On the web || The Dirty Heads
Takes the stage: 4:45 pm
The first time I listen to Cabin by the Sea,” the new album from The Dirty Heads, it’s 40 degrees outside and a cold, bitter rain is lashing against my window. Inside, it sounds like summer.
“That’s exactly what we wanted,” says Heads front man Jared “Dirty J” Watson. “It starts with the title. No matter where you are or what’s going on, when you hear this record, we want to transport you to this place, this ‘Cabin by the Sea.’”
For the SoCal rock/reggae/hip‐hop band, Cabin represents more than just good vibes. It’s the culmination of years of hard work and endless touring, and a chance to refine and improve on their breakthrough, 2008’s “Any Port in the Storm.”
That’s not an easy act to follow – their debut album featured one of the decade’s biggest rock singles, “Lay Me Down” (which spent eleven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, a record for an independent release and more than any single that year by anyone, including The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and 30 Seconds to Mars) and a shout‐out in Rolling Stone as one of year’s best new bands.
But the Heads knew better things lay ahead. “Last time was our first time in the studio, working with a producer,” says Watson. “This time out, we nailed it. We trimmed the fat and got the sound we were always going for.” Cabin by the Sea was co‐produced by Mario C and Lewis Richards ‐ splitting time between Sonic Ranch Studios in Texas and 17th Street Recording Studios in Costa Mesa, CA.
Maintaining the diversity from their first album, Cabin ranges from sunny acoustic pop (the title track) to hip‐hop with mariachi horns (“Disguise”) and feel‐good reggae (“Day by Day,” “Your Love”). The album’s defining trait? An insistence on positivity and good vibes, a philosophy summed up nicely by the single, “Spread Too Thin.”
“It’s about having too much going on, work or whatever is stressing you out,” says guitarist Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell. “It’s about needing a breather in life.” (The album’s one outlier, “Smoke Rings,” is a punk/hip‐hop fueled rager. “We’ve matured, but we still have that side of us,” says Bushnell.
The band formed in 1996, when school friends Watson and Bushnell started their musical career almost on accident. “It was hilarious: I was in a punk band, but Jared had no musical inclination,” says the guitarist. “Then one day he started rapping over these cheesy hip‐hop songs I’d make with Casio beats, and I’m like, wow, you’re really good!” The group, later rounded out by percussionist Jon Olazabal, drummer Matt Ochoa and bassist David Foral, eventually outgrew the funny rap vibe and developed a local following as an acoustic hip‐hop group.
Surprisingly, the Heads grew to be very successful on a small label with little to no resources, an indication of their organic momentum and appeal. The Dirty Heads will spend the rest of the year on a number of tours.