There are so many bands out there doing so many interesting things, it's hard to know where to turn. That's why we've created Crash Course, a recurring feature offering a concise introduction to a band or artist that we think slays, covering their origins, process and vision. Our latest subject is Dirty Honey, an Los Angeles–based blues-rock band that put a modern spin on the anthemic bluster of their heroes: bands like Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses and Pearl Jam. Last year, Dirty Honey self-released their debut album, which included the hit "When I'm Gone." It topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart, making them the first unsigned band to ever do so. We caught up with singer Marc LaBelle to find out how they've pulled off such success without label backing, and also discussed more important topics — such as his love of tequila, hats and motorcycles.
WHO IS DIRTY HONEY? CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY ON HOW YOU CAME TOGETHER?
MARC LaBELLE I met guitarist John Notto at a gig in Santa Monica, California, when he sat in with a cover band I was singing for. John introduced me to bassist Justin Smolian who in turn introduced us to drummer Corey Coverstone. The band Dirty Honey officially was formed when Corey joined the group.
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR BAND'S MISSION STATEMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
New-fashioned rock & roll from the soul. We don't want to bring anything back — we just want to make music that's sexy and hard and rocking all at the same time. We want the band to grow to a place where Dirty Honey is just its own identity, like all of our predecessors.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO HARD ROCK?
I wouldn't necessarily categorize us into hard rock. That's more like Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc., in my opinion. I'd say we're more blues/rock-based and that certainly came from influences from all our parents and older siblings.
BEING IN A BAND, WHAT'S THE HARDEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE COME ACROSS SO FAR, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
Honestly, the biggest challenge was convincing the other band members to simply play what feels good. Stop trying to re-invent the wheel. If you do what feels good and right, that can't be wrong. We were diving a little too deep down the songwriting rabbit hole and it wasn't authentic to any of our styles.
WHAT'S YOUR PRE-SHOW RITUAL? BEFORE YOU TAKE THE STAGE, WHAT DO YOU AND YOUR BANDMATES DO?
Honestly, we usually do a few shots of tequila right before we hit the stage.
WHAT'S THE CRAZIEST THING THAT'S EVER HAPPENED AT ONE OF YOUR SHOWS?
Recently, John was taking a guitar solo and somehow he started crowd surfing while taking the solo. It was fucking awesome.
WHAT'S THE BEST PART OF BEING ON TOUR, AND WHAT'S THE WORST PART OF BEING ON TOUR?
You're blasting through all these cool cities and seeing the best part of everywhere you visit. Always eating great food, getting recommendations, and enjoying the time you spend there. There's plenty of people you get to meet up with on the road, friends who have moved to Seattle or wherever, and it's nice to catch up with a familiar face in a random city. The worst part is being away from home, your family, your friends. It can be hard sometimes, but at the end of the day when you step onstage, that's what it's all about.
WHAT'S THE WEIRDEST PLACE YOU EVER SLEPT ON TOUR?
The back of the van.
WHAT'S YOUR ESSENTIAL ITEMS THAT YOU HAVE TO BRING WITH YOU WHILE ON TOUR?
Aside from the obvious toiletries, hats and coats. I love them both — a lot.
DO YOU HAVE HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF MUSIC?
I play a lot of hockey and love riding motorcycles. As soon as this tour ends, my dad and I are taking a trip up the coast to the California Redwoods to do some riding. It'll be a nice escape.
WHAT BAND OR MUSICAL ARTISTS ARE YOU A BIGGEST FAN OF? PROVE YOUR FANDOM.
I love Aerosmith, the Black Crowes, Guns N' Roses, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Audioslave, Pearl Jam — I love them all. Anyone who rocks. I've definitely seen Aerosmith the most. Maybe 20 to 25 times by now.
IF YOU COULD ONLY PLAY ONE OF YOUR SONGS FOR SOMEONE TO INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR BAND, WHAT SONG WOULD IT BE?
I'd play "Rolling 7s." Great melodies, great chorus, great riffs, soulful, sexy rock & roll. That's what we're all about.