An Interview With John Notto And Justin Smolian Of Dirty Honey

Dirty Honey L-R: Corey Coverstone, Justin Smolian, Marc LaBelle, John Notto (Photo credit: Scott Legato)

BY JD SNOVER | Go Venue Magazine

It’s been 52 years since Aerosmith formed in northeast America, but their music is still covered across the world, including by bands such as California rockers Dirty Honey. The band, a four-piece that got together in LA, self-proclaims that they play a similar style to Aerosmith and Guns ‘n Roses.

“We play rock and roll,” guitarist John Notto said. “We are a Los Angeles rock and roll band. I think it goes back to the mid-seventies, classic rock sort of package.”

Nearly five decades after said classic rock was at its height, the band put out an eponymous EP in 2019 and a following eponymous full album in 2021. And for bassist Justin Smolian, it’s all about going back to his roots.

“That’s what I grew up on. That’s what my dad played in the car every day, driving me to school,” Smolian said. “It’s just something I identify with more. I just feel like the songwriting was better in that era. We like rock and roll. Rock today kind of doesn’t have the roll.”

For Notto, he feels that to be a successful musician, the songwriter must identify with their work, as Smolian mentioned.

“When you write in a style that you most identify with, I think you have a more infectious product because you’re affected by it,” Notto said. “That translates to the audience directly. In doing this classic sound, it’s really just believing ‘hey, we can add something new to the style we like, regardless of what era it’s from.”

Notto said that flavor comes from each band member having their own background, and meshing each style together to create the final product.

Corey (Coverstone, drummer) is very jazz, and he loves technical metal,” Notto said. “But especially on the position side, we all love funk and R&B. Just anything by Black people from any era. I think that’s a great connection for us to put into.”

But, despite how the music is made, the band just wants to play their songs. And that’s the magic of getting to tour and do music for a living, according to Notto.

“If you’re a great live band, it tells people that this is a real thing and not just a bedroom recording project,” Notto said. “Those things can go far, especially in today’s day and age where smart people do the band in and box thing and use TikTok or YouTube, maybe even one radio hit. But if they can’t follow it up with a live show that really blows people’s minds, there will be no word of mouth spread.”

Smolian said that what makes a Dirty Honey live show great is that they play songs a little differently every night, and it’s going to be a little different every time a fan comes to see it.

“I think people are intrigued, and they want to come see it over and over again because they know they’re gonna get something a little different every time,” Smolian said.

Notto said the true magic of a live show is in the energy, and that’s where he sees Dirty Honey as different.

“It’s played with just enough excited energy that I think it translates to ‘Wow, you guys add some energy to the songs live that isn’t on the record that you can only add live,’ Notto said. “We’re excited to be on stage and showing off. It’s just fun.”

The band, who took When I’m Gone to number one on Billboard’s Mainstream and Hard Rock charts before even releasing an EP, said they look forward to continuing touring and doing what they love. But, above all this, what does the band really think is the key to their success? Notto put it best:

“It’s groovy and sexy.”