The Detroit-based rock duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are not big NASCAR fans. They don't have posters of racecar drivers on their walls and they certainly didn't name their electro/pop project after the No. 88 Chevy impala driver. According to Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott, the name happened by accident.
Says Josh, "We were going to call ourselves Counting Crows Part 2 and then my friend was like, 'That's the worst name ever. You might as well call yourselves Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.' and I was like, 'That's great.' I called Daniel and was like, 'What do you think about Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.?' and he was like, 'Yep!'
Josh and Daniel recently tweeted that they had put the finishing touches on their next album, which will be released early next year. Here, they tell us what we can look forward to, among many other things...
Where did you record the new album?
Daniel: We recorded in the studio in my basement.
Josh: We took some money last year and upgraded a bunch of stuff. We recorded 'It’s A Corporate World' (2011) on our own in Daniel's grandma's basement.
Daniel: She had this house and it was like the cousin house. The younger kids that wanted free rent would live there. I had the studio in the basement and I never left. I was like a hermit. It was really bad. There was a bathroom in the basement, even. I never had to go anywhere.
Josh: I can still smell that bathroom in my head.
Daniel: The whole house smelled like a grandma house.
Josh: That bathroom had a really distinct smell.
Daniel: So now we're in the basement in my house with newer gear and we've been doing it there. It's all pretty homemade like the last record, which is great.
Are you excited to release it and shift the focus to the new material?
Josh: This record kind of feels like... here, I'll give you an analogy: You know the movie 'Revenge of The Nerds'? The Alpha Betas are just so horrible and at the end all the Tri Lam alumni come and surround the Alpha Betas and they pull the nerd out of the fountain and they are like, “Here man. Here's the microphone.” It kind of feels like that is what this record is for us.
It's like working your whole life to be in the position where you are able to make a record and people are ready to hear it. It was really messing with my head, thinking about it. Now what do you have to say? I had to go through all these things like -- Has this become a job to me? Am I doing this now because it's my career and this is how I make my living? Do I still feel like I have something important to say? It was really messing with my head and my emotions.
In the end, I think we've really made something that I'm so proud of but it was more of a process creatively and more of an inner struggle than I've ever had making anything.
"Our relationship is like that Venn diagram. There is this massive intersection where we share space." --Josh Epstein
Daniel: [For] the last album, we'd get together, do a song in a day and then we'd get together and do a song, and in a couple of months we had a record. It wasn't really thought and over analyzed too much, and this one is a little bit more intentional and thought out.
Josh: There is a certain spontaneity about the first record that I think is great. I think too many bands try to recapture that and I think that you have to just kind of move forward from that. That was a moment in time and that was where we were at.
Now we're in a different place and you kind of have to critique what it was that you did and say, “How could I do better than that?” And I think cohesion was what was lacking in the first record. There were so many ideas and every song was like a different thing. I think this one is definitely more themed.
Is your sound a lot different on this album? Have you noticed a lot of growth and change?
Daniel: I don’t know why mature always pops in my head, but I feel like it sounds more grown up. Maybe it's more thought out. It's not teenage, crazy... whatever pops in your head. Now it's like, “I thought this through and I'm intending to say this or I'm intending to play this.”
Josh: We did grow up since the first album. It's our lives now. It wasn't before.
When is the new album supposed to come out?
Daniel: Next spring, I think -- March or April...
Josh: The first single will probably be out in January though.
"It's like working your whole life to be in the position where you are able to make a record and people are ready to hear it." --Josh Epstein
Rumor has it that you actually contacted Dale Earnhardt Jr. and told him that your name was not meant to make fun of him.
Josh: There was a whole controversy when we were signing with Warner Brothers because I think they were really worried that they were going to print a bunch of CDs and then he was going to sue us and we'd have to take them out of stores. I sent his manager an email that was like, “Hey. Just wanted to let you know that this is an accident that this happened,” and he was so nice about it. That really made us happy about continuing to use the name.
Daniel: He wrote us back and said he was flattered and he liked our music. He told us that [NASCAR driver] Jimmie Johnson was teasing him about it.
When you two initially met in Detroit, were you in different bands?
Josh: I had a band called The Silent Years.
Daniel: I was in a band called The Great Fiction but at the time Josh was listening to some of my solo stuff under my name. We'd go to each other's gigs -- we kind of knew each other. He just decided to call me one day and asked if I wanted to do a song with him.
Josh: We were just young and in our own worlds even though we were in the same world and we didn't even know it.
Do you consider yourselves to be musical soul mates?
Daniel: It's like we should have met earlier in life, but we didn't. I think we're making up for it.
Josh: Our relationship is like that Venn diagram. There is this massive intersection where we share space.
How's the music scene in Detroit these days?
Daniel: Detroit always has someone doing something that you wouldn't expect.
Josh: There is some really good hip-hop coming out of there now, too.
Do you think that you'll move out of Michigan at some point?
Josh: I've been talking about renting a room in my friend's house in L.A. and I've been talking about renting an apartment in Iceland.
Those are two very different options!
Daniel: There are so many beautiful and fun places to live. It always seems like another place that would be great to visit but when I go home to Detroit it always seems like home. I'd love to live in Tokyo for a while. It's so over the top and it would be great to experience it.
You can't move to opposite sides of the world. It sounds like you'd have extreme withdrawal and miss each other too much!
Josh: Yeah, we do spend more time with each other than anyone else, which is crazy!