Groove with the Dirty Heads performing as part of Reggae Fest Weekend in Vegas

The Dirty Heads add their unique blend of reggae and hip hop music to Reggae Fest Weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas.

The Dirty Heads aren’t a reggae band, but their feel-good rhythms and beach-inspired tunes make them a perfect addition to Reggae Fest Weekend  in Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel Sept. 14 – 16. As the summer temperatures linger on in Vegas so do the sounds of reggae music on and off the Las Vegas Strip. This weekend’s concert lineup is a chance for fans to hear everything they love about reggae music and indulge in the Caribbean lifestyle at the Hard Rock’s tropical pool area as well as some of their other music venues, including the recently-opened Vinyl.

The Dirty Heads will be performing with Matisyahu at 8 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the pool. Other acts included as part of Reggae Fest Weekend are:

  •  Sept. 14 – Yellowman 9 p.m.  at the pool
  • Sept. 14 – Leche De Tigre 10 p.m.  at Vinyl
  • Sept. 15 – Mishka and Anuhea 10 p.m. at Vinyl
  • Sept. 15 – Sean Paul 10 p.m. at Vanity
  • Sept. 16 – Sean Paul 10 a.m. at Rehab

Whether you want to hear dancehall reggae, like Yellowman, or groups that incorporate reggae influences into their sound, like The Dirty Heads, Reggae Fest Weekend has it all. The Dirty Heads are coming to Vegas fresh off their new album, “Cabin by the Sea,” released in June 2012. Many fans may already be familiar with their new single, “Spread Too Thin.”  Other singles from the album include “Dance All Night,” which features Matisyahu.

Hailing from Southern California, the Dirty Heads first rose to popularity with their single “Lay Me Down” included on their debut album “Any Port in the Storm” released in 2008. The song spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Song charts, an impressive record for an independent release and more than any single that year even by other popular groups including The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and 30 Seconds to Mars. In 2010 Rolling Stone named the group one of the “Best New Bands.”

Since then the group has been providing fans with feel-good tunes created by their signature sound that includes elements of reggae, hip-hop, punk and alternative music. The group consists of Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell (vocals/guitar), Jared “Dirty J” Watson (vocals), Jon Olazabal (percussion), Matt Ochoa (drums), David Foral (bass). had a chance to talk to Watson about the Heads’ upcoming show in Vegas, reggae music and their new album. Here’s what he had to say:

What does the band have planned for your upcoming show in Vegas with Matisyahu?

“The Vegas show you can plan for whatever you really want to plan for, but when you get to Vegas it’s never what you planned for. So I’m gonna say, we’re just going to f****** throw everything out the window and wait until we get to Vegas because it’s Vegas, and we’re playing a pool. It’s just going to be so good.”

What first made you want to start a band?
“I was never into playing music or performing or anything like that until I met Duddy (Dustin Bushnell), and we became friends. He was already in a punk band. He had a soundproof garage. We would hang out in his garage and just play music, and he was the one that really got me into it. We had a mutual love of a lot of old reggae, a lot of hip-hop, the same type of music that we blend into the Dirty Heads’ sound now. That’s what we were listening to back in the day.”

How do you think that reggae music has changed over the years?

“I wouldn’t even consider us even close to reggae music. We definitely are inspired by reggae music and definitely take a piece of reggae music and put it into our sound. What we were listening to when we were getting inspired was reggae music from 1960 to like 1985. It was just all really old vinyl and all really old Studio One… We weren’t listening to anything new… There’s just so much amazing reggae music out there. I don’t think we’re a reggae band, but we definitely draw from it, and we’re always inspired by it. I don’t think we’ve change anything or messed with the formula or anything. I don’t even want to put us in that category because I don’t think that it would be right.”

What were some of the band that inspired you?

“Yellowman was huge, Ken Boothe, Mikey Dread, Pablo Moses, like I could name off 100 old reggae guys, and when it came to hip-hop it was like Pharcyde, Wu-Tang Clan,  De La Soul, Tribe (A Tribe Called Quest),  just a bunch of really good music.”

What was it like for you when “Lay Me Down” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart? Were you surprised by how successful it was?

“You can say surprised because surprised is a perfect word for every single one of us. There was no way to know that that was coming, and when it did we were like what the f***, in a good way.  We were stoked. It was just a really cool thing to happen to us and one of our friends, and it took us to another level of people hearing our music and our message. We just hope that we can keep doing it. If we even have songs that come close to what that song did, we’re happy.”

Your style of music is distinct from a lot of what you hear on the radio today. Why do you think that song was such a success?

“I think the fact that it was so different. I think people have heard a lot of s*** that sounds the same so maybe something new is refreshing. I can’t really say that the timing was summer because the song was on the radio at No. 1 for longer than summer. I just hope that the message was cool and that people liked it and liked to sing along with it. I can’t really say.”

How did the group handle that sudden onset of success from “Lay Me Down?”

We were stoked that that happened, and we were excited.  So we figured let’s keep doing what we’re doing. That was like our pinky toe getting in the door. We wouldn’t think like, ‘Oh we have one song that did really well.’…  It was like opening one little tiny crack in the door for us, it wasn’t like we’re done. That was just the beginning for us.”

Do the first single, “Spread Too Thin,” off your new album have anything to do with your sudden rise in popularity after the first album?

“It (the song) was more on a personal level, of just kind of someone that you know that is really f******  fake and very nice to everybody and very overly nice, but then you know personally that they’ve talked s*** behind people’s backs. I just can’t get around that. If you don’t like somebody, don’t like somebody. If you like somebody, like somebody. There’s no reason to put a front up, and that’s where that came from.”

How did you end up working with some of the people who are on the album like Matisyahu and Kymani Marley?

“We pretty much finished the songs, and we just heard certain people on certain songs. I’d even written verses for these parts and we were like, ‘This doesn’t sound right, you know who would sound good.’… The songs almost chose them.  We reached out to them, and we were lucky enough for them to say yes.”

You had mentioned earlier that fans are really into your music and your message. What message are you trying to convey to people through your music?

“As a whole you can’t really keep one message through every song. I feel like our songs differ a little bit, but the underlying theme that we’ve had since day one is positivity and to be uplifting and having a good time and letting go of things that you need to let go of and just get away and come hang out and have a good time.”