Dirty Heads Talk 'Swim Team,' Pre-Show Rituals, Favorite Rap Records
Huntington Beach-based pop reggae crossover group Dirty Heads have a new record coming out this week.
Swim Team drops on Friday, Oct. 13, but bass player David Foral assures me that they aren't worried at all about bad luck. The new record's lead singles, "Vacation" and "Celebrate," have a distinctly positive vibe, the same vibe lead vocalist Jared Watson has in a promo video for Swim Team the band shared to their YouTube channel where he makes strong points about staying positive and staying focused on all the good things in life. .
Watson and Foral paid a visit to the Recording Academy's Santa Monica headquarters to reveal a bit of the backstory behind their forthcoming album, as well as share some insight into the formative artists they followed while growing up that set the tone for the type of sounds they would work to incorporate into their music.
Dirty Heads are currently touring the U.S. and Canada, pre-orders for Swim Team are available now.
We noticed in your promo video for "Vacation," you spoke about how the song is a little bit of a meditation on being healthy and happy. And that life's too short to waste on being unhappy. Since then, you've put out another single called "Celebrate", so is it safe to say that type of vibe, happiness and celebration, is going to be a big part of the theme for Swim Team?
Jared Watson: Yeah, I think celebrating and being happy and living your life the way that you think that you should live it is definitely an underlying thing in this album. Celebration and happiness are underlying themes of who we are, and what we want our music to be.
You realize after you've been doing this for 15 years that you can affect people with your music, and you can affect them in a positive way. I think since day one we've been trying to make feel-good music, and just fun music. We went in with no expectations, and just got back to having fun. Like going in, who's got ideas, does anybody? Nope, okay, start from scratch. It was really fun, and it reminded me of the first album that we did.
Swim Team drops on Friday the 13th. Are you guys superstitious at all?
David Foral: I was born on the 13th. It's my lucky number. (laughs)
So, we're not ... Well, yes I am. I have a little OCD. (looking at Watson) I feel like you have a little OCD when it comes to pre-show rituals. We have a ritual where our keyboard player writes a lore, or a little free style. We either get some weird renaissance guy, like you know, like a Lord of the Rings character.
Watson: Like an Irish Lord of the Rings toast that he had written the night before, or the day of. Or we get his alter ego, which is this rapper, this gangster rapper, and we get something like that. He usually writes a cheers for us, Dave pours them, and then... I have handshakes for almost every different member of the crew. And if one of them doesn't feel right, we gotta do it over until they all feel right, and then I can feel normal getting on stage.
Foral: Yeah, and not every show is the same. Sometimes we're at a festival where we gotta jump in a golf cart, and go across, and we're always looking, "Where's the bottom, where's Shawn, where ..." You know we're trying to get everyone together at the last minute just trying to make it work, and we usually make it work.
Watson: It's not the end of the world if it doesn't happen but ...
Foral: It's just something doesn't sit right.
Watson: As soon as you step on stage it goes away.
You are going on tour soon with The Unlikely Candidates. I see you worked with them on "Celebrate." How did that collaboration come about?
We were in with Heavy, which is the producers Jordan [Miller] and Jason [Bell], and we clicked really, really well with those guys. We have a lot of fun. We get along, we're friends. Like we're friends outside of writing music, and the industry.
Watson: They get what we're doing.
Foral: Yeah, they get what we're doing. So there's a lot of joking, there's a lot of laughing just like what it was when we started. There wasn't a lot of pressure; we were just kids in a room writing music having fun. Which, I think you can easily lose sight of that and get off that track. So when we met Jason and Jordan, it clicked really well. It's like speed dating, or just meeting someone on a date for the first time. You don't know how it's going to go.
We have so many other goals, it was just being gone and the sacrifice, and the birthdays, and I've watched Duddy and his two kids. I've watched him miss birthdays. We miss vacations, we miss ... Anything that you can think of, you know?
Foral: Weddings, and all these special moments that you could be there for your friends and families, and loved ones. We're out on the road doing these things, but we're not out on the road for ourselves and, "Oh, boohoo." We're very, very blessed. It's bigger than us. If something goes really bad, you know, we would go home and cancel shows, but for the most part, you know, there's 10,000 kids coming to a show. They might work jobs that they hate, and they might have saved up forever.
You can't let those kids down, and we don't want to. We're very passionate about what we do. And I think when you write something that's real, and every word that you're writing down is something that is completely from the heart. I think people can gravitate towards that, and they're going to feel it through the music.
Watson: It's powerful.
Foral: It's powerful. Yeah. Powerful for us. You know, so when something hits us like, that hard, we had to do it.
You've always worked hip-hop influences into your sound, especially with the upcoming record as you just mentioned. What would be some of your most formative rap or hip-hop records you listened to while you were coming up?
Watson: I think for me it would be Low End Theory from A Tribe Called Quest, and maybe Ready to Die.
Foral: Bone. Bizarre Ride to the Far Side. Beastie Boys License to Ill. Gang Starr, Black Star, Jeru the Damaja – I was an East Coast kid, and still kind of am. I know I'm from the West Coast, but East Coast hip-hop really – You know, 36 Chambers, Wu Tang, that was a really big one. Obviously De la Sol. We could go on and on. As an MC, and a lyricist, like AD Rock, and I don't know which member of Pharcyde, but they all had this higher register. And my voice just naturally goes to a higher register. So I gravitated towards MC's with higher register.
I remember wanting to kind of be like the AD Rock of the Dirty Heads when we started. I wanna be the higher register cause Duddy had a lower register. And I gotta say, Run the Jewels, like just recently… I really love ASAP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, there was the TDE Camp. There's a lot of good stuff coming out, Joey Badass, that was like, "Alright cool." There's still guys out there that I get, that I like.
But, not a lot of it, I really wasn't listening to that much hip hop, and then Run the Jewels 2 came out, I had just not heard of Run the Jewels 1, and I had been a big fan of El-P and Company Flow for a long time. That album blew my d*** off. I was like, "You wrote this album for me." It was everything that I want in hip-hop. Everything that I like about hip-hop was in that album. So that really got me really excited.
Earlier on, you got kind of thrown in with a lot of other bands from the West Coast. Bands like Slightly Stoopid, Pepper, The Expendables; you were lumped in that kind of similar scene. What do you think about that categorization, and how do you think that scene has changed or evolved in the last decade or so?
Foral: Growth, I think, is the main thing.
Watson: Yeah, steady growth.
Foral: I really think it started with Sublime, No Doubt, and [Slightly] Stoopid. After Bradley [Nowell] died, there was kind of this lull. But Slightly Stoopid kept it going, and then bands like Pepper and, I guess us. Which is weird to say, you know? We all started playing shows together and all these little festivals that were, you know, 1,000 people have turned into festivals with 20,000 people.
I think just the growth of the scene is really cool. I think our generation really needed something where it wasn't…just something more positive, something where you could go to a show and not feel judged, or just be who you are, just have a good time. I think our generation needed that.
Watson: I mean what's cool is you'll see parents and kids at our show. They'll come together, it's not like, "Oh mom drop me off, I don't want to go." It's a bonding experience.
Foral: Yeah, totally. I love it, and we're stoked to be a part of it.