The CultureMap Interview
The Citgo Freedom Over Texas – Houston’s Official Fourth of July Celebration at Eleanor Tinsley and Sam Houston Parks on USA’s big day will include fireworks onstage as well as off, featuring headliners Top 40 hitmakers DNCE and CMA-winner Hunter Hayes.
Founded in 2015 in New York City, DNCE might be best known for the band’s frontman, Joe Jonas, one-third of the once-inescapable Jonas Brothers. Now all grown up, his new group relies heavily on funk influences, writing some of the catchiest, danceable pop music on the radio, evidenced by the success of 2015 single “Cake By The Ocean,” which went Top 10 in the U.S. and over 30 other countries, leading to the group winning a MTV Video Award for Best New Artist. Their latest single is this year's “Kissing Strangers,” featuring Nicki Minaj, another Top 40 hit.
CultureMap caught up with the pop star to talk about gaining new success with friends, what his mom thinks of his new band, and why the Fourth of July is one of his favorite holidays.
CultureMap: I posted on Facebook that we would be having this interview and, for some reason, a lot of mothers freaked out. Why do you think moms like you so much?
Joe Jonas: [Laughs] Hey, I don’t mind. I think that’s a huge compliment. That’s probably the age range now that where that’s the music they grew up with, the Jonas Brothers were either on their iPods or iPhones when they were in their teenage years or into their adulthood. I think it’s great because it’s exciting for DNCE to have a variety of ages at our shows. We have an eclectic group of fans and that’s always a wonderful feeling when we play live.
CM: A couple of months ago, we reviewed the Green Day show and you have a lot of established bands coming out with new projects that speak to a younger generation as well as their parents. Would you say that’s accurate for DNCE?
JJ: I’d like to think so. A lot of our inspiration is from funk music that we’ve listened to growing up in the house or discovered on our own time and I’m sure that Green Day show was awesome. But I think it’s probably a bit of nostalgia for some people when they hear DNCE, it kind of brings them back to some music they grew up listening to and I think you’re right, there’s a whole new wave of young listeners that are starting to get into what their parents were into when they were growing up. I think it’s a huge opportunity for musicians in this day and age right now.
CM: For the casual fan that might be looking to do something family friendly on the Fourth of July, can you give me a background of how DNCE came together?
JJ: Speaking for myself and the whole band, all of us were doing individual projects – myself with my brothers, Cole [Whittle] with Semi Precious Weapons, JinJoo [Lee] has played and toured with a lot of different artists and Jack [Lawless] has played with a lot of different bands, including my brothers and I. We were just friends who came together to create a funky pop rock band. I think the best way to showcase the music is through the performance and you don’t want to miss it. We’re going to have a lot of fun.
CM: A lot of people know you from your previous band, the Jonas Brothers. What are some of the big differences between those two?
JJ: The biggest difference is I’m older now. I was younger, playing music with my brothers and some of the things you’re going through and writing about were more immature with childish lyrics, which was exactly what we were going through at the time. There’s nothing wrong with that, but being a little bit older, I still have the love for music. The only difference is that now I get to perform with a great group of friends that I like spending time with. I’m lucky to have musicians that also enjoy it as much as I do and work really hard.
CM: I was listening to your debut album and it does seem like a more mature sound. Is it because you’ve discovered new sounds that you want to play and don’t necessarily have the constraints you may have had before?
JJ: I definitely think it’s all of the above. Growing up, you discover more music on your own. I also think as you get older, you go through different experiences, so lyrically, it’s probably more mature. At the corner of it, it’s still just light-hearted fun and we try to create a vibe where there’s not too much over-thinking involved. It’s just funky pop music. From “Cake By The Ocean,” to “Kissing Strangers,” it’s pretty easy to figure out what the songs are about, whether it’s a sexy song or just having fun and partying. It’s not rocket science for DNCE.
CM: It definitely falls in line with the new Top 40 like Bruno Mars. Is that something you consciously do when you write songs together or is it a mix of everything that you are into?
JJ: I think it’s the one style of music we can all relate with and agree on. With four people together, we all love different music and we try to look at what we all really like. That kind of soulful funk element is what we can say we love collectively so that’s the vibe we want to go with. Bruno is a great example of an element of Prince, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Sly and the Family Stone that is seeing a resurgence on pop radio.
CM: When I think back to those '70s funk bands, the music was obviously first, but performing the music goes hand-in-hand with having a good time. Is that something DNCE is looking to accomplish when performing?
JJ: It’s really important to have fun lyrically but not to sight of your influences when it comes to the pop friendly style of music.
CM: Does DNCE give you more room to collaborate than before?
JJ: Yeah, Cole and I love to collaborate on lyrical ideas quite a bit, whether it’s at home or on the road. As friends in a band, it’s a constant learning curve and we are always growing as a band and songwriters.
CM: What does your family think of DNCE?
JJ: They love it. My mom has said she preferred some censored versions of certain songs, but all that said, they are big fans and are at plenty of shows.
CM: As your first band after the Jonas Brothers, how did it feel when DNCE became successful?
JJ: It was an amazing feeling. To have a song take off (“Cake By The Ocean,” reaching No. 9 on the Billboard Top Ten), something on my own from what I was used to, and my first taste of radio success, it was a blessing and encouragement to know DNCE has a place in music. We all kind of knew in that moment it was an opportunity to grow and continue to create.
CM: You’re playing Houston on the Fourth of July. What does Fourth of July mean to you?
JJ: It’s a family day, it’s a celebration. It’s lots of fried food, fireworks, either in a swimming pool or by the beach. It’s always super memorable whether it’s a good performance or family time. I think this show will be great for people to come hang out with their family, see some fireworks and hopefully enjoy some DNCE.
Tickets for the Citgo Freedom Over Texas – Houston’s Official Fourth of July Celebration are $8 online until July 3 and $10 online and at the gate on July 4. Children under 5 are free with a paid adult. DNCE plays the Citgo Stage at 8 p.m., followed by a fireworks display.
This interview was edited for space.