At first glance, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. might seem like a gimmick: Two guys in racing suits capitalizing on a name-brand stock-car-racing dynasty. Upon listening, however, it's clear their particular type of indie-pop is anything but a stunt.
The Detroit duo of Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott combine delicate, pleading vocals with ethereal melodies on their debut full-length It's a Corporate World. Chatter e-mailed Epstein and Zott about the unfortunate name they almost went with, the Detroit scene and their decision to cover the Beach Boys.
Chatter: Do you think your name makes you harder to find on Google?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: Nothing in life comes easy.
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C: What would you have changed your name to if it hadn't been okay to use "Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr."?
DEJJ: We had been prepared for some time to shorten the name to Jr. Jr., and there were many people urging us to do so. I think that people have a hard time accepting that we take our work and the craft very seriously with such a goofy name.
We started this project as an outlet for the exploration of ourselves, each other and new sonic ideas; but, we always wanted it to be fun. It's a conscious decision that we make, to try and not take all of our moments as seriously as we approach writing.
C: Switching gears (race-car jokes!), it would seem there's a number of artists coming out of Detroit. How does the city influence your sound?
DEJJ: The city of Detroit is more of an influence in that there really isn't a singular musical "sound." Coming up as a musician in the city allows people to develop their own sound, as it's less of a trendsetter-and-follower culture and more accepting of different types of music.
C: You guys have done covers of songs by two pretty major artists ("God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys; "We Almost Lost Detroit" by Gil Scott-Heron). What made you think you could do them justice?
DEJJ: I don't think that we ever intended to release the songs, and so we never set out to do them justice in that sense. We hold those songs up with a great reverence, to be honest. I think that since we approached them as creative exercises rather than as calculated products, they ended up sounding like the other things we make, productionwise, and we felt comfortable putting them out in the end because they had become homages to great artists in our minds.
C: Any of the Beach Boys reach out to you about your cover?
DEJJ: Not yet, but I bet Mike Love listens to it on his yacht as he sails around Aruba and Jamaica on his way to Kokomo.
C: Why is your new album, out June 7, called It's a Corporate World?
DEJJ: The world and our country have changed dramatically and continue to change rapidly in many ways. Corporations are becoming increasingly bigger parts of all of our lives, and are ingraining themselves deeply into our society.
This past year, 53 percent of Harvard's graduating class went to work on Wall Street, while roughly the same percentage of Stanford grads went to work for Google. It is a corporate world, for better or worse. It's definitely something that is on our minds, and has been for a while.
C: Does it get hot in those suits?
DEJJ: So damn hot. It makes you feel like you worked a bit, though, which is important for one's self-esteem.
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