be like if you could get on the road right now? Like any band, any festival, where do you want to go?
Marc: Right now, I just want to play for people. I think if I had to pick a couple of artists, I would say. I would want to open main stage for a Led Zepplin reunion show and, wherever in the world, I would do it anyway.
Justin: Yeah. I mean, I love doing Guns in Vegas, which was a kind of smaller show for them. So I would like to maybe do some more with them, but honestly, playing our own shows and headlining is way more fun than any opening act we ever did.
Marc: The Who was pretty awesome.
Well, please do come back to Detroit!
Marc: Yeah, we love Detroit and we’ll definitely be getting back there sooner than later. I’m sure of it.
Ok awesome, Thanks for taking the time out with me guys. I really appreciate it. I know you’re both really busy with everything. Is there anything positive with everything that’s going on that you guys kind of treasure among all the chaos?
Marc: I just take a little vacation with my family and I got to reconnect with all my brothers and sisters. My family’s growing. A couple of nieces and nephews that are very young, that I just got to spend some time with that maybe I wouldn’t have been able to if we were on the road. And the whole vacation got pushed back a year and I wasn’t going to be able to go last year.
So that’s one bonus. I would definitely prefer to been playing shows and doing what I like to do, but that’s definitely a nice thing and get to see family and reflect, I think. But we’ll be bigger and better, stronger having the time that we, we had to work on this stuff.
That’s wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me guys. I’m really appreciative. The album sounds great. We’re really excited about it I wish you guys the best of luck and I can’t wait to see you guys on the road soon.
Marc: Yeah. Hopefully sooner than later, we’ll keep our fingers crossed!
Justin: Thank you, see you on the road!