As the summer season of music rolls on, a couple of reggae staples stopped through Orange County to wrap up a line of shows. The Dirty Heads, (HB locals) and Iration (Santa Barbara natives) are well accustomed to the touring gauntlet.
With family and friends in attendance, including the King of Pop’s daughter, Paris Jackson, the bands did not disappoint with killer sets at Irvine’s Five Point Amphitheater.
The Weekly sat down with singer Jared Watson and singer/guitarist Dustin (Duddy) Bushnell before ripping the stage. The products of Huntington Beach, these high school friends started the group in 2006 and have been on the road extensively over the past decade. Let’s find out what they’ve been up to.
OC Weekly (Michael Silver): First off, welcome home. It’s the final night of the summer tour. What were your impressions?
Duddy: It went by pretty quick; it was a smooth tour. All the shows were awesome and the fans came out.
Jared: Yeah we used to do three months, this was six weeks, much easier.
One thing I noticed online that was really cool about this tour, your band asked fans to film their concert experiences using the Cinebody app. The user content will be made into a music video for your new track “Visions.” Who came up with the concept and how does it look so far?
Jared: They (Cinebody) hit us up and I think it’s a genius idea. You get to engage your fans and they get to show other people how the concert really is. Plus they end up on our websites; it’s all about the fans.
Jared I read awhile back that you’re big into mixed martial arts. Do you go to fights often?
We’re both pretty big fans. We’ve gone before, but unless you’re sitting ringside you’re just staring up at the TV. It’s cool to get a couple of the homies that really give a shit and watch from home.
Duddy I understand you like to play golf. When did you first catch the bug and how’s your game overall?
I didn’t start golfing until I was 25. Some of my friends played and I would go out with them and have a few beers. From there it snowballed, I do it all the time. I’m an average golfer; my handicap is like 12 or 13. It’s fun out there.
When setting up tours do you have a list of bands you want to play with and reach out? How does that process work?
Jared: We do have a list of bands that we want to play with usually, but it doesn’t always work out. Luckily it did this summer.
A few summers back I saw your band play in NYC opening for Slightly Stoopid. Are those guys like big brothers to the group?
Jared: We didn’t know them (personally) and always had so much respect for them. Between Sublime and the building of this scene, and popularity of the reggae-rock scene, they were that one band that was there from the beginning. They’re like the kings to us. We never really crossed paths, and finally we got to tour with them and it just clicked. They’re one of, if not my favorite band in the scene. Once we met them it was so refreshing to meet guys who have been doing it that long, that are talented, down to Earth, good people. We can’t wait to tour with them again, now they’re homies.
Dirty Heads have a unique sound blending genres of reggae, rock, and hip-hop. What kind of bands and rappers did you guys listen to growing up?
Jared: We were deep into reggae like Michigan and Smiley, Israel Vibrations, Gladiators, Yellowman, Eka Mouse. We always had vinyl and shared it. When we met, we bonded over the music we liked which was hip-hop and reggae. Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, The Pharcyde, De La Soul. Sublime and Beastie Boys were the big ones, they were the first ones that we knew of blending music and we were like ‘Oh we don’t have to do just a reggae song, or hip-hop, we can do both!’
We’re into folk too and classics like Hendrix, Zeppelin and the Beatles. We were just doing what we liked and it molded into this weird fucking thing that is the Dirty Heads and we always wanted to stay original. For us we don’t want to sound like anybody else.
It’s a blessing and a curse because people don’t know where to put us. Radio, the industry, and bookers don’t know where to put us. That’s fine, it’s a fucking good thing because if not you’re just stuck in one area and I think it’s cool.
If you could record a song with anyone, dead or alive who would it be and why?
Duddy: Willy Nelson, I think a Nelson and Dirty Heads track would just be awesome.
Jared: We have a list (of artists) and you just have to reach out. I want to get Anderson .Paak on a song, I’d like to write a song with Run The Jewels, I’d love to write a song with Eddie Vedder. We like getting people in the studio and say ‘You change our shit. Here’s what we would do, what about you?’
You’re taking some time off now, but there’s a few fests lined up as well, what’s on the agenda?
Jared: After the fall tour we plan to start recording the new album and we have no timeline. We want to take our time with this one after knocking out five albums in five years. We may take two years.
Does the band write new music while on the road?
Jared: I don’t, I used to lie in interviews and say ‘Yeah I’m always writing and yadda yadda.’ I feel like we’re so in music mode, and concerned about the set and my voice and that’s all I care about. We write all the time at home all day whether I’m with Duddy or not, there’s ideas on my phone and laptop. Everyone is constantly writing but as soon as I go (on the road) its tour mode.
Hailing from Hawaii’s 808, Micah Pueschel is the lead singer and guitarist for Iration. The band, which now calls Santa Barbara home, are no strangers to SoCal performances. Pueschel sat down with me before wrapping up the tour to discuss his groups new record, life on the road now versus the early years and a few surprising projects in the pipeline.
OC Weekly (Michael Silver): The band’s new album and sixth overall came out in May. What’s it been like playing these tracks for the crowds and who came up with the self-titled concept?
Micah Pueschel: It’s been great; the response has been awesome. Everywhere we go people make a point to come up and say how much they’re enjoying the album. It probably hasn’t happened to us since Time Bomb, and that’s nothing against our other records, but this one really struck a chord with people.
Before we even wrote songs together, someone threw out the idea of making this one self-titled. After two years essentially we had enough material where we wanted upwards of 20 songs, and cut it back to 12. We ended up having 17 and we didn’t want to cut any because they were all strong. It’s a diverse sound from start to finish that we said ‘This makes sense to be a self-titled record.’
Speaking with Pepper a few weeks back when they played here with Slightly Stoopid. Yesod mentioned putting out your major label debut on Law Records. Have you guys always been friends? Tell me about the connection.
We’re from the big island of Hawaii, same as the guys from Pepper and knew them growing up. One of the groups we looked up to, really being the first band moving from Hawaii to the mainland and being successful. They took us out on our first national tour and showed us the ropes of how to act on tour and operate. When it came for Time Bomb to get distribution it made sense being they had Law Records. We owe them big as part of that success.
Journalist and so-called music experts love to put labels on bands and genres. What are your thoughts on “sunshine reggae?” Is that a made up term or does it serve its purpose? To me music is music, though I’m curious how the band perceives it.
Somebody made that up, I think it was put on our Wikipedia page. It’s not what we look at or classify ourselves. When people ask us we usually say reggae rock, but at this point were all over the map. Essentially we’re an alternative rock band. We have a reggae past but the band is different now. We’ve changed members, have a different sound, and always try to evolve with every record.
You guys are road warriors and the fans love it. Even though this tour is ending, you already have dates for fall set up with Common Kings. What are your plans for the rest of summer?
We have a show every weekend this year, we’re pushing a new record so it’s important for us to hammer it out and spread it as much as we can. We have more musicians to operate with horns as a piece of the puzzle. It’s a totally new live sound and bigger show, and we need to get that in front of the people.
I remember seeing you guys for the first time at the Roxy on Sunset when the first record came out. The intimate show was special and made me a fan. Do you like playing smaller gigs at times or prefer the larger outdoor set ups?
It was fun, back then it was very new and innocent. When you get on stage it was like ‘I can’t believe I’m up here playing these songs,’ and it still happens sometimes but now the crowds have become much bigger. We’re on a tour bus now, which makes it easier, you just adapt. We were in our 20’s sleeping in the van or staying in an Econo Lodge with no shampoo. As we grow up and get older, we adapt to the life and I’m thankful we get to play in front of these crowds and support our families doing this for a living.
What’s on your Spotify playlist right now? Who do you enjoy listening to on the tour bus?
I’m a big Arctic Monkey’s fan, a lot of people didn’t like the new album but I did. The new Drake album just came out; we were listening to that last night. Post Malone too, it’s like pump up music on the bus to get the blood flowing.
Is there a dream collaboration out there, any bands or artists you would love to record a track with?
A cool one of course would be with the Dirty Heads guys, and there’s stuff in the chamber with Eric from Rebelution. Post Malone too! I would love that. There’s a ton of people out there. We’re trying to do some remixes with DJ’s like Marshmello, we’ll see. We open ourselves to working with a lot of different people.
Michael Silver is a journalist and photographer based in Southern California. He covers music, sports, technology, and streetwear. Tips & pitches: email@example.com