The fall chill is in full effect for the parts of the United States that actually experience seasons, but for anybody wanting to hang onto the spirit of beach weather, the Dirty Heads have a pretty excellent balm. It’s called “My Sweet Summer,” and it has been a steady performer on the rock charts since the album it came from, Sound of Change, dropped in July.
“We knew coming out in the summer time it would work, and it turns out it works when it’s cold too,” explains frontman Jared “Dirty J” Watson. “It’s got legs.” According to Watson, the song was initially something he was going to give away. “I heard Kenny Chesney liked our music, so I wrote the hook and was going to send it to him just to see if he’d like it,” he says. “But [producer] Niles [Hollowell-Dhar] said, ‘This is a hit, you’ve got to release this first.’ We ended up finishing it in about a day.”
The song is an excellent bridge track for the Dirty Heads, who made their bones as a reggae-blessed beach-ska hybrid since their inception. “My Sweet Summer” has a lot of that vibe to it, but it also hints at what’s on the rest of Sound of Change, which is much more heavily invested in bringing in hip-hop elements.
“We understand who we are, and we understand we’re not rappers. We don’t look at ourselves that way,” says Watson. “We have hip-hop elements, but we know where we stand and we know what’s original and what’s going to be corny and fake and cheesy. The hip-hop world is a vicious place, and they see through that s—. In the hip-hop world, if it’s not genuine, they know.”
So the Dirty Heads hooked up with rap production veterans Supa Dups and Niles (a member of the Cataracs squad) and upped the ante on their beat science. The result is a spry, invigorating b-boy bouillabaisse with drop-ins from vets like B-Real and Tech N9ne. “Growing up, the first rap I was obsessed with was Beastie Boys. Ad-Rock was just amazing,” Watson says. “Then I got into Wu-Tang and Tribe and De La Soul and Guru and DJ Premier. He’s one of my favorite producers. I love that there’s a resurgence with those New York ‘90s beats, like Joey Badass and Action Bronson and some of the A$AP Mob stuff. I was in a slump with hip-hop for a while. I wasn’t really into a lot of what was going on, but I love that there are new lyricists out there just killing it.”
The band are now on the road on the strength of the success of “My Sweet Summer” and preparing their next single “Sound of Change.” Hopefully their experience with the video for that song goes more smoothly than it did for their first single. “We had two videos for ‘My Sweet Summer,'” explains Watson. “I had this idea where this skeleton was stranded on this deserted island, and there’s a plane crash, and a girl washes up on the island. I told this to a director, and I told him I don’t want a Muppet video, and I don’t want it to be cheesy. But he sold me on a funny and cheesy thing. So we gave him all this money and he gives us back this video that is the exact opposite of what I wanted. I kind of felt conned, because it was not what I saw in my head. The video wasn’t as good as the quality of the music.”
“We had two days until we had to turn the video in to the label, and I was like, ‘What do I do? I don’t want this to go out, but we have to turn in something,'” Watson continues. “So we got a hot chick, shot the whole thing at my house in a day, and the next day edited it non-stop. It’s one of my favorite videos, and we did it in 41 hours from start to finish. Sometimes you just can’t leave things in other people’s hands. I’m not saying it’s a terrible video, but it’s not mine, and it has to be up to par with what I think. It wasn’t emotionally grabbing me. So I wanted to do something really classic and cool and something we can kind of relate to. I think when you’re pushed, there’s no room for things to suck.”
The Dirty Heads have expanded their live sound and, according to Watson, are currently playing their best shows on the road. The frontman’s priorities on tour have also shifted: In an attempt to go sober, he now values significantly different elements of the band’s rider. Instead of the venue-provided alcohol, he now swears by a different freebie. “Baby wipes are essential,” he says. “Not only can you use them to wipe your butt in terrible port-a-potties, but you can also wipe yourself down when there’s no shower at the venue.”
The band will be taking fake showers on the road for the next two weeks before heading off to Europe.
The Dirty Heads Tour
Nov. 5 – New York, NY (Best Buy Theater)
Nov. 7 – Norfolk, VA (The NorVa)
Nov. 8 – Richmond, VA (The National)
Nov. 9 – Washington, DC (9:30 Club)
Nov. 11 – Raleigh, NC (Lincoln Theatre)
Nov. 12 – Asheville, NC (The Orange Peel)
Nov. 13 – Atlanta, GA (Variety Playhouse)
Nov. 14 – Jacksonville, FL (Mavericks at The Landing)
Nov. 16 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL (Culture Room)