USA TODAY US Edition
Patrick Ryan Joe Jonas grabs a ‘rare’ second chance with DNCE
New band provides new opportunity for former Jonas Brother
There are no Mickey Mouse ears in Joe Jonas’ current ensemble.
Since starting funk-pop band DNCE this summer, the ex-Disney star has been sporting a colorful array of vintage tees, tricked-out leather jackets and kaleidoscopic button-downs — an offbeat fashion sense that’s mirrored by his bandmates. Pronounced like an acronym, “D-N-C-E” (to reflect the foursome’s imperfect take on dance music), the group includes guitarist JinJoo Lee and drummer Jack Lawless, both of whom toured with Jonas when he fronted the Jonas Brothers with siblings Nick and Kevin, who together sold 17 million albums worldwide and broke up in 2013.
After working with various producers and writing over the past two years, “I reached out to them and was like, ‘This music is exciting me and something that could be that band concept I had been thinking about,’ ” says Jonas, 26. Bassist/keyboardist Cole Whittle, meanwhile, met Jonas through a friend this past year and “was like our extended fourth cousin — it made sense to have him in this band.”
With influences from Sly and the Family Stone, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Weezer, “the cool thing about DNCE is that it can be all of those things at the same time,” Whittle says. “We can be ourselves to the nth degree, and that’s what the music sounds like.” It’s a funky, throwback vibe showcased on the band’s EP
Swaay, out Friday, as well as on their delectable first single, Cake
by the Ocean, which has sold 24,600 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The love song ’s silly refrain was born from writer’s block in the studio one day, when Jonas overheard Swedish producers Mattman and Robin talking about cocktails.
“They were telling this story and kept confusing Sex on the Beach with Cake by the Ocean, so I was like: ‘I love it. This is a really good concept,’ ” Jonas says. Starting with a guitar line, “it was one of those days where we just enjoyed it and made music. We didn’t try to hit it on the nail. We were just like, ‘Let’s see where this goes.’ ”
That positive outlook has helped Jonas navigate some choppy waters in the past five years, after becoming tabloid fodder for his relationships (with ex Taylor Swift and current girlfriend Gigi Hadid) and unsuccessfully launching a solo career. Amid a Jonas Brothers hiatus in 2011, the middle sibling released an R&B album,
Fastlife, which has sold just over 45,000 copies to date and spawned no hit singles. (The highest-charting, See No More, peaked at No. 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.)
Jonas blames the album’s failure on “a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen, whether it was producers or the label. I had a year to make the record and release it and tour it, so for any artist, that’s no time at all. It was a very rushed situation.”
With DNCE, “doing Round 2 is a unique situation,” Jonas says. “I know how rare it is to get second chances in the music industry. The difference vs. Round 1 is that I have a lot of freedom to create something I’m passionate about,” as well as “time to step back and be like, ‘ OK, what kind of music do I want to do?’ ”
He’s not alone this go-around, either. His brother Nick has revived his career by reinventing himself as an actor and R&B sex symbol who hit the Top 10 late last year with infectious single
Jealous and is climbing the Hot 100 again with new song Levels. “We’re very supportive of each other,” Jonas says. “It’s cool to see that we can both have a place in the marketplace and music and it’s no competition — it’s so different musically.”
Although they sometimes play each other new songs and will go to each other’s shows, “we know that it’s our individual times to take that journey ourselves and there’s no hard feelings about it. It’s genuinely just like, ‘Let’s see where this goes for each other.’ ”