Local rockers Dirty Honey have friends in high places. They’ve been signed to Red Light Management by industry vet Mark DiDia, and their self-titled debut EP, released earlier this year, was produced by his brother Nick DiDia (Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine, etc). They’ve already opened for The Who and Guns N’ Roses, and they’re performing at the Troubadour this week so we chatted with frontman Marc LaBelle…
L.A. WEEKLY: When did the band form, and why?
MARC LABELLE: We got together in L.A. We met each other gigging around L.A. and I met John [Notto, guitar] first. He introduced me to Justin [Smolian, bass] who in turn introduced us to Corey [Coverstone, drums]. That process of finding the right people took about two years and then we actually formed Dirty Honey about two years ago.
Is it correct that you met your manager Mark DiDia while playing hockey?
I’m a huge hockey fan — played hockey my whole life. I started playing pickup hockey in L.A. and there’s a really exclusive hockey league here on Sundays. It’s all movie producers, actors and prominent managers and agents, stuff like that. I got roped into this crazy world and Mark Didia was also in that world. He was the first person I met in the music industry from that hockey league. I Googled him the day after I skated with him. This is a guy who’s eventually going to understand me. He’s worked with bands like Coldplay and Adele, but the big ones are Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC and the Black Crowes. This fucking guy is the man.
How did you get in the league?
I just had a buddy who was dating a girl whose dad played in the league. I met her dad, and he was like ‘These guys are always looking for good young hockey players.’ He knew my hockey background and he recommended me to this other guy named Christian. He was like, ‘Come down and skate.’ From day one it was kismet. They invited me back. It took another year after that to get invited to the really exclusive one. It all worked out. It was never the intent. Those guys are there to skate and pretty much nobody talks about anything professional. But over time, I’d invite the boys out to come to a gig or whatever, DiDia kept getting these emails and we kept crossing paths, and started hearing some music that he liked, and it kicked him into gear to want to work professionally with us.
DiDia said that you were a covers band first…
We definitely had originals in there. It’s really funny — he came to one of our gigs where we played mostly original material, maybe two covers at the House of Blues one time, and he was like, ‘Yeah, those cover songs are pretty good.’ We were all sitting around going, ‘well they weren’t covers.’ If your music can hold up next to Zeppelin and Aerosmith, you’re OK.
When did you come to L.A.?
2012 or 2013. The economy was in rough shape and there were no professional jobs to be had so I wanted to go to L.A. and try to get a job in film production. I got completely sidetracked from that dream. My best friend went to the USC jazz school and he was seeing the situation I was in. He said, ‘The perception of L.A. is there’s a lot of really great rock & roll singers but that’s really not the case — I think you should be singing. You’ve got something pretty unique. I know a ton of people from the USC jazz school and I’ll connect you — just start booking paid gigs and people will do them if you can throw somebody $100. Everybody loves playing rock & roll — it’s not going to be that hard.’ So we started booking gigs in Santa Monica, Ventura County and Hollywood. They were all paid, and he was right — for a $500 gig you can get some great musicians to come play if they aren’t doing anything else that night.
Describe the Dirty Honey sound?
I would call it high energy blues rock with some ‘70 and ‘90s influence in there. But it’s a fresh twist on all that. Big riffs and big choruses, and high energy.
How long did it take to get people interested, before things started to happen?
It’s funny because we were playing in these bars and clubs, and some of the gigs were four hours long, so we might have an hour and 20 minutes or original material and the rest would be Zeppelin and Aerosmith, some Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, and people would be like ‘Man I’d love to hear some original material.’ But again, we’ve just played a bunch of original stuff, and you’re sitting there like, ‘Our stuff is holding up against these classic songs, and then there’s definitely a sense of excitement in the younger generation that has been starved of rock & roll music. We could see it started happening on a club level, and it was just about convincing the professional people, the managers and booking agents, that something was happening. There’s been a pretty good movement happening that a lot of people are recognizing. There’s a lot of good young bands getting signed.
You put put an EP in March — is there an album on the way?
We’re going to Australia again in March, and then we’re going to figure out whether it’ll be an album or another EP. Whatever it is, we want it to be great. We want people to know that it’s great and nothing else.
You’re just finishing a tour with Skillet and Alterbridge… how did that go?
It’s been awesome. People didn’t know if Skillet or Alterbridge are headlining, so everybody shows up at 7 p.m. and checks out Dirty Honey. We’re playing to a packed house every night, which is more than you could ask for on an opening slot. It’s been awesome. Merch has been crazy. We’ve been selling our own merch at the shows. In Detroit, there was a lien of 200 people coming to say hi to us and buy vinyl. We’re really happy with how it’s gone.
What’s next for the band?
We’ve only got about a week off and then we go to Las Vegas to open for Guns N’ Roses — this little L.A. band that nobody’s heard of. Then we do a headlining tour in the Southwest, and that’s taking us through December. Then a couple of weeks off for the holidays to spend some time with families that we’ve for sure neglected the past year or so.
Dirty Honey plays with Oriah at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 22 at the Troubadour.