Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
A band that wears NASCAR-style racing suits onstage probably has a serious sense of kitsch. There’s definitely a lighthearted aspect to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.—check the boardroom-style portrait on the cover of the outfit's debut LP, It's a Corporate World. At the same time, this Motor City indie-pop duo thrives on its unabashed sensitivity.
Built around Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott’s breezy, confident harmonies, the band harks back to classic soft-rock twosomes like Hall & Oates and Seals & Crofts. Live, the pair fleshes out the songs with drums, synths and various electronic gadgets, but the project still comes off as powerfully intimate. You'll frequently catch the two singers flashing one another bromantic smiles as they sing.
Epstein and Zott's chemistry is surprising, given that their collaboration is still pretty fresh. They each established themselves in Detroit with a bunch of other projects: Zott in the Great Fiction and the Victorious Secrets (whom you may have caught in a FreeCreditScore.com ad), and Epstein in the Silent Years. In 2009, Epstein caught a show by Zott and decided to give him a call. A side project was born in Zott's basement studio, yielding an EP with a charming, Vampire Weekendey cover of the Beach Boys’ "God Only Knows.” Eventually they released Corporate World, appropriately with Warner Music backing.
For acoustic sessions, Epstein and Zott ditch their respective Cheerios and Lysol racing suits. In concert, they still sport them proudly. They've even made contact with their namesake, the famed NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has given his blessing to the band. The pair realizes that some may peg their auto fetish as a gimmick, but they clearly relish that disconnect between image and their sound. As Epstein told one interviewer, "It's a huge lesson for adults in 'don't judge a book by its cover.'"