Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. plays 20th Century Theater on Friday, February 14th. Probably the best way you could possibly spend Valentine’s Day this year. Buy tickets here. Our conversation with Danny from DEJJ covers naming their band, made-in-USA products, and the influences behind the band’s style.
AMW – You probably get asked this in every interview – but where in the world did you guys come up with the name Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.?
Danny – We were just getting together and not really official, but kept making music... so we approached our name in the same way. I think at one point, we had a bunch of names and they were all so horrible – we said, we might as well name it Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. It's kind of interesting because I think a lot of what we’ve done has come from moments like that – a style of “anything goes.” We don’t like to keep it in the box – you know what I mean? For instance, we’re coming out with a mixtape before we go out on tour. We are working with rappers and R&B singers – we just want to show people we can do everything.
AMW – How did you guys start Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.?
Danny – Josh and I were both in different bands in Detroit at the time. Josh was in a band called The Silent Years and I was in a band called The Great Fiction. I started doing some recording on my own under my name, Daniel Zott. I put something out and he had heard it, and heard that I did it all by myself. I think he was intrigued. So one day, he called me up in an out-of-the-blue phone call – I was a little reluctant at first, but I said, “what the hell - I'll try this out.” I don't like working with people that I don't trust – it takes me awhile to get to that point, but Josh is just the opposite. He is willing to do anything and take risks like that all the time. One of the risks he took was by calling me up... so he just came over one day and we wrote “Simple Girl” and then recorded it. It was pretty much done on the first day and we had so much fun doing it – it was a good pairing so we just kept doing it - and then we were a band.
AMW – One of the reasons we started Article was to highlight people, places, and products that guys in Cincinnati need to know about. What are your thoughts on the importance of American-made goods? Could be anything from clothing to instruments?
Danny – It's super important to us and especially with instruments. We have a lot of keyboards made in Japan, but when it comes to American-made goods, I think all of the guitars we use are American-made. I think musicians have always been on that trend, because it’s obvious that an American-made guitar is more solidly built and sounds better than one made elsewhere. I'm glad that it seeps into other things. It's about being local – for example, Michigan has all of its breweries and a lot of interesting local companies, like Shinola watch company. I'm excited about that – I love the idea of people connecting. I hope that keeps going along with the idea of American-made products.
AMW – I would say you guys have a unique sense of style...has your music influenced the way you all dress, or is fashion something you have always understood?
Danny – I think Josh and I are a little different when it comes to fashion – but we both care about it a lot. I like to do things that are weird – some things that people might be afraid to try. He has more of a cleaner look. We like being colorful, though. I mean, I've worn a onesie and feathers in my hair while on stage. We like to bring a different element to it all. We want it to be an event... something special. We don't want to look like we just walked in from off the street.
AMW – When you search for clothes – what are you going after?
Danny – I do a lot of vintage. It goes back to people connecting and relationships. I met a guy about 10 years ago, his name is Tommy Dorr. He owns a shop in Detroit called Lost & Found Vintage. I love going there because he has stories behind every piece, and when I shop there I'm supporting what he does and what he believes in. I love the idea of buying something that someone gave up on, and putting it back out there. Music, just like fashion, recycles – it’s funny how that happens. It's really interesting – I use a lot of vintage gear and I wear a lot of vintage clothing. So it goes hand-in-hand.
AMW – When you are in between one city to the next – what do you like to do in your free time?
Danny – We always bring our recording gear along and try to do some stuff on the road, but it's really hard to do that and get in that mental place, and be creative when you're out entertaining – but that is actually how this mix-tape idea evolved. It was us fooling around on the bus and we just wanted to come out with something for fun – something for free that we could hand out. Really, it was just for the sake of making cool art. Other than that, we like to find really good restaurants and local shops like yourselves. We just try and make a memory of every city and not just play a show. When it's only about the show, you tend to forget where you're at and you don't get a taste of the city.
AMW – You're coming to Cincinnati on Valentines Day? Does Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. have anything sexy lined up for the show?
Danny – Oh... I'm sure we will come up with something. That will definitely be something that we are talking about in the next couple weeks. I'm not sure if our fans are the kind of people that are even into Valentine’s Day, but I think it'll be fun to play into the holiday. We will do something special for you guys.