Dirty Honey is: Corey Coverstone, Marc LaBelle,
Justin Smolian, and John Notto.Photo by Richie Davis/Courtesy of Selena FR PR
In music culture, everything is cyclical. And one glance at today’s Top 40 charts dominated by hip-hop, pop, rap, and balladry means it’s time for yet another round of hoary “rock is dead” stories (insert yawn here).
But newer and younger bands like the Struts, Red Sun Rising, Greta Van Fleet, and the Glorious Sons are flying the flag for a harder mainstream sound. Certainly harder than last year’s Billboard top “rock” acts Imagine Dragons, Panic! At the Disco, and Twenty One Pilots. And it’s likely that a rising L.A.-based Dirty Honey will soon join that former list – they’re already a favorite of hard rock/metal tastemaker and DJ Eddie Trunk.
And according to Dirty Honey vocalist Marc Labelle, the band wants to sort of aid a Millennial demographic that he’s said is “starved of truly great rock music.”
“I grew up loving bands like AC/DC and Aerosmith and the Stones and Page and Plant, and there’s not a lot of that anymore, it’s become radio pop rock. It’s not dangerous or sexy,” Labelle offers.
He recently had a woman in her late 30s reach out to him via Instagram. She had gone to the band’s show and said she’d love to introduce her kids to their music…but only if they would “clean up” their live act because she heard some F bombs and swear words. That left Labelle scratching his head.
“I mean…we’re called ‘Dirty Honey,’” he laughs. “And nobody gave me caution going to shows when I was a kid. I wanted to hear Mick Jagger say ‘fuck’ or Steven Tyler’s sexual innuendos. Rock has lost a lot of sex and soul over the past couple of decades.”
Dirty Honey came together in 2017 when Labelle (vocals) and John Notto (guitar) formed a fast friendship musically and personally, adding Justin Smolian (bass) and finally Corey Coverstone (drums). They quickly recorded debut single “When I’m Gone” and it hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart – without the band even being signed to a label (and they still aren't!). Now with the five-song self-released Dirty Honey EP under their belts, the band is about to embark on their first headlining tour that will bring them to the Studio at Warehouse Live on January 19.
Marc Labelle’s journey to rock and roll was a bit unplanned. He had spent most of his youth playing hockey in tournaments all around the Northeastern United States and Canada and considered going pro. Then he attended college on a lacrosse scholarship, eventually earning degrees in broadcasting, corporate communication, and marketing.
But a chance stab at covering an AC/DC song at a karaoke bar in Italy where he was studying abroad literally changed the course of his life. An enthusiastic customer raved about his vocal prowess and offered to get him local gigs. Upon returning to the United States, Labelle decided to chuck everything, move to L.A., and pursue his rock dreams – even if meant living in his car for nearly a year, surfing friend’s couches and porches, and using the wi-fi in local coffee shops to get things going while singing whatever and wherever he could in local bars and clubs.
For this headlining tour, the band plans to play about an hour, using material from Dirty Honey, some new songs they’ve yet to record officially, and a cover of Aerosmith’s “Last Child” (which will be released on Amazon this week).
In terms of songwriting, Labelle says the band will usually start with one guitar riff and one verse of lyrics, and build from there. They plan on heading to Australia after the current run of gigs to record another album with producer Nick DiDia, who also helmed the EP and has worked with both Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Ja.
Dirty Honey has already opened for the Who, Guns ‘n Roses, and Slash’s solo band. On the last night of the Guns tour in Vegas, the band’s manager introduced Labelle to Axl Rose, who spent a half an hour chatting to the singer and Dirty Honey’s booking agent about music, touring, and life doing both. “That fucking blew my mind!” Labelle offers. “And Slash has been nothing but supportive. In fact, I’ve got a Gibson event singing with him this week.”
Dirty Honey's Justin Smolian, Marc LeBelle, and Corey Coverstone live in concert.
Photo by Mike Savoia/Courtesy of Selena FR PR
Finally, this will be Dirty Honey’s second time playing Houston, and Labelle says the band has been spending a lot of time in Texas in general. “You can spend a week or a month just touring Texas!” he laughs. Though his original plan for what he wanted to do in the city on Sunday has, uh, changed a bit.
“I was hoping to watch a matinee football game with the Texans, but unfortunately, that won’t be happening now,” he says. “So hey, since people have Sunday free, I expect a lot of them to come and see our show!”
Dirty Honey plays at 8 p.m., January 19 at The Studio at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel. For information, call 713-225-5483 or visit WarehouseLive.com. The Amazons open, all ages show. $16.
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.