How Dirty Honey Became The First Unsigned Band To Top Billboard’s Rock Chart
The LA hard rockers describe what it is about their sound that has catapulted them to such dizzying heights.
When contacting a band who have released a chart-topping single, one usually pictures a poolside glass of champagne and a bevy of neon-clad groupies. Dirty Honey, on the other hand, don’t have time for that bullshit.
“I’m currently heading to a post office in Florida to ship out some merch from our online store,” laughs Dirty Honey frontman Marc LeBelle when the glamorous rock star life is brought up. “The goal is definitely to be a big rock band -- if you’re not shooting for the stars, you’re spinning your wheels. And it’s gone remarkably well since its inception. But we’re definitely a DIY operation, just by circumstances. And it’s working for us.”
This is an undeniable fact. Last month, Dirty Honey made history when their track When I’m Gone became the first song by an unsigned band to hit the top spot on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart. The band’s sound, a wiry mixture of mid-paced sleaze and desert-baked proto-metal that feels tailor-made for long drives or stripping depending on the mood, has taken the world by storm, all without any help from a big label. That the band recently played two opening slots for Guns N’ Roses before heading out on their own headlining tour further speaks to what they value first and foremost: hard work, solid connections, and making great music.
“I think you learn the business that way,” says Marc. “You’re incurring way more risk, it’s a way bigger time commitment, and it kind of strips you of time to be creative. But at the end of the day, I’ve learned so much about things like merch production. I’m going to screen printers and testing out T-shirt samples, because I go to concerts all the time, and I buy a T-shirt, and it's a piece of shit. I don’t want to wear it again, it’s so uncomfortable. Every day we get e-mails saying, ‘We love the quality you guys have.’”
Excited by the rare prospect of a DIY megastar band, we asked Marc to give us the lowdown on how Dirty Honey have made a name for themselves while staying true to their --
“Literally as we’re talking just now, another merch order came in online,” chuckles the singer, sounding bushed but still amazed by it all. “Fucking crazy. “
1) If you had to play a newcomer one Dirty Honey song to introduce them to the band, what would it be and why?
I think Rolling 7s is what I’d go with. That one personifies everything we’re about best -- just a good, sexy, soulful, rock’n’roll anthem.
2) Who would be on Dirty Honey’s dream tour?
I just heard on the news about the Black Crowes doing something. If that’s true, that’d be great -- that’s definitely a band I love and look up to. On a younger level, there’s a band called Goodbye June that we really like. Joyous Wolf is really cool, they’re like a reincarnated Pearl Jam. But honestly, I wanna play with the classics — Aerosmith, the Stones, AC/DC.
3) It’s a huge deal that you guys have come so far as an unsigned band, especially given how many bands chase a label first and foremost. Why put out your EP before getting signed?
Our manager was a label guy for a long time, a really good one. The only thing a record label really provides for you is that start-up money. It’s usually only about a hundred grand, and you sign away your masters to get it. So, we had five songs that were really strong, and we started trying to entice some labels into making a fair deal, and our manager was like, ‘I don’t know if I like any of these deals.’ The only label that we really entertained anything with was Roadrunner. It didn’t really make sense for us when we started charting to sign away our masters, to sign our ownership of that material away to a label that didn’t help to get us there. It wasn’t for lack of trying to get a label. Now that we have a #1 rock song, it’s like, why? Eddie Trunk said that -- he was like, ‘Why would they even sign?’
4) When you first got to LA seven years ago, you were living in your car. What’s something that you learned then that you still hold true today?
Honestly, when you’re living in your car, you know how to live life pretty minimalistically. You have a minimalistic mentality of getting through each day. Without tour support, we’re living well within our own means, which are limited. You’re trying not to be wasteful. I booked all the hotels and shit for our tour long before anybody else would even think about it because I want good deals on hotels and to be respectful of our budget. These are big things that you learn along the way. You learn to live with almost nothing. We’re in no rush to buy Ferraris and shit, that’s for sure.
5) You have this incredibly distinctive lips logo. How’d that become your calling card?
This guy we know created a really good logo for us, and it personifies the band’s attitude and what we do, so it really helps us. When we saw it, it was instantly classic too. Once you throw it on a T-shirt and hat, it’s iconic already. I think people are buying stuff just because they like the logo. That happened to us when we were on the radio in LA a couple of months back. The host said, this is an awesome logo — they’re going to sell a ton of T-shirts. And then we sold 150 T-shirts from the road. You can imagine my distress!
Dirty Honey’s self-titled EP is available now on all streaming services.
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Catch the band live on their headlining tour at one of the following dates:
05 -- Albuquerque, NM, Sister Bar
07 -- Lubbock, TX, Jake's Backroom
09 -- Denver, CO, Lost Lake
12 -- Reno, NV, The Saint
13 -- Sacramento, CA, Holy Diver
14 -- Fresno, CA, Strummers
16 -- San Diego, CA, Voodoo Room @ House of Blues
22 -- Los Angeles, CA, The Troubadour