The exact moment Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. made the leap from a quirky band with a funny name to one of indie pop’s most promising young acts is tough to pin down. Somewhere between recording demos in a Michigan basement in 2009 and releasing a star-studded crossover mixtape inspired by Nate Dogg last month, the Detroit duo attracted enough buzz to book a national headlining tour. Perhaps even more impressively, they also made a fan out of Dale. Yes, that Dale.
What started out as a half-serious, collaborative experiment was quickly embraced by a collection of novelty-obsessed music bloggers who pressed play simply because of the crazy name, but kept listening (and became fans) because of the music. Before they knew it, Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein had the most successful project of their careers on their hands.
The duo's almost reckless willingness to experiment is built on a foundation of diverse influences, including Sunny Day Real Estate, Boyz II Men, The Notorious B.I.G. and The Beatles. Naturally, this makes them attractive to a generation who grew up making similar genre-defiant statements on homemade mix CDs and on-the-go playlists.
After being pigeonholed more than a few times as an “indie pop” or “folk” band after their first two albums, it only made sense for them to flip the script and release Produce Vol. 1, a project largely inspired by R&B. Heavy in synthesizers, danceable loops, and an impressive lineup of hip-hop collaborators—including Chuck Inglish, Murs, Asher Roth and King Chip—it’s hard not to get excited about hearing Jr. Jr.’s new songs come to life in a live setting. Catch them at the Doug Fir with Chad Valley on March 3.