Mike Savoia

Dirty Honey Let the Music Stand on Its Own

For an independent rock band in 2021, Dirty Honey has more going for them than anyone will ever understand… but it’s fitting for such a dedicated and dynamic group.

At the start of most live shows, the lights dim, but if it’s an authentic rock and roll event, the stage quickly lights back up with the ferocious tenacity that only few bands have truly mastered. The swell of instrumentation battles with the roaring, cheering, and clapping of fans – often spanning generations. There are crowds rushing the stage, thundering down toward the barricade in hope of being within spitting distance (usually not literally) of those preparing to tear the roof off the venue (again, usually not literally). Audience lights, which in 2021 range from iPhone flashlights to Bic lighters, shoot into the hazy, adrenaline filled air. All of these sights and sounds battle for dominance, but never seems to beat out the thrill and elation that surges when the first cymbal crashes or initial chord rings out.

Dirty Honey are the ultimate test of this concert theory, as they ferociously catapult nothing but passion, skill, and zeal at their fans the very minute they hit a stage of truly any size. Hailing from the dazzling metropolis of talent that is Los Angeles, Dirty Honey are a rock and roll foursome whose fresh approach to the dirtiest era of music has made them a surefire staple in the industry.

Currently supporting The Black Crowes on tour, the band are quickly rising to extreme heights. Their sound is unique, but familiar, rough, but inclusive, and simply gratifying to listen to at the end of the day. While chatting with vocalist Marc LaBelle and drummer Corey Coverstone, it’s easy to see just how driven and dynamic they not only are, but strive to be as musicians living out their dream and lifelong fans of gritty, bluesy, and classic rock and roll. (Hitting the road with icons The Black Crowes, as well as previously opening up for the likes of The Who and Guns ‘N Roses, add to the full circle moments that the Dirty Honey career is filled with.)

I’d love to start off by asking the two of you what touring has been like thus far with The Black Crowes. You’re getting close to the midway mark of these summer dates, so I was wondering if there were any monumental, memory-making moments thus far worth noting?

Marc LaBelle: I mean, obviously interacting with anybody from the band backstage has been monumental for me, personally. Yeah, though, I think it started off really optimistic. When we first started things were looking better, but then it took a rapid turn with COVID and everything getting to be a little more serious again. We’re doing great safely so far, so that’s good.

It must be kind of surreal to be out in the world during this time, whether it be a month ago or now, do you feel any sort of pressure or pride to be one of these first bands kind of embarking on anything like this?

Corey: It’s definitely cool, but also for me a little nerve-wracking and scary, like obviously we want to be out doing stuff and working, but there’s this kind of constant threat limiting us. We’re wondering if our show is going to be canceled as we hear about other shows being canceled right now. I have some other friends that are in touring bands right now and their plans are being canceled through the end of the year, so it’s exciting for us to be out there, but it’s a little nerve wracking, I suppose.

Marc: There’s that, but at the same time, I definitely felt an immense sense of pride when we went out on our own headlining tour earlier this year and just were a really early flag of what tour life could be again. Doing live shows and helping the concert industry, it brought back some sort of barometer onto people’s temperature about going back to live shows, you know?

Photo by Daniel Prakopcyk

Oh, absolutely. Speaking of returning to live shows, trying to bring that live music mindset back, and sharing the stage with The Black Crowes, how did signing on as their main support come about? What was your reaction to such an exhilarating opportunity?

Marc: I’m definitely the biggest Black Crowes fan in the band. We’d kind of known about this tour with them for a little bit of time. We knew about their reunion, I think, before anybody just because we share the same manager with them. We’d be on tour in our van with the manager, doing other shows, and he’d be having business calls about this reunion that was going to be happening and we were all excited about it. Yeah, he set it up and presented us to the band as like an option to be a support act and they were all about it. Chris [Robinson] and Rich [Robinson] were both like, “We want to showcase a new younger band,” because bands like Aerosmith and Robert Plant and ZZ Top gave them that opportunity early on in their career. They’re paying it forward with us, which is amazing.

It is amazing, especially because something we’ve always loved about you is this unbridled need and evident passion for creating something new. While there are evident influences from a variety of the rock subgenres, Dirty Honey songs still predominantly sound like nobody but Dirty Honey. For the two of you, how important is that originality and authenticity?

Marc: You know, anytime you put like guitar, bass, drums, and vocals down as your foundation for a song, even if it’s bluesy or jazzy, it’s going to be some kind of rock and roll. There’s kind of a limit on how original you can get with it, but I think anytime you have four very unique personalities playing those instruments, it’s going to sound unique and that’s what we have. We all grew up on rock and roll, specifically, and that’s what we love. We are just searching for authenticity in that music and the attitude and the energy of the music we make, rather than like trying to pull from specific influences. Obviously you don’t want to be too derivative, but it’s nearly impossible not to be if you’re playing that sort of style with those lot of instruments. We check ourselves here and there and make sure we’re not being too similar to any one thing and staying true to our energy.

I like that you said that there are four different people with four different approaches to this music. For some, that can kind of blend seamlessly, but for others… not so much. For Dirty Honey, you’ve been pretty successful with that while still being in the mainstream market. Do you think that having these four different personalities has made it possible for you to advance as this kind of independent band in the world and especially in the rock genre?

Marc: Honestly, I really just think it’s the strength of the music. It doesn’t matter if people try and put weight on your social media following or whatever, because there are a million x-factors, but ultimately it just comes down to the music. You either have it there or you don’t. Then whether or not you can reproduce it live is the obvious other big variable in rock.

I’ve been honored to follow you for a while now and something I have noticed is that you have success in two ways, even outside of your stellar live shows. You race up the charts on rock radio, but at the same time rack up streams on platforms like Spotify.  As discussed, you pull from the seventies rock you grew up with, but you also have this really fresh, young fan base that can shape you as a modern rock band. Do you notice that, as well, while continuing to cultivate your following and grow your music?

Marc: Yeah. There is definitely an eclectic mix of fans and our fan base is very diverse, especially when it comes to age. We get sent a lot of covers and stuff on Instagram or wherever of kids like picking up guitars and playing our songs. That’s the coolest thing I think for all of us is, you know, feeling the effects of somebody else getting inspired by your music. That’s a really rewarding thing. We all were that little kid that played alone in their bedroom at some point or another. How cool is that feeling to discover something new and want to learn how to do it? Then for that to be our song? It’s wow, but just to be a part of this new rock scene that’s happening with today’s youth is really inspiring for our future.

I can only imagine that impact on both you and these younger fans. You just mentioned that both of you grew up loving music, so now thinking about the Dirty Honey discography and how far this band has come with dynamic, edgy stylings, which song of yours do you think the childhood version of yourself would be most proud to know you had a hand in creating?

Corey: The first one that comes to mind for me is “California Dreamin'” or “Rolling 7s,” I guess. I remember when we were tracking “California” and hearing that for the first time through like David Lee Roth’s studio monitors, which just happened to be there and were being used. There’s definitely a full circle moment of sorts happening for me hearing that particular song being played back through those speakers.

Marc: I felt like I was a child listening back to “Rolling 7s” the first time we heard it. After recording it, I think we all were like that “Whoa, that’s us?” I literally verbally said to everybody, like, “I can’t believe that’s us. That’s crazy.”

Corey: [Laughs] I remember that! You weren’t a fan of it first, though.

Marc: Yeah, I wasn’t too hot on it. I just wasn’t too hot on the chorus that we were working on. Then we kind of found the magic in the studio and everybody recognized how good it was then pretty immediately.

And the rest is history, right? You know, Marc and Corey, Dirty Honey’s latest LP is made up of eight purely rock and roll, gently blues-tinted tracks. It’s self-titled and worthy of such, but what was the reason behind it being named after the band?

Marc: Honestly, we threw around a bunch of names that just didn’t really seem to make sense with the body of work. Ultimately, as we were coming out of the pandemic and releasing music, I think we wanted to stay away from anything that would make this album reminiscent of a pandemic.

Corey: We were toying around with like kind of a classic idea of just naming the second record the band name and then two. Like “Dirty Honey II.” Everybody seems to not be super into it, and maybe to Marc’s point earlier, that might’ve been a little bit too derivative of an influence of ours like Led Zeppelin II or something. I don’t know.

Marc: Once we came up with the whole cream lips cover idea, we realized that people were going to refer to it as that. We have the black lips album and now we have the white lips album. We’re going to have them known as the white one or the black one or whatever, even the next one could be another color and it would be know and great. Also, kind of to your point, we felt really strongly about the music and kind of wanted it to do the talking. We didn’t want to water it down with any sort of motive within an album title or anything like that, so we just kept it simple.