DNCE (COLE WHITTLE, JACK LAWLESS, JOE JONAS, AND JINJOO) IN NEW YORK, OCOTBER 2015. PHOTOS: HANS NEUMANN. STYLING: DAVID CASAVANT. HAIR: ADAM MARKARIAN/DE FACTO INC. MAKEUP: YACINE DIALLO/DE FACTO INC. RETOUCHING: TATIANA CHEBOTAREVA.
For most people, Joe Jonas‘ new band DNCE (pronounced D-N-C-E) came out of nowhere. However, its four members—Jonas, JinJoo, Cole Whittle, and Jack Lawless—have known each other for more than nine years. Finally, after being involved with other musical projects, the four-piece is entering their career as DNCE without an ego: the band will play for anyone who wants to listen.
The formation and pure existence of the band didn’t even have a traditional announcement. Rather, it was slowly announced through a series of underground shows-cum-parties at the group’s rehearsal space in New York. A few weeks ago, DNCE released its first single, “Cake By The Ocean,” an anti-Jonas Brothers dance-pop gem about sex that starts easily and plays in your head on repeat. For all former (or current) Jonas Brothers fans, sorry, but if you didn’t already know, it’s clear that for Joe and co., those days are long gone.
Last week, when DNCE was in town for an appearance on Good Morning America and CMJ, we met them at The Standard East Village. It was the day before the release of the video for “Cake By The Ocean,” starring The Fat Jewish, and we spoke about creating a new sex euphemism, their favorite kind of cake, and their debut EP Swaay, which is out today.
ILANA KAPLAN: Why is your band name DNCE?
JOE JONAS: There are two reasons. Reason number one, in the process of making this EP, we wrote a song called “DNCE,” which was about being too drunk to spell dance. The second reason can be answered by JinJoo.
JINJOO: DNCE is “dance without the a.” It’s not a perfect word, and you don’t always have to be a perfect dancer to dance. Life is just sometimes not perfect.
KAPLAN: Your Swaay EP is about to come out. Do you think there is a theme that resonates throughout it?
COLE WHITTLE: I think it’s different shades of the quirky existence that we all have. We have so much fun, but we find ourselves in strange situations all the time. It’s dance music, but it’s about funky stories about weird things that happen in love and hanging out. I think that’s what it’s about.
KAPLAN: Was this project in the works for a long time? I know you have known each other for nine or 10 years.
JONAS: It definitely felt like a long time.
JACK LAWLESS: Joe and I have been talking about this since we were touring with The Jonas Brothers.
JONAS: We were roommates for a while—Jack and I. When it was the right timing, we wanted to do something like this, whether it was a side project or something like this—a full-time band. The last year it’s been really gung-ho and we got the music started. It really came together very quickly.
KAPLAN: Obviously you were in The Jonas Brothers, then went solo, and are now in a band again. In the long run, do you see yourself as a solo artist or in a band format?
JONAS: I prefer the band aspect of things. I feel comfortable. It feels good to look to my left and right and see three other people on stage with you that love music as much as you. I love seeing us all having a blast. I get to enjoy every moment with three other people. Whether it’s a cool city we see, a stage, or a moment of someone drunk, screaming in the front row, we get to experience it together.
KAPLAN: So is your debut EP a one-off, or is there an album on the way?
JONAS: There’s definitely an album in the works, and we’re trying to create that album. We have a bunch of songs. Probably top of the year next year we’ll release that album.
WHITTLE: I think for all of us, we see posters, framed photographs on mantles, and 20 albums in 30 years. That’s what I see. I see a great band that stays around and does it—in this young stage.
KAPLAN: To announce the project, you threw a bunch of secret shows in New York at your rehearsal space. Why did you decide to announce the band that way?
JONAS: It was more just rehearsals that ended up becoming showcases. We were in New York and wanted to do something different. We started rehearsing some of the new songs we were finishing up. It became a party. We went from doing three shows a night to doing six or seven. It was just wacky and crazy. It was an experience, and we were able to do it in L.A. as well. It was great.
KAPLAN: Joe, I know your previous label wanted you to go in an R&B direction. Why did you decide to go in a funkier, more pop direction? Was R&B not for you?
JONAS: I love R&B, and I love all different kinds of music. I guess that was one journey that felt right in that time in my life. That is definitely music that has molded and inspired me. I think I can say for all of us, we love rock, pop, and funk. I love being able to blend these three and create something unique for people.
KAPLAN: Does your debut EP map out the steps in the relationship to some degree? The song “Cake By The Ocean” is about sex and “Toothbrush”is about leaving your toothbrush at your significant other’s apartment as a next step…
JINJOO: Every song, when you listen to it, gives you butterflies because it gives you those moments. [With these songs], you experience those moments, but you don’t really pay attention to them. We made those moments into songs. The songs help you remember those moments.
KAPLAN: Which artists influenced this project for each of you?
JONAS: I’ve always loved ELO, so for me, that was a big one.
LAWLESS: Daniel Craig.
WHITTLE: Sly and The Family Stone, Weezer, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Hall & Oates.
KAPLAN: With “Cake By The Ocean,” do you feel like you created a new euphemism for “Sex on The Beach”?
WHITTLE: We hope so—that’d be pretty cool. We wanted it to be a euphemism for pretty much everything on earth. Like, “Are you all right, man?” “No man, I woke up with a cake by the ocean.” It could be anything and that’s the beauty of it.
JINJOO: Or you go to the bar and ask for a cake by the ocean.
KAPLAN: Do you use the phrase a lot now?
JONAS: We do. It’s in our vocabulary. We obviously sing it a lot, too.
KAPLAN: The one song on the EP that sounds like an anomaly is “Jinx.” Was that on purpose? Or was it a last minute addition?
JONAS: It’s definitely the only ballad of the four songs on the EP. It was one that was a last minute addition, but we’re really proud of that one. It’s a crowd pleaser that’s really romantic and a pivotal moment in a relationship where people don’t want to mess things up too soon. A lot of people are faced with that situation, so we wrote about those moments.
KAPLAN: So, what’s the best kind of cake you’ve ever had?
JINJOO: We had the best kind of cake in Florida yesterday in the green room with chocolate, Nutella, and crunch on the bottom—Orlando cake.
WHITTLE: I like Kate Moss cake too. [laughs] Say that 10 times.
KAPLAN: Is this music for Jonas Brothers fans in your opinion?
JONAS: Not necessarily. Obviously if they like it, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s fine too. At the same time, we’re thinking of this as a new band. We’re not coming into it with an ego or expecting a massive audience right off the bat. We’re happy to be playing for whoever, whenever. We played for basically a Bat Mitzvah last night, which was a conference room full of 1,200 people seated. We got them up, but we’re excited to get out there and perform music. Whoever wants to hear us and likes us should come to more shows.
KAPLAN: How much of your music is about your current romantic relationships?
JONAS: I would say it’s a good majority, but sometimes you write songs that are just stories about situations where people might be at in their lives. I think it’s pretty relatable—a lot of ups and downs.
KAPLAN: Obviously going from the more innocent Jonas Brothers to now, are you trying to make an overt statement with the song “Cake By The Ocean” to fans?
JONAS: I don’t know that I’ve been trying to make a statement. It’s more so that it’s been the first breakthrough song we had. We were working in the studio non-stop. We finished [with The Jonas Brothers] almost three years ago. In no way am I trying to throw sex in anyone’s face, but I think it’s a song we really loved and it embodied what DNCE really is.