By Michael Lello
In a very short time span, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. has made quite a bit of noise. The Detroit duo of Daniel Zott and Josh Epstein only released its first set of songs, a debut EP called “Horse Power” less than a year ago but has already been hailed by the New York Times, Spin, NPR and the U.K.’s The Guardian, among others. Influential Los Angeles radios station KCRW recently had the band in for a session on its venerable Morning Becomes Eclectic show; you can watch the entirety of that after the jump.
Now the melodious, harmonious group is preparing to release its full-length debut “It’s A Corporate World,” out June 7. We recently caught up with Zott to ask about the new album, the whirlwind pace of the band’s early career, what their namesake NASCAR driver thinks of the band and what to expect from the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. live show, which you’ll be able to experience for yourself Saturday, May 14 at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia.
H81R: Tell me about the making of “It’s A Corporate World.” How would you describe the writing and recording processes?
DZ: We made it around the same time as “Horse Power.” Josh and I would get together every few days and write and record in my basement.
H81R: How do you feel your approach or sound has changed since the debut EP you released last year?
DZ: We still put an emphasis on the core of the songs. I don’t think that’s gonna change. I think we are becoming more tight musically, which allows us to put more energy into dancing and entertaining.
H81R: How would you describe your live show? What challenges do you face in trying to recreate the layered type of music you play in a live setting?
DZ: Our live show is like going to the circus. A little of this, a little of that, a few surprises. We have the electronic drums for each song and then we trigger samples and play multiple instruments. It’s wild! We try to make that part entertaining as well.
H81R: Tell me about your decision to cover The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” Some people would consider that the perfect pop song, a song that you shouldn’t tinker with, but you seemed to nail it and make it your own.
DZ: We didn’t think that intensely about what we we’re doing. It just felt good when we were jamming to it one day. We ain’t never scared.
H81R: What artists have influenced your music?
DZ: Holland-Dozier-Holland, Paul Simon, Rachmaninoff, Procol Harum, Neil Young.
H81R: If you could tour with any band or artist, who would it be?
DZ: Boyz II Men or RHCP
H81R : A lot seems to be happening with the band, and quickly: lots of touring, press, various sessions, South By Southwest. Have you been able to enjoy and appreciate it, or has it just been a whirlwind?
DZ: We’ve made an effort to hang with our families, friends and dogs in Detroit. Hopefully we can keep that up.
H81R: Do you know if Dale Earnhardt Jr. has heard about the band? Are you fans of his, or of NASCAR in general?
DZ: He has heard of us. He likes our music and is a fan of ours. We like him too.
H81R: How would you describe the Detroit music scene? What was it like coming of age in that city?
DZ: It’s spread out just like the neighborhoods. It always for all sorts of sounds. Growing up listening to Motown gives you a sense of pride as a musician. I wouldn’t want to be from anywhere else.
H81R: Do you feel that Detroit itself is making a comeback following the collapse of the auto companies?
DZ: There is always hope. We shall see if it manifests into action. There is still a lot of hurt in the city. I think some of those issues still need to be addressed.
H81R: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about the band in general or the upcoming album?
DZ: We’re proud of “It’s A Corporate World.” It’s truly homegrown in my basement.