A NASCAR driver has to be quite courageous to get into a car and race around a track at a few hundred miles per hour. But Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. might be a little bit gutsier than those need-for-speed adrenaline junkies. The indie dance pop duo (comprised of Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott) are on the fast track to music stardom and have taken their namesake from one of motorsport’s most highly beloved drivers.
Though some people could easily dismiss them based on their identity, it’s an unforgettable first impression that piques curiosity. “The name is so shocking that as soon as people hear the music, it differs from what they’re expecting it to sound like. I think they have to pay attention to the music itself,” Epstein explains. “Maybe people are more reserved just because it stands out a little bit from the rest.”
It's a Corporate World
From the looks of it, the reservations must have waned rather quickly. Within two years of their formation, the Detroit pair released an EP, signed a major deal with Warner Bros. and are currently on the road promoting their debut album “It’s A Corporate World.”
The 12-track studio collection is an indie pop delight loaded with mesmerizing lyricism, shimmering vocals, electro-tinged sounds and an assortment of diversity. Each composition, masterfully crafted, has a soul entirely of its own -- adding to the full-length’s uniqueness and quirkiness. Some of the standout records include the melodically dance-driven “An Ugly Person On A Movie Screen,” the emotionally touching “If It Wasn’t You,” and the smooth and lively “Vocal Chords.”
Simply put, “It’s A Corporate World” is a feel-good effort and the twosome would love those good vibes to rub off on their audience. “Hopefully [people will] just experience something, whatever it is -- whether they can relate to something on a deeper level or if it just makes them dance,” Epstein says. “As long as they feel something when they listen to it, that would probably make us happy.”
While most artists are obsessed with creative control, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is completely comfortable with delegating responsibility onto the team that surrounds them – hence the reason why settling on “Morning Thought” as the leadoff single was relatively easy.
“Our attitude is we know how to make the music and write the music and record it, but people who work with us hopefully should probably know more [about] how to get the music out to people, so we’re usually pretty open to their suggestions and that was how we felt we should go first,” Epstein explains. “It was of a less personal thing for us. As musicians, you have to be careful to not be too authoritarian with everyone. You have to let people take ownership of that stuff. They are working with you.”
It Takes a Great Pit Crew to Keep a Car Running
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. was launched in 2009 on a whim. Epstein had been playing in bands for years within the diverse Detroit Rock City music scene and was continuously impressed with Zott’s talent and musicianship. In 2009, he gave Zott a call and inquired about working on a collaborative project. The two got together and within a matter of hours, finished “Simple Girl” -- a ditty Epstein had previously put ideas to, but never completed until their first meeting. “It was just a wonderful experience,” Epstein recalls. “We don’t really argue and its great, very functional.”
That song, along with “Vocal Chords,” “Nothing But Our Love” and a cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” appeared on their 2010 “Horsepower” EP, which was released through local independent label Quiet Scientific Records. Coincidentally, all of those tracks would later appear on the full-length with the exception of “God Only Knows.”
The duo continued building up a presence in Detroit and charming audiences with their spirited music and feel-good appeal. In fact, it was during one of their concerts where a representative from Warner Bros. approached the band and encouraged them to sign with the major label. After a few more discussions, the ink on the contract was dry and they locked themselves in Zott’s basement to write and perfect the songs that would embody “It’s A Corporate World.”
Daniel will take an idea, expand on it and make it better.
It’s been a quick rise to stardom for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., but that is credited to the duo’s chemistry, friendship and desire to become the best songwriters they can possibly be.
“A lot of it just has to do with each other -- playing with someone else and seeing how they work,” Epstein says. “Daniel will take an idea, expand on it and make it better, so it was really inspiring for me to think harder about everything and trying to step up my game. A lot of it for me was working with someone new and trying to have a little bit of a friendly competition and try to keep up with him.”
Just like the NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., both Epstein and Zott are living life in the fast lane.
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