NO OR­DI­NARY JOE

Joe Jonas, the soft-spo­ken front­man of pop mu­sic’s za­ni­est band of mis­fits, talks about new mu­sic, find­ing his voice, and why the typ­i­cal post-boy-band ca­reer path just isn’t for him.

Gotham - - Contents - By OUSSAMA ZAHR Pho­tog­ra­phy by DEN­NIS LEUPOLD

Joe Jonas—front­man of pop mu­sic’s za­ni­est band of mis­fits—talks about new mu­sic, find­ing his voice, and why the typ­i­cal post-boy-band ca­reer path just isn’t for him.

Joe Jonas can trace the turn­ing point of his ca­reer to a sin­gle piece of ad­vice that led to the cre­ation of Dnce, the funk-in­fused dance-rock band that seemed to emerge, fully formed, from an ex­plo­sion at a disco-dust fac­tory in 2015. “i’ll never for­get the conversation i had with my man­ager,” says Jonas. “He was like, ‘you need to get this band to­gether, do what you want to do, and just go have fun.’”

Judg­ing by Dnce’s first sin­gle, the free­wheel­ing dance-pop con­fec­tion “cake by the ocean,” Jonas and his band­mates—bassist and key­boardist cole Whit­tle, gui­tarist Jin­joo lee, and drum­mer Jack law­less—took that de­cree dead se­ri­ously. the mu­sic video, di­rected by the cre­ative team Black cof­fee and Jonas’s then-girl­friend, su­per­model Gigi Ha­did, takes the song at its word. there is a mas­sive, 12-foot-tall slice of cake—based on the straw­berry-topped emoji cake, nat­u­rally—set up on a beach for a cake-fight­ing com­pe­ti­tion that seems to take its rules from dodge­ball. a crowd of pretty young things in swim­suits gath­ers on makeshift ris­ers. so­cial-me­dia in­flu­encer Josh os­tro­vsky, aka the Fat Jew, makes a slow-mo, Bay­watch- style en­trance look­ing like a gonzo sumo wrestler in tiny swim trunks, his pony­tail stick­ing up from his head like an an­tenna. He faces off against a bevy of mod­els and pro­ceeds to clob­ber one af­ter the other with cake and frost­ing as he dodges their vol­leys, grace­ful as a dancer. some­one in the crowd swipes through the dat­ing app Bum­ble. os­tro­vsky pours White Girl rosé all over him­self. the mem­bers of Dnce bounce around an­ti­cally on a band­stand.

the en­tire en­ter­prise is so self-aware and flu­ent in mil­len­nial cul­ture that it prac­ti­cally de­fies crit­i­cism—it’s too in on the joke. Even the name of the song is a goof: swedish pro­duc­ers Mattman & robin kept con­fus­ing “sex on the beach” with “cake by the ocean” in the stu­dio, and the band ran with it all the way to the top of Bill­board’s adult Pop charts and a win at the MTV Video Mu­sic awards for Best new artist.

With a fun and fresh new al­bum, the self-ti­tled DNCE, and a 2017 cal­en­dar fill­ing up with head­lin­ing tour dates, the 27-year-old Jonas is com­ing into his own, but it took some time for him and his even­tual band­mates to ar­rive at Dnce’s im­petu­ous, care­free style. Joe and his broth­ers nick and kevin found fame as the Dis­ney chan­nel-as­sisted boy band the Jonas Broth­ers, and tapped into that un­stop­pable force known as pre­teen- and teen-girl fan­dom, which rises like a wave ev­ery 10 years or so to carry bands of young men to stardom. the story of the group’s breakup, in 2013, is well known, with nick, the youngest brother in the group, ini­ti­at­ing it. “it was star­tling at first,” re­calls Jonas. “i needed a week or two to process it. it was such an im­por­tant changeover for me. i felt like it was time for us to hang up the hat, but we were hold­ing on to it for so long.”

For his part, nick seemed very ready to move on, and he swiftly found suc­cess as a solo artist. “i’m en­vi­ous at times, watch­ing his artistry and how he went so quickly into cre­at­ing mu­sic and an al­bum,” Jonas ad­mits. “But i also knew that it was im­por­tant to take time for my­self to be able to fig­ure out what ex­actly i wanted to do next. it’s so easy to just jump right into some­thing and re­lease more mu­sic, and it might not be the right fit. now we’re able to sup­port each other from afar.”

Jonas is speak­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence: He had al­ready tried out the solo thing him­self with the al­bum Fastlife (2011) while the Jonas Broth­ers were on hia­tus in 2010/2011. While it was a re­spectable pop/r&b ef­fort, the al­bum didn’t ex­actly break new ground, and it passed un­der the pop radar. “i’m very proud of the mu­sic that i was able to cre­ate,” Jonas says, “but i think at the time it was a lot of cooks in the kitchen when it came to mak­ing the mu­sic. i look back now, and i’m glad i went through that, be­cause i would be in the same po­si­tion [now] that i was then, where i’d be try­ing to go the Justin tim­ber­lake route. it wasn’t what i felt most com­fort­able do­ing. i al­ways loved be­ing in a band sur­rounded by great mu­si­cians and peo­ple that love it as much as me, and be­ing able to per­form on­stage with a group of friends and have a blast. that’s at the core of what Dnce has been for the last two years—just pure fun for us.”

it’s an ap­proach that has largely worked, with a cru­cial tweak: For all the band’s youth­ful en­ergy—best em­bod­ied by mo­hawked bassist Whit­tle, who ric­o­chets around the stage like a punk-rock pin­ball—the mu­sic they make feels com­pellingly adult. “tooth­brush,” the sec­ond sin­gle, is an easy-breezy track, in which Jonas croons, “Baby, you don’t have to rush/you can leave a tooth­brush/at my place.” it’s a plot­line that would have re­quired a three-episode arc on Sex and the City and sent car­rie into a tail­spin, but the song is ef­fort­less, up­beat, and even off­hand. it’s not ex­actly teenaged stuff—and that was the point. “We were en­cour­aged, es­pe­cially with ‘cake by the ocean,’ to write a song that has this funk-in­flu­enced pop, but lyri­cally to put a spin on it that’s not the norm. it does feel free­ing to be able to write songs about things that peo­ple our age are re­ally go­ing through,” says Jonas.

He seems to be fol­low­ing the artist’s edict that if one is hon­est with his art, the fans will fol­low. “We were play­ing a show,” he re­calls, “and the song [‘al­most’] was one i wrote about get­ting over a re­la­tion­ship, and it was a dif­fi­cult song to put on the al­bum, be­cause it’s very per­sonal. in the crowd, this girl was just cry­ing her eyes out, and she’s by her­self, and you could just tell that it’s her breakup song. if i could help that per­son or some­body else get through a cer­tain sit­u­a­tion, then it’s all worth it.”

as with “cake by the ocean,” the mu­sic video for “tooth­brush,” which stars model ash­ley Gra­ham as Jonas’s gor­geous girl­friend, adds an­other layer of ap­peal to the song and bur­nishes the band’s ca­su­al­cool im­age. “it was quite funny on set,” says Jonas. “cole was pretty mad at me—he didn’t even want to be around the film­ing process— be­cause he was pretty jeal­ous. [ash­ley] was great and so much fun to work with. of course, there’s like 10 cam­era guys in a room with you when you’re ly­ing on a bed, but she made it re­ally funny and kept me laugh­ing, which made it re­ally com­fort­able.”

While having big-name mod­els in mu­sic videos is noth­ing new (see also Zayn, taylor swift, et al.), Gra­ham, the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Sports Il­lus­trated’s an­nual swim­suit is­sue, also hap­pens to be the very beau­ti­ful face of the body pos­i­tiv­ity move­ment. “We didn’t re­ally think it would be as big of a talk­ing point as it was,” says Jonas. “i think she is def­i­nitely chang­ing the game for that pro­fes­sion, and it’s re­ally in­cred­i­ble to see. i didn’t re­al­ize un­til the video came out af­ter­wards why it was such a big deal. Hope­fully through this mu­sic video—and, ob­vi­ously, through ash­ley’s ca­reer—she’s def­i­nitely mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. For us, we were happy to have her in the video, and that was the key thing. Maybe peo­ple will stop mak­ing a big deal about cer­tain things like that. she’s awe­some. she’s in­cred­i­bly in­tel­li­gent. she’s done amaz­ing TED talks, and any­time we get to hang with her and her hus­band, it’s a great time.”

of course, there are el­e­ments of his Jonas Broth­ers days that he just can’t shake—namely, the celebrity gos­sip that seems to cling with par­tic­u­lar fer­vor to for­mer kid stars and Dis­ney chan­nel alums. a few days be­fore our in­ter­view, as Dnce’s tour was start­ing up, Jonas’s per­sonal life was once again mak­ing head­lines. in one news item, he was pho­tographed out and about with Game of Thrones ac­tress so­phie turner, and in an­other, in­sta­gram lurk­ers were an­a­lyz­ing his de­ci­sion to dou­ble tap an im­age of ex-girl­friend and fel­low rocker Demi lo­vato with her new boyfriend, MMA fighter Guil­herme “Bomba” Vas­con­ce­los. Both items men­tioned the band’s tour, of course. it was hard to tell where the tabloid fod­der ended and the mu­sic news be­gan.

“it kind of comes with what you do,” says Jonas with good-na­tured res­ig­na­tion. “i think you never get used to it. you get a lit­tle bet­ter at it when there’s ru­mors or you have to deal with ran­dom drama—[like] old exes that are dat­ing some­body new. i try to just fo­cus on the good stuff and not ob­sess over it. it’s not as bad as it used to be. on the Demi thing, i see she’s happy and i’m happy for her. i met Bomba. He’s a good guy.”

still, Jonas has no re­grets about his boy band days—even the Dis­ney mu­si­cal Camp Rock, which got him teased on twit­ter by tyler, the cre­ator. “there’s mo­ments where i look back and i have to laugh,” he says with a chuckle. “i don’t re­ally want to hide any­thing from my past, but i eas­ily could have done with a few less hair­styles back in the day. other than that, i’m re­ally proud of ev­ery­thing. i grew so much from it. We ac­tu­ally have a plan as a band—be­cause i don’t think cole has seen it yet—to get pretty drunk and watch Camp Rock and see what it’s like now.

“For all of us, it’s like a new life in a way. the mu­sic in­dus­try moves so quickly and ev­ery­one is lis­ten­ing to the next thing that’s com­ing out, and it’s al­ways the goal to find the next song or next band, and so we feel very lucky to be able to have a life in the mu­sic in­dus­try again and have fans out there. We re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate it, and we know it’s not easy. We’re just having a blast and en­joy­ing ev­ery minute.”

“I’M EN­VI­OUS AT TIMES, WATCH­ING HOW [NICK] WENT SO QUICKLY INTO CRE­AT­ING MU­SIC. BUT I ALSO KNEW IT WAS IM­POR­TANT TO TAKE TIME FOR MY­SELF TO FIG­URE OUT WHAT I WANTED TO DO NEXT.”—JOE jonas

Jacket and pants (prices on re­quest) and turtle­neck ($650), Bally. 625 Madi­son Ave., 212-751-9082; bally.com

Jacket ($1,775), shirt ($640), and trousers ($1,050), Her­mès. 691 Madi­son Ave., 212-7513181; her­mes.com Styling and cre­ative di­rec­tion by Paris Libby Groom­ing by Marissa Machado at ART DEPT

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