Music thrives on freedom. Without boundaries or blueprints, songs not only come to life, but last for a very long time to come.
Dirty Heads’ 2017 sixth full-length offering, SWIM TEAM [Five Seven Music], finds the group at its most free. The Orange County, CA quintet—Jared “Dirty J” Watson [co-lead vocals], Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell [co-lead vocals, guitar], Jon Olazabal [percussion], Matt Ochoa [drums], and David Foral [bass]—traffic between alternative, hip-hop, reggae, and rock with the same spirit and spark that’s powered them since the beginning.
As a result, the hooks naturally became bigger, the experimentation got bolder, and the smoke blazed brighter…
“We’ve put in so much hard work over the years that we have the freedom to do whatever we want now,” affirms Jared. “Making the new record, I re-fell in love with everything about being in this band: writing music, playing shows, having fun, and where we’re at. We spent every day not only working on songs but laughing our asses off. What other people said didn’t matter. The rules of being a proper songwriter and all of that bullshit didn’t matter. If something felt good, we left it in there. It was so cool to get back to that feeling. Creating music was completely free. It was just freaking fun!”
For the better part of 15 years, Dirty Heads have quietly worked towards this point. In 2008, they emerged with the fan favorite full-length debut, Any Port In A Storm. The signature single “Lay Me Down” achieved an RIAA gold certification and clinched #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart for 11 weeks—a record run for that year. 2014 saw Sound of Change debut at #8 on the Billboard Top 200, garner acclaim from the likes of Esquire, and vault “My Sweet Summer” to the top of Alternative Radio. Most recently, 2016’s self-titled Dirty Heads went Top 15 on the Top 200 and spawned the smash “That’s All I Need,” which racked up over 10.5 million Spotify streams and counting. Noisey summed up the album best as, “Killer.” Simultaneously, they remain one of the world’s most engaging and exhilarating live acts, selling out sheds coast to coast.
During early 2017, the group started writing songs with no expectations or plans and soon found themselves working on what would become SWIM TEAM. That boundless environment immediately fostered inspiration.
“We had some time off, and we were like, ‘We might as well get in the studio and see what happens’,” recalls Duddy. “In doing that, we were able to come up with some really good ideas. We didn’t have any pressure to put out new music. It’s a lot more ambient and simple. We went heavier on the hip-hop, which I love. After the first song, we agreed to just finish a record. We were all inspired.”
In order to capture those moments, Dirty Heads handpicked a team of collaborators—Jonas Jeberg [Demi Lovato, Juicy J, Jason Derulo], “Lay Me Down” partner-in-crime Rome [Enrique Iglesias] of Sublime with Rome, Blueprint [Jay-Z, Kanye West, Timbaland, Eminem, Nas, Prodigy], Oren Yoel [Miley Cyrus, Kanye West], HEAVY [Andrew McMahon], and The Score—and recorded between Los Angeles and Orange County.
“On the last album, it was like a mad speed dating rush with a bunch of producers to see who worked best,” says Jared. “We had never done that before, and it was cool. It was a different vibe, studio, and guy every day. There are only a few producers on SWIM TEAM. The only new guys were HEAVY, and we hit it off immediately. We were molding and mutating what Dirty Heads are but with something new. We wanted to create songs we hadn’t heard before.”
That brings us to the first single “Vacation.” Produced by Jeberg, “Vacation” sways from a bright sun-soaked piano and booming horns into an unshakable and hashtaggable chant, “Hey, I’m on vacation every single day cuz I love my occupation. Hey, I’m on vacation, if you don’t like your life then you should go and change it.”
“We spent eight years in a van, worked hard, and now we’re here,” says Duddy. “It’s almost like a vacation now.”
“I want ‘Vacation’ to speak to people out there who have paid their dues and love their jobs,” adds Jared. “For those who don’t enjoy what they do every day, it sends a message that, ‘It’s not too late to do something else.’ If you’re not happy, life is way too freaking short to hang around and do things you don’t love. We’re blessed to do something we’re passionate about. We hope you feel the same!”
Working with HEAVY, the emotional “Celebrate” volleys from vulnerable verses into confessional raps and a heart-wrenching refrain about being away from home. It’s a classic pop ballad Dirty Heads-style with the power to resonate amongst listeners everywhere.
“It strikes a chord for those of us who travel a lot and leave friends and families at home,” explains Duddy. “We miss so much on the road. We’re humans. We have wives. We have kids. We’re happy to do what we love, but at the same time we miss our loved ones.”
Then there’s “High Tea,” which tows the line between 1940s-inspired crooning and grimy East Coast rhyme gymnastics like The Ink Spots guesting on Paul’s Boutique.
“That’s my favorite song we’ve ever written,” beams Jared. “The melody was super catchy, and there’s an old school guitar part. We juxtapose those mellow, airy, and ethereal elements with hard-hitting hip-hop. We were drinking these weed kombuchas at the time,” he laughs.
In the end, SWIM TEAM represents Dirty Heads at their most dynamic, diverse, and definitive.
“When you hear it, I just want you to walk away thinking, ‘Damn, that sounds like Dirty Heads’,” concludes Duddy.
Jared leaves off, “I want you to feel the same way I did making it. Join this weird, odd, and wonderful secret society we’ve created over the past fifteen years. You’re part of it now. Welcome to the team.”