Hailing from Detroit, JR JR members Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott recently reinvented their band’s image, starting with changing their name from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to simply JR JR, due to confusion their name caused among racecar enthusiasts. However, the band’s transformation from motown-inspired funk to a more minimalist sound came long before their change in name. JR JR will be in town next Wednesday, Nov. 4 at Webster Hall, and WSN sat down with Epstein to discuss the band’s celebrity-inspired name, the creative scene in New York versus Detroit and their latest album “JR JR.”
WSN: How did you form the band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.?
Joshua Epstein: Dan and I were both in bands in Detroit, and had known how one another had worked for a while, and one time I reached out and we recorded a song and it went well and we kept on recording and never stopped.
WSN: Did forming the band in Detroit impact your music style in any way?
JE: We grew up with motown and our parents listened to it. Our sense of melody, in that way, our style was affected by it, but other than that, probably not.
WSN: What are your thoughts on the creative scene in New York versus Detroit? Detroit is now being touted as the last stop on the L train, since a lot of hipsters seem to be flocking there.
JE: I mean, in New York it’s a completely different scene. I think New York has a lot of different things. New York is an impossibly creative environment. It’s fine, it’s an inspirational place, but it’s an extremely expensive place to live.
WSN: Why did the band’s name change from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to simply JR JR this past July?
JE: When we first started the band, we didn’t really know what we wanted. The name became more of a distraction, so we felt like we needed to change it and focus more on the music.
WSN: How important would you say a band’s name is, anyway? What’s in a name?
JE: I don’t think it’s important at all, but I’m also a totally different music fan so it’s subjective.
WSN: I see that you once wrote a letter to Dale Earnhardt Jr. himself, and he responded in kind — has he yet commented on the official change from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to JR JR?
JE: Yeah, he said he was upset that we changed it. But he understands.
WSN: Your new album, “JR JR,” was released on Sept. 25. Is there anything that makes this album different from your previous albums, “The Speed of Things” and “It’s a Corporate World?”
JE: I think it’s a bit more of a refined version of what we do. I think it’s better. I think it’s us, but it’s better, it’s more clear, you know?
WSN: Do you think this goes hand in hand with the name change?
JE: Yeah, yeah. It just kind of all makes it clearer, you know? We have a clear vision of what we’re doing right now and I think it’s just been a lot better.
WSN: Do you have a favorite track from the album?
JE: I guess my favorite track is “In the Middle.”
WSN: What makes it distinctive?
JE: It’s just fun to play, it’s just really fun.
JR JR will perform at Webster Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 4. You can listen to JR JR’s latest album, “JR JR,” on Spotify.
Email Audrey Deng at [email protected]