Early last year, Joe Jonas was in Savannah, Georgia, filming the Korean War-set film Devotion when he had a burst of another kind of creativity. “I felt so inspired by what a beautiful city I was in and some of the music I heard when I was there,” Jonas tells Rolling Stone. He began writing new material over Zoom with collaborators like Ryan Tedder, Jason Evigan, Mike Elizondo, and Mikky Ekko. Eventually he had written nearly an album, one he felt fit the raucous nature of DNCE.
Jonas formed DNCE — a funky dance-rock group — in 2015 with drummer Jack Lawless and guitarist JinJoo Lee while the Jonas Brothers were temporarily kaput. Both musicians had toured with the Brothers in the past. After being introduced to bassist Cole Whittle by pop songwriter Justin Tranter (the pair had been in glam-pop band Semi-Precious Weapons together), the quartet created a series of deliciously fun pop jams like “Kissing Strangers,” and “Cake by the Ocean,” which became a massive hit.
In the years leading up to the Jonas Brothers’ reunion in 2019, DNCE released an album and opened for the likes of Selena Gomez and Bruno Mars. For almost four years, the group was put on ice — until now.
Lawless and Lee have both returned to round out the lineup. Meanwhile, they’re going forward without Whittle, who is focusing on solo material at the moment. “While I was in the Jonas Brothers again, I put a pause on all things DNCE, with the support of my fellow bandmates,” Jonas explains. “So it became this thing where we all went and did our own thing and started to look at what else we wanted to do. Cole’s been making really amazing music that’s right up his alley, and I’m really supportive of him.”
With the minor lineup shake-up and the introduction of many new co-writers who are themselves successful artists too, Jonas has been able to re-envision what DNCE could be: a “living, breathing” ever-evolving pop music rodeo. “I can kind of foresee it becoming this E Street Band where members come and go.”
He recently finished reading Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller and is just as inspired by the Foo Fighters’ bandleader’s own diverse array of collaborators both in and out of his group. “It could be a great opportunity to have some special guests, like obviously Ryan [Tedder] who is a fantastic musician. I can totally see him hopping up onstage here and there. He’s kind of busy, but I think it would be a fun concept.”
On TikTok, Jonas has started teasing the new music, which many fans correctly attributed to DNCE already. “Dancing Feet” will be the first single of their relaunch, with the video being filmed this week. It’s a collaboration with EDM superproducer Kygo, known for his tropipop originals and remixes. The song is a perfect reintroduction, a crisp, Eighties-inspired bop primed for all your dance-floor needs. Kygo and Jonas have developed a friendship over the past few months, and when the DJ and producer played the song for the singer, it fit in perfectly with the material already written for the band’s return.
“It’s really happy. It’s that feeling of not really giving a fuck and enjoying life to the fullest,” he says of the single. “I think what DNCE always did so well was bring joy to people, which is what I wanted to do with this new batch of music. Obviously it’s still very tricky times, but it reminds us all of being able to go out there and dance and enjoy life.”
While DNCE’s funkiness will still be prevalent, Jonas adds that there’s a huge psychedelic influence on the upcoming songs, inspired some of his favorite artists Empire of the Sun and Tame Impala.
The Jonas Brothers wrapped a pretty extensive trek of their own last year, so there are no present plans for DNCE to hop on the road. But Jonas does hope to do a handful of small shows with the group as they roll out their new music. In the future, he would love for the group to go on the road with Italian rockers Måneskin. Plus, on top of getting DNCE’s new music into the world, he’s sure to turn heads later this year in Devotion, his first dramatic film role, where he stars alongside Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell. He’s already been dipping his toes into acting, recently making a cameo as himself in HBO’s The Righteous Gemstones. (As for whether he’ll be back onscreen before the season ends? “I can’t tell you, but just keep watching,” he teases.)
More than anything, Jonas appreciates that all of these projects can co-exist at the same time. “In the past with the Jonas Brothers, I used to carry a lot of trauma when new projects would present themselves because you could only focus on one thing at a time,” he explains.
The trio promised themselves to not hold one another back from any personal endeavors, whether it’s acting, music, or any other project one of them might want to explore. Jonas was happy when he was in DNCE and always wanted to know that it could carry on in some form in the future: “It has just presented itself to be more creative when there wasn’t a timeline on any of it.”