By Brian Ives
Joe Jonas is entering a new chapter of his artistic career. The Jonas Brothers are on hiatus, and he’s recently started a brand new band, DNCE. Jonas is the singer and he’s joined by guitarist JinJoo Lee, bassist Cole Whittle and drummer Jack Lawless. Today (October 23) they release their debut EP, SWAAY. Radio.com spoke with the entire band about their hit single “Cake on the Ocean,” what it was like to work with YouTube sensation The Fat Jew, and their little spelling problem.
So, what’s the story with your name? Did you guys have a problem with the letter “A?”
JinJoo: Joe was so tipsy [when we named the band], so he missed the “A.” But it’s not a perfect world. You don’t have to be perfect all the time to dance or do your life.
Except there’s an extra “A” in the EP title, SWAAY.
Joe: SWAAY, which was actually one of the ideas for a band name when we started. We couldn’t get it, somebody else had it, so we were like, let’s name the album that. And yeah, there’s an extra “A” in there, so that could be the missing “A.”
Cole, your vibe and stage presence reminds me a bit of Flea. Was he an influence?
Cole: Yes, he was, but I’m just a hyper weirdo that happens to play bass. Yeah, we’re spirit animals, for sure.
Let’s talk about your single “Cake By The Ocean.”
Joe: We’re so thrilled with having “Cake by the Ocean” out there now, and the song comes from working with Swedish producers [Mattman & Robin]. They were telling these stories and kept confusing the term “sex on the beach” with “cake by the ocean,” so we ran with that idea. They had this guitar lick they had for 10 years and no one ever used it, so we grabbed that, we just gave it a shot, and it was the first breakthrough song that kind of embodied the rest of this EP. It molded the rest of the EP and the songs that are gonna be on the [forthcoming] album. It really helped us define what we wanted to create with kind of these funky, inspired tunes with these kinda quirky lyrics, embodying that and putting them together.
It looked like you guys had a good time shooting the music video.
Joe: It’s a hilarious video about having a massive food fight with cake on the beach. We have [YouTube star] the Fat Jewish [aka YouTube star “The Fat Jew”], who’s one of the stars of the video, and a bunch of beautiful people, and it was a great day. It was a beautiful, hot summer day, and we got to shoot right on the beach, and the reaction already has been great.
We had the idea for a while, and it’s a tough one to really put on paper and make it happen, but luckily it came together pretty well. The whole team was great, and the fact that we kept building this cake bigger and bigger. I remember the first draft, the cake was like a tiered wedding cake. We’re like “No. We want like the emoji cake, but like 12 feet tall.” And our dream came true.
We had just a day to really shoot this music video. So we were crunched on time, but luckily, the team was on point, and we shot until the sun went down. We had massive cake; we were worried about it melting on the beach.
Was that giant cake actually a cake?
Cole: It was like half cake and half office supplies and cleaning products.
Talk about working with The Fat Jew.
Joe: Fat Jewish is a hilarious human being.
JinJoo: I love him so much.
Joe: And he’s like a big teddy bear who’s drunk all the time. And he’s like Ted.
Cole: In a good way.
Joe: In a good, great way. Kinda like Ted, but actually a human. And he is a good time, he is a partier, but the guy definitely is a comedian. He knows how to turn it on. We just kept the cameras rolling as he just gave everything we wanted and more.
Cole, he and you may be able to help hipsters move past the manbun, you both have creative hairstyles.
Cole: You know, me and him, we’ve both had our desert weaves growing out of our head for a long time, definitely pre-manbun craze. So I’d like to think we’re pioneers.
So, how did you guys get together? I know Jack played drums in the Jonas Brothers’ band.
Joe: I’ve known these two [JinJoo and Jack] for over 10 years. And we’ve played together on and off stage. Jack and I were roommates at one point. Jack and I had ideas for bands for years. “Tic Jack Joe” was one of the ideas.
Jack: We were in all these weird side projects that we were gonna start.
Cole: Billy Grouper I think was one of them.
Joe: That’s one of my favorites, actually. And so after a while, time just kind of set itself up, so that way we would be able to really make this band happen. And so we started just writing, recording, and trying to figure out where the sound’s gonna go, and then once it was defined, I called these two up. I was like, “Let’s make this thing happen.” A mutual friend introduced Cole and I, and the next day after we met, I was like, “All right, this is the dude. He’s gotta be a part of this somehow.”
Cole: The crazy thing about us as a band is the first time we ever played together, it felt like we had been doing it for years, literally.
Jack: It just gelled instantly.
Cole: Yeah, and we all, we know a thing or two about being in bands, all of us. Our entire life has been being in bands. And so that says a lot that we all feel that way.
JinJoo: Well, the second time we played together, it was for a showcase.
So what were the common bands that you guys all agreed on as touch points for the band?
Joe: A lot of our influences vary. I would say throwback stuff from Electric Light Orchestra to Sly and the Family Stone, Earth Wind and Fire, and so obviously a lot of stuff that’s bass heavy and gets you grooving. And rock ’n’ roll is kind of all over the place and has different meanings, but for us I think it’s great to be able to come together to create a sound that sometimes maybe brings you back a little bit and reminds you of the old days.
So the SWAAY EP is going to be out when we publish this interview. What’s the long-range plan?
Joe: We have an album that we’re gonna be releasing next year, probably aaround February or March. Right now we’re just touring and playing the shows and excited about the EP release. And we’re gonna kinda ride it out and see what happens with the EP, and what song people are drawn towards.
Obviously, people see you as the guy from the Jonas Brothers. Is it difficult to get people to see you in a different way, as a member of this new band?
I’m just going with the flow of things. I’m not trying to throw what we’re doing in people’s faces. This is what comes natural to us, and we love to play music, speaking for the four of us. Music kind of, it’s just a great time to play, and obviously there’s years from me that I’ve learned from, and I really am proud of those experiences. But this is an opportunity to be a new artist again, so for all of us it’s an exciting venture.
I know you covered Drake‘s “Hotline Bling.” What other songs are you planning on covering?
Cole: We got a pretty solid TLC cover coming.
Have you recorded it already?
Joe: Oh, yeah, we worked it out already, so it’s ready.
Why did you choose a TLC song?
Cole: It’s maybe a different genre, but they’re just like a little group of superheroes just like kinda all great bands are.
Joe: And they spell their name out like us.
Cole: We’re really into the letters thing, yeah.
I’m guessing you did “Creep.”
Cole: I’m gonna tell you you’re wrong.
Who else do you want to cover?
Joe: E.L.O., “Mr. Blue Sky,” also because they spell out their name.