Joe Jonas has seen more highs and lows in the music industry than most musicians twice his age. In 2006, just before he turned 17, his band with brothers Nick and Kevin, the Jonas Brothers, released their debut album. From then until 2013, the sibling act was a Disney-bred phenomenon, selling out stadiums, starring in movies and TV shows, and selling 17 million albums worldwide.
Before the group’s 2013 breakup, Joe attempted to launch his solo career, though compared to the Jonas Brothers juggernaut, the response to 2011’s Fastlife was tepid. After two years of re-focusing and exploring new styles, with the help of Swedish producers Mattman & Robin and Semi Precious Weapons’ Justin Tranter, Jonas has pulled off a funky reinvention and found the perfect band to explore it with: DNCE.
“It’s tough for artists to get second chances in the music industry these days, and the fact that I get to do it with these guys who love music and are passionate and have a great time onstage is a dream come true,” Jonas says of his new funk-pop group. “Getting a chance to come at it like a new artist and a new band is incredible.”
Along with Jonas, DNCE includes drummer Jack Lawless, guitarist JinJoo and bassist Cole Whittle. Lawless met Jonas when he was 19, having left college to go on tour with the Jonas Brothers. He played live with the trio until 2013 and had gone on to be Joe’s roommate. “We always thought about how it would be rad to [be in a band together] and had all these names like Tic Jack Joe,” says Jonas.
Korea-born JinJoo moved to L.A. at 19, going to music school in Hollywood and eventually auditioning to become Jordin Sparks’ lead guitarist. “That’s how I got started in the music industry in Hollywood,” she recalls. “The first tour was Jonas Brothers’ world tour, and that’s how I met Joe. We’ve been friends since then.”
Whittle, a classically trained pianist and former circus carny, is much newer to Jonas’ sphere, having been introduced to the band through his former Semi Precious Weapons bandmate Tranter. “Justin and I were writing a lot of the songs for the EP together,” Jonas explains. “We were stuck on finding the fourth member and amazing bass god. When we were all introduced to Cole, it was electric.”
DNCE made their debut with the groovy, semi-ridiculous “Cake by the Ocean.” The infectiously upbeat tune has become a viral success, aided by a video directed by Jonas’ supermodel girlfriend, Gigi Hadid, and starring social-media-star-turned-male-model the Fat Jew. “Cake” is a perfect preview of the band’s debut EP, SWAAY, out today, which features equally catchy, quirky songs like “Pay My Rent” and “Toothbrush.”
“I think the band was born in Joe’s personality,” says Whittle of DNCE’s sound. “Whether he’s just walking down the street or just talking to someone, it’s always fun, and he’s always kind of boogie-ing. He brought the three of us into this world because we’re kind of similar in that way, and we’re all funky people aesthetically and personally and musically. I think the funk is just kind of a thread that goes through all of us as people and as musicians.”