Peninsular Place

The Magazine

March 25, 2013

Pondering Life’s Mysteries with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

“When you put a ridiculous name on a project, you’re able to exist in whatever genre you want.”

“When you start to answer questions in interviews you get this really quiet, serious tone,” says Josh Epstein to his Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. cofounder, Daniel Zott. We’re a couple minutes into our interview at their Detroit rehearsal space, where they’ve been putting the finishing touches on their anticipated second album that’ll see daylight sometime this summer.

Zott and Epstein spend as much time talking to each other as they do to me and the camera. But they’ve got some issues to work out, such as what they would do if they had “Nickelback money,” how to keep Kid Rock from stealing their ideas and what animals they would like to collaborate with. And how they want to present themselves in interviews.

“I used to never listen to myself, then I recorded myself talking to my friend,” Zott responds. “And I realized I’m like, super loud, super cut-everybody-off-asshole, so I’m just trying not to be that.”

“Now you’re just so gentle, but before the recorder goes on,” Epstein continues, following with an indecipherable imitation of his bandmate. “…but now you’re talking normal.”

“I’ve been doing this for two years and you’re just telling me this now?”

We do take a few breaks to talk about music. Since releasing their debut, “It’s A Corporate World,” about two years ago, they’ve been busy playing their quirky and elaborate live shows across the country, including sets at Lollapalooza and on Conan. They’ve also been guest-blogging for ESPN, attending Pistons and Tigers games and finishing each other’s sentences every step of the way.

They do admit to feeling some pressure as they approach their album release this summer, though you wouldn’t tell from interacting with them. “It’s impossible for me not to think of what lots of people will think,” says Zott. “The pressure comes from having that thought and accepting that you want to share it with tons of people. But I don’t think it’s bad pressure – it just pushes you to work harder.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. occupy rare space in the music world. They construct delicate indie rock tunes that make playful use of electronic effects – “weird pop,” as they’ve called it – and, as their name implies, they try not to take things too seriously. “When you put a ridiculous name on a project, you’re able to exist in whatever genre you want,” Epstein explains. “It allows us to incorporate hip hop elements and pop and electronic elements.”

I’m sure the matching NASCAR suits also help ease expectations. Even in interviews and smaller sets, I’ve seen them wear matching shirts or jackets. It plays into the idea of being a team – of making this band a totally collaborative, ego-free realm where creativity comes first, whatever direction that may lead them. “The fact that we’re willing to be the best sidemen that we can be for each other is something that most bands don’t have the luxury of having.”

But you’ll notice four team members on stage this spring. In addition to drummer Mike Higgins, they most recently added Jonathan Visger, also known as Absofacto (and former frontman of Mason Proper). They had been looking to expand their sound as well as their live presence and had been in search of someone who would bring new ideas to the table and work within the band’s close, collaborative style. “He was our number one pick in the draft,” says Zott.

With so much to talk about – an exciting new member, a new album in the works, a new summer tour – the conversation switches to a debate concerning who has more money: Nickelback or Kid Rock. The issue remains unresolved.

Last April, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. became one of the first Detroit bands to sell out the Majestic Theater in two decades. They’ll return to that venue for their EP release show on April 20, which also happens to be Record Store Day and Hash Bash. Keep an eye out for their new album this summer, tentatively titled “The Speed of Things,” and check our website for the video version of this interview.

About the Author

Paul Kitti
Paul Kitti
Paul is another awesome member of the iSPY team.

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