When you name your band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., you’ve got to expect questions. Named after NASCAR’s most recognizable driver – who was in turn named after his even more popular dad – as a band name, the moniker doesn’t indicate the direction of the music. That’s part of the idea.
“Both Daniel (Zott) and I have wide-spanning tastes in music, and when you put certain words in the title of your band, (it implies certain things),” explains Josh Epstein, one half of the Detroit-based duo. “The word neon, for instance, almost implies that things will have to be bright and happy. Behemoth and Mastodon almost implies this doom or darkness. I think we wanted to make it so we could make whatever kind of music we wanted.
“To some extent, it’s worked. At other times, people kind of get the wrong impression of what we’re going to sound like, and it confuses them.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – which performs at The Fillmore on Saturday – makes eclectic indie-pop with equal footing in danceable synth-pop and the retro, mid-tempo harmonies of the Beach Boys. They don’t make country or rock that’s so often associated with NASCAR, but they do attract the occasional sports fan.
“We still get people posting to our Facebook asking us to sign an autograph for their 3-year-old son because they’re fans of our dad,” Epstein says. “It gives me a lot of empathy for someone as famous as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Just the amount of run-off we get asking for things. I can’t imagine what it would be like.”
The band’s new album, “The Speed of Things,” may sound like another racing reference, but the title encompasses the idea of how fast life is and how quickly information comes at us. Musically, the record features subtle layering and creative arrangements amid a classic, harmony-driven pop feel. It’s dance music that doesn’t hit you over the head.
“On tour, your songs come across a different way,” Epstein says. “There were more folky, ballady songs on the first record. As beautiful as those songs are, it’s hard to sustain with a live, energetic performance. Probably subconsciously we were writing stuff we wanted to play live.”
“We’re not a strictly electronic or acoustic band. We both like all of these things. We feel like there is no genre. The walls between genres are crumbling,” says Epstein, who grew up listening to Notorious B.I.G., Daft Punk, the Beatles, Pavement.
“It’s almost like speaking a language. You have this vocabulary and you have a certain amount of words. We (had) so many different kinds of music (in) our vocabulary. We try to limit ourselves less than other bands.”
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