So what the living heck is the gang up to now? Well, they won’t tell us, but boy is it exciting.
You see, for Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott, each new phase of their career is marked by some sort of wonderful thing. Their first two albums together under the band name Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., gained a small but respectable cult following, but with 2015’s self-titled re-envisioning, the guys streamlined their pop sensibilities into something that required a bigger studio budget, resulting in the biggest hit of their career with the song “Gone”. They even placed in PopMatters Best Pop Album ranking for that year, which is no small feat.
So now, the band is touring again, and what are they doing? They’re teasing us. Giving us hints and prods as to what the next big thing is that they’re working on. Oh, don’t worry, there’s songs, as the political barn-stormer of a funky single “Control (Secretly Sorry)” hints at an expansion on JR JR‘s sound but with an even more layers of quirkiness. A month prior to that, they put out “Clean Up”, a more mid-tempo, contemplative affair that’s more in line with their contribution to the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack. The buzz and rumors of an album continue to circulate, but we’re left here wondering if Epstein and Zott just so happen to be sitting on another stunning pop masterpiece.
While they wouldn’t say, Joshua nonetheless managed to at least answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, revealing an affinity for The Notorious B.I.G., the Matt Damon legal thriller The Rainmaker, and why he was once in a close competition with, of all people, Mitt Romney.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
I watched The Rainmaker recently and cried when the lawyers played a recently deceased boys’ final video to be jury. He talks about his insurance company not letting him get a surgery that would’ve saved his life. It’s a sad situation .
2. The fictional character most like you?
I’m really a lot like Josh in the show Transparent. It’s almost like they mined my life for storyline. But not exactly.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Notorious B.I.G. Ready to Die because it happened at a time in my life when it feels irreplaceable.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars. I like the concept of the Force. It’s actually probably closer to my spiritual belief system than most religions.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Marijuana is great for getting into a different head space. Legally, for medical reasons, obviously.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I’m proud of coming in second for my high school’s alumnus of the year award to Mitt Romney. I would’ve liked to have beaten him, but he has lost enough for a lifetime.
7. You want to be remembered for …?
I want to be remembered as a man who never sexually harassed anyone. It seems like white men in the entertainment business are far creepier and more terrible than I ever imagined. If I can serve as a counter example to the assholes it would make me happy.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Leonard Cohen, John Lennon, Elliott Smith.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
The Korgis’ “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime”.
10. Your hidden talents . . .?
I’m an amazing whistler. I used to be really good at soccer. You need too many friends to play as a grown up, though.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Devendra Banhart once told me to “surrender to the love.” I thought it was hippy dippy jargon, but it isn’t — makes more and more sense [over time].
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I bought a Cadillac because nobody under 50 drives the sedans and I thought it would be funny. Turns out I love it.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?
I feel the best in suits. Always have. More often than not, though I’m in Levi’s.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
I’d love to eat with Jared Kushner, assuming he was forced to stay and listen to me chastise him for being the worst Jew along with Harvey Weinstein. They are giving us a terrible name.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I’d travel to Jesus’ time, and tell him to write his thoughts down in his own words. A memoir rather than biographical accounts would’ve been helpful to avoid crusades and pogroms.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Transcendental meditation. It’s the secret. The secret.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?
Coffee and dried mango. Unsweetened. Can’t stand people adding sugar to mango.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I’d ideally have a farm somewhere outside the city. Grow my own food, but still be able to get dinner last 10 pm somewhere.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
I’ll catch you if you jump (I wouldn’t).
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Music. Always. All ways.