Catching up with Dirty Heads frontman Jared Watson

Catching up with Dirty Heads frontman Jared Watson
Photo cred: Olivia Valdes

Some may view Dirty Heads as a dark horse, but there is absolutely no doubt the Huntington Beach five-piece music ensemble has revolutionized the music industry and created superior music — always remaining grounded and humble. The group has conquered for over 20 years and waved their flag with no apologies. Eight albums later, the band is burning up the charts and continues to surpass all expectations. Their Midnight Control (Deluxe) digital album was released last month on July 14th, breaking records and showing that the band still has it!

Dirty Heads’ momentum continues to soar as their hard work has pays off.

Collaborations with Common Kings, Travis Barker (of blink-182), and so many more have been released while the boys play the biggest tours in the country. Most recently, the 10-track album Midnight Control (originally released in August 2022) has revealed such fresh music, incomparable to anyone else. 

Dirty Heads boys are a phenomenon — true innovators! They blend sounds to create truly illustrative music. The band has pushed through all boundaries and revealed the magic from their infinite passions of the craft. Top Shelf was blessed to interview Jared Watson — founder, frontman, and songwriter of Dirty Heads. I knew this was going to be great chat, but this was unreal!

First, I want to say congrats to the release the deluxe version of ‘Midnight Control’!

  • JW: Yes, thank you.

I’ve already been listening to it — I’m friggin’ obsessed! Let’s talk about your success… From my perspective and logistically speaking, Dirty Heads is one the biggest bands of our time!

  • Yeah, I don’t know… but, I’ll take it! I do feel we are one the most original bands of our generation or [of the] decade, for sure. This little stage of music in the history of the world… I feel like one of the most original. 

You guys already hit RIAA-certified platinum with “Vacation”, with more than 1 million digital downloads since its release! I mean, how does that feel? 

  • It feels great! That song was wild! We knew we had something special… But it’s wild how streaming and social media have changed things. When that song came out, radio said it wasn’t ‘good enough’; there’s these gatekeepers and they pick the songs. What?! There’s a handful of human beings in the United States picking the music to play in the radio! I don’t believe that should be the way it goes.
  • Again, we knew we had something special and our fans loved it. And four years later, social media gets ahold of it and then [streaming] was in the billions — four or eight billion! As a songwriter, I know when things are going to work… I just think they are all good; it’s a gut feeling I get.
  • I also know it can be too simple… it sounds great, but that scares me. As a songwriter, you want things to have meaning. You have this view of yourself, but sometimes, people want things simple. Like if a two-year-old loves it, it makes sense, because it’s basically a lullaby! But at the same time, if you’re putting lyrics with substance behind it, everyone can grab onto it.
  • I was walking my dog when I came up with the verse for “Vacation”; I was trying to write the verse, then our producer heard it and he’s like ‘NO, that’s the hook’! So, that song pretty much catapulted us into our new album. This is our best work, hands down! And it shows. This is the most successful music we have done, because we wrote music that we love. 

I started listening to you through my twin sister; she was playing “Heavy Water” and I was like ‘who is this?!’ You’re my favorite band now.

  • Yeah! Okay, so when you listen to “Vacation”, it is beachy, fun, mellow. But if you do a deep dive into more of our music, there’s a lot more to us. 

I’ve been listening to “Island Glow” on the new album (feat. Monsieur Perine). This track has an amazing Latin twist to it — unreal!

  • I’m proud of that. We set ourselves up to where are fans aren’t going to bummed when our they hear an album with so many different influences in it as we have honed our sound to something that, whether we are doing an acoustic song that’s more reggae or more uptempo, harder in-your-face hip hop song, it all still sounds like us, so not to confuse everyone.
  • Other bands like Linkin Park, Beastie Boys, and Sublime were really taking other genres and bending them to without compromising their sound. I’m good friends with Avenged Sevenfold and their new album Life Is But A Dream, to me, is one of the most brilliant albums of all time. It’s so clever and so cool; they took different inspiration from different places and put them in. The album is wild, but it still sounds like their signature sound and, if you can do that successfully, then you have a masterpiece!

“Rescue Me” has already climbed the charts! Credit to the Chili Peppers, but this rendition is brilliant! Moreover, your reimagined “Life’s Been Good” has surpassed all expectations and blown the music charts to bits!

  • We are heavily influenced by hip hop, so when we look at something we are going to use, we don’t want to cover the song in essence… [we] want to sample the song. That’s how we look at it and it works out really well! Red Hot Chili Peppers and Joe Walsh heard [the new tracks]. They were super stoked, even [Joe’s] daughter loved it! And to get the blessings from both artists was really cool!

So, what’s the secret to your longevity, since you guys have been together for over 20 years?

  • I think it’s like any relationship — you kind of have to talk about things. We planned and we followed through. I think luck has a lot to do with it, too. Me and Duddy and Jon have known each other for so long, since we were kids. We all had the same dream, grew up in the same place, same friends, same culture in Huntington Beach. It was very surf-focused and very relaxed. Growing up surfing or skating, ego didn’t play a big part and, if you had an ego, you would get checked. We all had this mentality of keeping our heads down and being good people. Everyone in the band is good people, so this has really impacted the band positively and leaves the ego out the door.
  • The band feels like family: we are brothers, we get along well and are respectful to each other. Even though our manager has been a big mentor, the people you surround yourself with will definitely affect everything. We want to make positive music that sets the tone and vibe for people to feel better about their lives. Since we are around that so much, this might help us stay together longer, because it’s hard to be an asshole when you’re singing these lyrics that are so positive and manifesting the messages in our songs. 

Absolutely. You mention “manifest destiny” in “Life’s Been Good”. Do you believe you are doing this?

  • I actually do. But when I was younger, maybe not, because when you are younger, you think you know everything! [LOL] What I’ve seen over the past 20 years is true! WE have worked our asses off and made plenty of sacrifices. But also, we are 20 years in and we get together after every show; we all sit down and talk about how we can get better. Even when I’m off and not touring, I’m still thing about the band, it’s kind of exhausting. 

But it’s your passion. You can’t help yourself — it’s who you are, this is your life. It’s relentless love, right?

  • It is. I think success is having the freedom to live your life the way you want it and I’ve found my purpose! Since the COVID experience, I know I will never retire, because I was going fucking crazy!

I also wanted to ask your lyrics. Your music is so illustrative… such a rare thing to experience as a listener.  For example, in the songs “Island Glow” and “El Dorado”, I can envision everything. What inspires such vivid depictions?

  • Wow, I’ve never heard that before! I was going to go to art school before I wanted to be an illustrator and draw comic books; I wanted to do all this stuff. I have never heard someone say we have ‘illustrative music’ — I love it, I love you, thank you!

No, thank you, it’s very inspiring! The passion for music is real and infinite.

  • I want to be able to look back at my life and know I was able to help people and do something good in this world, to leave something on this weird planet floating in space many years later. My favorite part of the job is writing lyrics and music. Creating these little, three-minute worlds is so fucking cool to me!

This was truly my favorite artist interview of my entire life. Jared’s presence is captivating and Dirty Heads members are amongst the hardest working people in the music industry. Their passion is infectious and they are unstoppable. Check them out in a city near you! 

Stream the ‘Midnight Control (Deluxe)’ album:

Cover photo by Olivia Valdes; Interview Suzanne Sanchez

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