Turntable Interivew: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
As Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott make effervescent dance music with unstoppable beats and energetic electro-pop songs that are impossible to listen to while standing still. Their EP Patterns, out on their new home of Warner Bros. Records, shows off the Detroit duo’s penchant for experimentation, turning their songs into sonic laboratories where tunes like “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t On The Dancefloor)” get made. Epstein and Zott stopped by Turntable.fm before a NYC tour date to talk about their new EP, the Detroit music scene, their songwriting process and, of course, Bob Seger’s butt.
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Hi
Melissa Locker started playing “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” by Jay-Z
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: We’re using PC’s for the first time since 2004
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Apologies if we’re slow
STEREOGUM: What’s a PC?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Ha
STEREOGUM: So you guys are from Detroit
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Yes, we’re from the Motor City. My avatar doesn’t look like me
STEREOGUM: That’s why I didn’t recognize you. What’s your favorite place for Coneys?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Personally, I prefer National Coney to American. That’s the debate
DANIEL ZOTT: Da hani
STEREOGUM: Not Lafayette? Everyone likes a hani, except me who only eats french fries
DANIEL ZOTT: No hani at American or Lafayette. Give me National
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Lafayette is good, but I usually rock some eggs
STEREOGUM: Daniel, are you DJing or lurking?
DANIEL ZOTT: I’m trolling
DANIEL ZOTT: We don’t know how to play music on PCs.
STEREOGUM: So as born and bred Detroiters are you upset by the coopting of Faygo by the Insane Clown Posse?
Melissa Locker started playing “Feel The Pain” by Dinosaur Jr.
DANIEL ZOTT: Who’s playing these songs
STEREOGUM: This one is me
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Are you playing the songs?
STEREOGUM: They play automatically from our queue
DANIEL ZOTT: How do we play music.
STEREOGUM: You put a song in your queue and then the ghost in the machine makes it work
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: That’s not really DJing now, is it?
STEREOGUM: Awww don’t ruin my fun!
DANIEL ZOTT: Can we have a song play from our queue?
STEREOGUM: You didn’t play nothing but our love? ’cause I didn’t
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: We tried really hard to do a collaboration with Jay called Dinosaur Jr Jr
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: I had it in my queue
JOSHUA EPSTEIN started playing “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs N Harmony
STEREOGUM: Did you just thumbs down my song?
DANIEL ZOTT: I did
STEREOGUM: Because Dinosaur Jr Jr didn’t happen?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: We are using these things called “PCs”
DANIEL ZOTT: B thug and Harms. G steffing
STEREOGUM: You took it out me?
DANIEL ZOTT: CTRL ALT DELETE
STEREOGUM: So your new EP Patterns just came out
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Back to your Faygo question
STEREOGUM: Yes please! Rock N Rye 4 life, right?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: They just recently made an amazing jingle
DANIEL ZOTT: RED POP
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: “Faygo will always be there.” ICP wasn’t even mentioned
STEREOGUM: Red Pop tastes like cough syrup
DANIEL ZOTT: It tastes good though
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: That’s why we thumbs downed your song
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: RED POP 4evz
Melissa Locker started playing “Miracles” by Insane Clown Posse
STEREOGUM: HOW”S THAT
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Oh yeah, ya know they get a bad rap.
STEREOGUM: So I think ICP is the most financially successful Detroit rock band
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: ICP is really smart
DANIEL ZOTT: You don’t have to be high to look at the sky
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Kid Rock is prob a bit richer
STEREOGUM: They are a fully integrated company. Completely vertical. They have ICP wrestling. But, yeah, maybe Kid Rock has more money personally.
DANIEL ZOTT: Is there ICP beer.
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Seger
STEREOGUM: I think there is
DANIEL ZOTT: ICP IPA
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: You know, Seger doesn’t wear underwear
STEREOGUM: How do you know that Josh?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: I’ve seen is butt
STEREOGUM: Do we want to know?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: In a recording studio once. He was free balling and he had a huge rip right in the back pocket
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: I thought it was kind of an honor
STEREOGUM: That’s something you don’t see every day
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Speak for yourself
JOSHUA EPSTEIN started playing “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo
Melissa Locker was booed off the stage.
STEREOGUM: Oh wait, what?! You booed me off stage? OUCH! Oh you know what this is war. I’m totally going to your show on Friday and throwing Red Pop at your HEADS. Anyway. Does Detroit’s rich musical history affect your music?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: My parents raised me on Motown, so pretty much my whole sense of melody was fully influenced by
STEREOGUM: Did you have to go on class field trips to Hitsville USA?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: No. They made us go to Greenfield Village instead and see Thomas Edison’s workshop
STEREOGUM: Did they at least let you ride the train?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: That was the finale. Red Pop and a train ride
STEREOGUM: Sounds very edifying. So, did Thomas Edison’s workshop affect your music at all?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Only the live show. Trying to make sound trigger light. That reminds me of a joke Mitch Hedberg told
STEREOGUM: Go on…
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: “When the first dude invented a bong, do you think a black light went off over his head?”
STEREOGUM: Ha! But going back to Motown for a minute, “Patterns” does have a distinctly Motown feel to it
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Are you searching for a song that’s better than KC and Jo Jo? ‘Cause you won’t find one
STEREOGUM: No no, I know that’s impossible.
Melissa Locker started playing “Surrender” by Cheap Trick
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Cheap Trick?
STEREOGUM: Yes, I’m interviewing them tomorrow
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: oh, tell them we say hi
STEREOGUM: Oh I will. Oh good Daniel is going to play.
DANIEL ZOTT: Watch out
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: I totally think we both finally know how this works now! tThe Intel Centrino is actually working.
STEREOGUM: Warner Bros has the finest computer equipment around
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Toshiba makes a good laptop. This one is the “Tecra”
DANIEL ZOTT started playing “Bat Out Of Hell” by Various Artists – Meatloaf Tribute
STEREOGUM: That’s a great name. So what made you want to put out an EP instead of a full length?
DANIEL ZOTT: THE RECORD LABEL MADE US BUT I GET IT
STEREOGUM: I see. Do you have more songs written and ready to go into a new full length then?
DANIEL ZOTT: Josh’s computer just died. Please thumbs down this song.
JOSHUA EPSTEIN started playing “Mona Lisa” by Wyclef Jean featuring Refugee Allstars
DANIEL ZOTT: That’s better
Melissa Locker started playing “Lake Michigan” by Rogue Wave
DANIEL ZOTT: We had a song called “Habits” that didn’t make the record and we wanted to have something to put it on, so we made “Patterns” Hey. who doesn’t like Neville?
STEREOGUM: Wasn’t me and Josh seems to have disappeared. Maybe he had to reboot. So the EP was a means of getting “Habits” out there?
DANIEL ZOTT: JOSH—-hit CTRL ALT DELETE. Yeah that song and the single “If You Didn’t See Me”
STEREOGUM: When you guys typically make an album, do you write the songs piecemeal? Or do you sit down, go into the studio, and pound out a full album? Oh look who has been reincarnated as a pretty girl. Welcome back, Josh.
DANIEL ZOTT started playing “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton
DANIEL ZOTT: We do song by song. We did hide away for 2 weeks though. Pretty Girl and a Pretty Song.
STEREOGUM: And do you write lyrics or music first?
DANIEL ZOTT: Almost always music first.
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: OH MY GAAAAAAWWWWD I’m back! Finally
DANIEL ZOTT: I will always love you
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: The Tecra quit and was resurrected. Like Jesus.
STEREOGUM: Happy Easter?
DANIEL ZOTT: Same to you
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: I just died an egg during the break. Er, dyed.
STEREOGUM: That’s less terrifying
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: What have you guys been talking about?
STEREOGUM: You and Bob Seger’s butt
DANIEL ZOTT: Patterns and songwriting
STEREOGUM: That too
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Oh cool!
DANIEL ZOTT: And B SEEGS B cheeks
STEREOGUM: So I was asking if you have a full-length more or less waiting in the wings
JOSHUA EPSTEIN started playing “Aynotché tèrabu” by Mahmoud Ahmed
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: We do!
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: We recorded around 24 songs, and have a 13-song record finished
DANIEL ZOTT: 13 songs
STEREOGUM: Nice. any idea when your fans will be able to get their hands on it?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: We aren’t fully allowed to say…but months
DANIEL ZOTT: Months
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Not years
DANIEL ZOTT: Years
STEREOGUM: Wow it’s like you’re in stereo
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Daniel is my hype man on this chat. Flava Flave Zott
DANIEL ZOTT: Promoted from Troll to Hypeman
STEREOGUM: It’s like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in here.
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Where are you right now?
DANIEL ZOTT: FLORIDA? NEBRASKA?
STEREOGUM: Do I look like I’m in Florida?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: How are you enjoying Mahmoud Ahmed?
STEREOGUM: I am enjoying it. I live inside the Music Hall of Williamsburg
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: WHA? We are going to be there Friday?! Awesome
STEREOGUM: I am waiting patiently for you guys to show up on Friday. I camped out really early. What are you wearing to the show?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Oh, say hey to the 200 others then
Melissa Locker started playing “Nothing Is Everything” by DEATH
STEREOGUM: Best Detroit Band Ever. Present company excluded of course
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Death was so ahead of their time. Did you see them at SXSW?
STEREOGUM: I didn’t but I saw the documentary. Did you see them?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: There’s a docudrama? I didn’t even know
STEREOGUM: “A Band Called Death”
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: We didn’t get to make SXSW this year. Too busy finishing projects. Was it hot?
STEREOGUM: Phew! I was worried I had missed you. It wasn’t that hot
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Did you eat at East Side King?
STEREOGUM: No, Torchy’s. Do you enjoy playing festivals?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Whaddaburger. Love them. Festivals are amazing.
STEREOGUM: As a band or as a fan?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: As both. You can see EVERYTHING AT ONCE!
DANIEL ZOTT: I only like to play them
STEREOGUM: Why do you only like to play them?
DANIEL ZOTT started playing “Indian Summer” by Tommy Dorsey
DANIEL ZOTT: i prefer soft music like this! Festivals are so loud
STEREOGUM: This is pretty much the opposite of Death
DANIEL ZOTT: I was searching for the complete opposite and I think I found it
STEREOGUM: It sounds corny but its what I love about music. The fact that a certain number of notes can be arranged in so many different ways
JOSHUA EPSTEIN started playing “Uncle John’s Band (Great Expectations Soundtrack)” by Grateful Dead
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Jerry!!!!!!!
STEREOGUM: Oh god. I never once heard the Grateful Dead until I started doing these interviews
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: My family used to sing this song in 4 part harmonies on road trips
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Yeah, my father is a Dead Head
STEREOGUM: Wow. Did he ever take the family to see them live?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: I had a TON of tie dye. Yep…first concert when I was 9
STEREOGUM: Really? Wow. Did you have any idea what was going on?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: I smelled something funny the whole time. Now I know it was shwag. Not the good stuff
STEREOGUM: Yeah, I grew up in Oregon and that smell was everywhere and all the cool girls wore roach clips in their hair.
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: ha! Roach Clips
STEREOGUM: I was super jealous
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Seriously though, finger burning sucks on a roach
STEREOGUM: That plus a pretty hair accessory. Useful item! What about you Daniel, what was your first concert?
DANIEL ZOTT: I don’t recall. TONIC is the only one I can remember from 7th grade. Joe Jackson maybe?
STEREOGUM: Do you think some kid is going to be able to list DEJJ as their first concert?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Yes! There was a kid in Bloomington In who we had to get ino our soundcheck cause he wass too younge. He was the best. srry 4 my tyoois **typos
Melissa Locker started playing “Shuggie” by Foxygen
STEREOGUM: I blame the Tecra, not you, for the typos.
DANIEL ZOTT: Go JOSH ——your hypeman
STEREOGUM: How has your tour been going so far?
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Only played 1 show so far…but it was the best one ever
STEREOGUM: Well it can only go downhill from here then (JK!)
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: Not necessarily
DANIEL ZOTT: I think we need to go
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: This was fun
STEREOGUM: Thanks for playing DJ with me
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: I now know how a PC works
STEREOGUM: And you are the first band to ever boo me off the stage, so thanks for that first
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: I had some amazing songs in my queue. I was warming y’all up. For some 3 6 Mafia
DANIEL ZOTT: Thanks for having Josh. He’s the best
STEREOGUM: We will have to do this again sometime
JOSHUA EPSTEIN: and some African 70’s jams
JOSHUA EPSTEIN started playing “Ou Xiang” by Paula Tsui
Daniel Zott was booed off the stage.
Patterns is out now via Warner Bros.