If you have yet to submerge yourself into the sheer sweetness that is Los Angeles-bred rock n roll band Dirty Honey, trust us when we tell you that you are missing out — big time. Far too many current music listeners are convinced that the genre of rock n roll has died. Thankfully, that is very much untrue. With raw and authentic rock n roll bands like Dirty Honey creating such a buzz in the current music scene, that overgeneralization is constantly being proven wrong. Rock n roll never died — it simply needed some heavy pollination, and this raucous four-piece is more than happy to help.
Dovetail caught up with frontman Marc LaBelle prior to their packed-house show on Feb. 10 at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit. The past year for this unsigned band has been nothing short of an anomaly. Being the first band without a record label behind them to hit number one on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Radio chart, it’s no surprise that Dirty Honey brought a kick ass night to Rock City.
Reflecting back on the tough days of you being homeless, living out of your car in L.A. and then now finding out your first single, “When I’m Gone” hit number one on Mainstream Rock Radio, what did a moment like that mean to you?
LaBelle: Well obviously it’s vindicating, you know? But it’s a pretty common story, unfortunately. A couple of my best friends are successful [now], but experienced that exact same journey, so [of course] you hope that winds up being the case. It’s funny — I play hockey, and all the boys that knew I was living in my car would call me “number one” all of the time… So yeah, from [sleeping in] the Mini [Cooper] to number one. It’s pretty cool, but I haven’t put much thought into that part yet.
Haven’t reflected on that particular subject?
LaBelle: Not much time for reflection yet, you know? I think that at some point, during a month off or something, we’ll look [back] on what we’ve accomplished.
Let’s touch on the recording a little bit. For vocals, some people like to be in open spaces with the rest of the band around them. Is that your preference? Or are you more of an isolation booth kind of guy?
LaBelle: We do it all together. I’ll sing while [the band] is laying bass, drums or guitar. [My vocals] kind of let John, [our guitarist], know when to dig in. If I’m singing over a verse, it gives just the right [effect] to [maybe] pull back on the guitar. Then, I’ll go in and do my actual take alone in the same spot [with] no isolation booth, [and] clear everybody out. The room we recorded [the EP] in was about the same size as a [small] green room. It’s still done with the same philosophy though — minimal takes. Three takes was probably the most that we did on any [track]. We just try to keep it raw and organic, and not overthink it. [The music] gets really stale if you try to perfect it too much.
What are your thoughts on double tracking vocals?
LaBelle: Doubling — that’s not really my style. [I prefer] a little more 80s, where [artists] tried to stay away from that, [but] a good harmony is always nice.
Switching gears, let’s talk merchandise. I know you hold that very dear, the quality is important to you.
LaBelle: I had to yell at the merch company before we went [out] on tour.
Explain why [Dirty Honey’s] merchandise means so much to you, personally.
LaBelle: Well, we’re an unsigned band, so you [have] [to] make your money in certain ways [in] [order] to keep going. Certainly the goal is to be successful, obviously. Money [is] not everything, but when you don’t have the support of a label it [becomes] a lot more important that you A: Don’t waste money, and B: That you do things the right way. The [fans] are spending their hard earned cash. I don’t take that for granted. I wanted to make the merch top notch [because] we’ve all bought piece-of-shit t-shirts before that don’t last very long. It’s an important part when you’re unsigned and you don’t have label people trying to maximize profits. [For example], before we went on tour, the merch company tried to sneak a lower quality t-shirt past us and I was like “Ah, caught this. We talked about this. This is not how we roll.” They [sent] [us] a document of what they [were] ordering and it was not what we use. I could see that they were [just] trying to increase their margin. It kind of pissed me off, but I caught it.
That’s rare — to have someone care that much.
LaBelle: You know what? If Mick Jagger can do it, man, I’ll do it. I’ll do it for us.
This Rolling 7s tour is your first headlining tour, and you’re already selling out shows across the country. What goes through your mind when you’re on stage and you already have the entire crowd singing your songs?
LaBelle: There’s two really great parts to all of this [success] and that is definitely one of them. I [had] this voice memo on my phone of “Heartbreaker,” and I sent it to Justin, [our bassist]. He said “That’s pretty good,” but he wanted to [see] if I could really sing it. I had to go out of my apartment [at] two in the morning, walk across the street, and [sing] it full [tilt] for him outside of [a] grocery store. Fast forward to [about] a year later and a sold out crowd [is] singing it. It’s awesome. The first time that happened was in Denver, [which] [was] our first sold out show. I [backed] away from the microphone and a roar of people were singing “Heartbreaker.” I will never forget that — ever. The other great thing [about our success] is when you see a little kid playing guitar or singing your song and [they] [send] you the video. They [really] are listening, [and] that’s what you want for sure.
What’s your favorite part of this Rolling 7s tour so far?
LaBelle: Just playing for [our] own fans is awesome. We say all time that it’s better than opening for pretty much anybody. You know, [with] an opening gig for Guns n Roses or [whoever], people at the end of the day are there to see Guns n Roses. I’d rather play for 20,000 Dirty Honey fans, [a crowd] that doesn’t necessarily exist yet. [Our fans] are scattered, [but] playing for 500, a thousand, or whatever [amount] of Dirty Honey fans is a high like nothing else. They know your songs, they know who you are — which is even crazier. It’s cool. It’s why we’re here.
Looking ahead at the rest of 2020, any particular date or festival you have circled on the calendar that you’re especially looking forward to? What have you got lined up for us fans this year?
LaBelle: There are a couple dates that I’m looking forward to. Tonight, [Detroit], is always a big one. Detroit knows how to rock [and] I’ve been excited for this show for a long time. Going home [to L.A.] at the end of the tour [at] the El Rey Theatre, that’s gonna be unbelievable. I remember when I first moved to L.A., that was the first place I [ever] saw a show at. It’s gonna be cool, it’s gonna be emotional. My dad is coming out for that one.
Then, we’re going to Europe for the first time this year. Doing Australia, Japan — all [of] that [is] going to be [the] first time for us. I spoke to Slash the other day, and he was like “You guys haven’t been to Europe yet? Dude, they’re gonna fuckin’ freak out when they see you!” I’ve been dealing with all of the online merch shipments up until this tour started, and I’ve sent a ton of [it] to the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy… [With] Italy, every day a couple [of] things were [being shipped] there and I was like “How do you even know about us?” So, going over there is going to be exciting. I love Italy too, so I’m pretty pumped. Hopefully we’ll sell even more t-shirts there and keep spreadin’ the honey around [laughs].