Dirty Honey: Second Serving of Sweet Success

Showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, L.A. hard rock band Dirty Honey has returned with their second album, Can’t Find The Brakes

First breaking through in 2019 with their hit debut single “When I’m Gone,” the band made rock history right from the start, becoming the first, and still only, unsigned artist to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock and Hard Rock chart. 

Named an “Artist You Need to Know” by Rolling Stone, the group maintained their momentum during the COVID-19 shutdown, releasing their self-titled debut album independently in 2021, before supporting The Black Crowes on tour that summer.

Last year Dirty Honey opened for Guns N’ Roses, KISS, and Rival Sons on their first-ever European tour. They headlined the U.S. earlier this year, before going to Australia to record Can’t Find The Brakes with producer Nick DiDia, and welcoming in new drummer Jaydon Bean.

Bean actually has a long history with the band, having actually lived with Dirty Honey guitarist John Notto and bassist Justin Smolian when they were starting out in L.A., and having played on some of the band’s earliest demos. 

“Something that I think we really have is we really do connect, not just as musicians or great players, but as friends,” Justin Smolian told Revue. “I think you can hear that in the songwriting and in the songs. It’s not just dudes showing up that can do amazing things musically, but it’s people connecting and having a good time together and creating an energy.”

That energy comes out immediately on the new album. Staring with the one-two punch of opening track “Don’t Put Out The Fire,” and lead single “Won’t Take Me Alive,” the record explores the band’s classic rock ‘n’ roll influences, while showcasing lead vocalist Marc LaBelle’s powerful vocals. 

“We all have a lot of versatility in our musical tastes as well as our playing abilities,” Jaydon Bean said. “And we wanted to make sure we didn’t write the same record over and over again, or keep writing the same song. We wanted to just express a more broad aspect of what we like and what we like to do. And, I’m a new part of the band too. So that’s going to change the sound a little bit.”

Live, Bean has added his vocal harmonies onstage from behind his drum set, as the band has begun playing five or six of the new songs during their shows.

“Some of the new songs are even going over better than the older ones, Bean said. “So that’s really exciting to see.”

Pumped to be back out on the road headlining their own shows, the band admits that their summer spent opening for their heroes and rock icons in KISS and Guns N’ Roses still feels surreal even now.

“It’s weird because we’re like actually getting to know them too,” Smolian said. “Like, we played with KISS over the summer, and we played with them before, and before the show Paul Stanley walked into our room and was like, ‘Hey guys, what’s going on? What are you guys working on? How’s life been?’ And we’re like, ‘Oh, it’s good, Paul Stanley.’”

Dirty Honey has won over those legendary bands’ legions of fans as well, cranking up their own sound, and turning some heads when they take the stage in stadiums here and overseas. 

“We’ve gotten pretty good at winning people over,” Smolian said. “I think we definitely know how to work a new audience. But it’s definitely not as fun as doing a headlining show where everybody knows your music… Honestly, stadiums and arenas feel more disconnected than club shows. You really only see like the first seven rows in a stadium anyways, because they’ll light up the crowd at certain parts and then you see how many people are really there, but they’re also blasting the lights on you and you can’t see very well. And the sound is traveling so far… Every instance of playing as a live musician, every time is different.”

“We mostly just smoke a lot of weed,” Bean added. “That mellows us out, gets rid of the anxiety.” 

Anxious or not, Dirty Honey continues to lead a charge of hard rock bands for a new generation, that seems eager for seconds of the band’s now signature sound.

“The goal wasn’t to revive a certain style of rock or something,” Smolian said. “It was just to write songs that we like and have fun playing them live. So if that’s what we’re supposed to be in the eyes of the people that love us, then that’s what we’re going to be. But your image is always created by those around you. So we’re down. Yeah. I always wanted to be a torchbearer. I’m ready.”

Dirty Honey: Can’t Find The Brakes Tour

Wsg. Austin Meade

Elevation (inside The Intersection), 133 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

Dec. 8, Doors 6:30 p.m., show 7:30 p.m., $27.50 advance, $35 day of show, All Ages

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