“Some people said they wouldn’t even listen to us because of the band name.” Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott, a Detroit-based indie-pop duo. Their first EP was called Horse Power, but DEJJ have been called the “least Motor City band ever” with their 1960s pop-meets-hip-hop sound.
I get Epstein on his cell at a Guitar Center in Detroit. “The reason we decided to keep the name is that we don’t feel like you need to be a tortured and miserable person to make good art. A lot of people take themselves too seriously.” Having select audience members wear skeleton costumes during shows helps break the spell. “We’re playing music to have fun.”
When I first saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., I thought that Dale Earnhardt Jr., the race driver, had a band. “He sent us a nice email. He even said he was flattered that we named the band after him.” Epstein adds that they weren’t out to start a band in the beginning. “Both of us produce bands in Detroit. I called Daniel to ask about writing a song together. I’d had ‘Simple Girl’ kicking around in my head for a while. He just made it so much better. I thought, Wow, this thing could work.”
He’s right. The two share a solid recording-studio chemistry. Their update of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” borders on the reverential. “We were fascinated by the fact that it’s a song that is so interesting and has such difficult chord changes in it, and it still managed to become a pop hit.”
What’s next? “We’re trying to get into the old Motown recording studio to make our next album. It hasn’t been used since the ’70s. We’ve been talking [to the owners]. We’re hometown boys. They may let us.”
TV Girl and So Many Wizards also perform.
DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR.: The Casbah, Thursday, June 2, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $10.