Popping Up: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey—Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.

For the latest feature in our Popping Up series, we shift our eager ears to Detroit—birthplace of Motown, stomping ground of Eminem and the city where duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (aka Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott) are based. Using hip hop beats, folky guitar licks and quirky, catchy hooks, these two gents first served up their Horse Power EP in July, and now have a four-track follow-up, My Love Is Easy: Remixes Pt. 1, slated for a November 2nd release. (And did we mention they covered our all-time favorite Beach Boys song, “God Only Knows”?)

Josh, who’s also the frontman of pop-rock collective The Silent Years, summed up Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s sound for us as “pop music, made in a basement without corporate aspirations.” Lucky New Yorkers can catch the pair doing a string of shows this week as part of the CMJ Music Marathon. And you can learn more about the double Juniors below!

AGES: Josh is 28. Daniel is 26.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr Horse Power EPWHERE THEY’RE BASED: Detroit, Michigan. “Detroit allows you to operate absent of trends,” Epstein tells us. “There aren’t musical movements as much as there are artists making their own things.”

HOW THEY GOT TOGETHER: “We have been in bands around town for a while, and had known of each other and done shows together. About a year ago, I called Daniel and asked him to record a song. That song turned into a band before we knew it.”

INFLUENCES: Grizzly Bear, Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson, Motown and local Detroit musician and producer Ben West.

SPEAKING OF BRIAN WILSON, WHAT’S UP WITH THE “GOD ONLY KNOWS” COVER?: “Daniel was learning that song because the chord progression fascinated him,” Josh explains. “I walked in for a session and started harmonizing, and Daniel’s cousin who happened to be there said, ‘You should record that’.”

CURRENT SINGLE OFF HORSE POWER: “Nothing But Our Love”

JAM OFF THEIR UPCOMING REMIX EP: “Vocal Chords (Diego And The Dissidents Remix)”

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HOW JOSH AND DANIEL DEVELOPED THEIR UNIQUE SOUND: Epstein tells us, “We both love hip hop and we both are really obsessed with the song in a more popular format. Once we decided to not put a limit on the kinds of stylistic pieces we could use, it all started coming out.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr Josh Epstein Daniel Zott

WHEN YOU CAN GET YOUR MITTS ON A FULL DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR. ALBUM: Early 2011.

WHAT AUDIENCES CAN EXPECT FROM THE DUO’S NYC GIGS THIS WEEK: “Just that we plan on giving them a live experience somewhere in between the Pussycat Dolls and the Jumanji movie.” [Booking our flights now, guys!]

HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED FOR THE PAIR SINCE STATIONS LIKE L.A.’S KCRW HAVE PUT THEM INTO ROTATION: “Our egos got huge. We lost all of our friends and had to rebuild all of our relationships from the ground up,” Josh says. “It has been awesome.” Of course, he’s joking—er, we think.

SO, ABOUT THEIR NAME—WE GET THE INFATUATION WITH THE RACE CAR DRIVER DYNASTY, BUT WHY THE DOUBLE JR.?: Josh says, “Twice the nepotism.” And there you have it.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. kick off their run of New York shows tonight at Rebel NYC. Catch all the dates and venue info on their MySpace. Horse Power is available now on iTunes.

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