Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 2014 Daytona 500 champion, made his first ever trip to Austin on Tuesday afternoon and said motorsports fans, especially in the states, should focus on NASCAR and not Formula 1.  

“I’m here to tell people that they need to come to see us race," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We put on a better show and that, you know, as exciting as it is to have Formula 1 be in America, come to America, and be back in the United States … NASCAR is where it’s at. It’s the best motorsports in the country for sure, possibly in the world, and to see the best show they need to come to Texas.”

Earnhardt Jr., who got his first career victory at Texas Motor Speedway in 2000, visited Sholz Garten for a meet and greet with fans to promote the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in April. The race at TMS in November overlaps with the F1 race at the Circuit of the Americas.

“I absolutely think it’s foolish,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said of the scheduling conflict. “Nobody wins.”

The now two-time Daytona 500 winner has partaken in a whirlwind media and press tour since winning NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl Sunday, appearing on The David Letterman Show on Monday evening and visiting ESPN headquarters Tuesday morning before flying to Austin. Comparisons of his victory in 2004 keep coming up for Earnhardt Jr. 

“I thought about that when I first came into the series, how long would I be chasing the Daytona 500," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Would it be eluding me like it did these other guys or would I never win it? And so when I won it early, it was a huge shock and the feeling that I had wasn’t really joy, it was more relief that I had that put out of the way. “

NASCAR’s most popular driver, who has won the award for 11 straight seasons, also joined Twitter after winning the race. He had an account for several years with over 200,000 followers despite zero tweets being sent out. Now, only two days after winning the race, he sits at over 500,000 followers.

“Tonight seemed like as good a night as any to join Twitter,” Earnhardt Jr. tweeted early Monday morning. “How is everyone doin? #2XDaytona500Champ.”

Indie rock group Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. will be putting on full-throttle performances throughout SXSW, including a show at the Warner Sound Showcase later on today. (Photo by Jeff Snow)

Indie rock group Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. glide gracefully to the finish line like the race-car driver they take their name from. In their melodies you can hear the jubilant atmosphere of The Beach Boys, accompanied by electronic percussion that would make late producer J Dilla proud. Just one listen to their song "Nothing But Our Love," and you'll hear the two-piece's (three-piece live) knack for creating dazzling arrangements, all centered around a focal narrative.

The group is scheduled to play the Warner Sound Showcase Wednesday, featuring Kimbra Gary Clark Jr. Daniel Zott, multi-instrumentalist and co-vocalist for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., spoke with The Daily Texan about karaoke, songwriting and touring experiences.

Where: The Warner Sound Showcase
When: Wednesday, March 14, La Zona Rosa at 7:30 PM
*Badges and wristbands welcome; limited tickets for sale at the door
Photo cap: Indie rock trio Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. will be performing at La Zona Rosa tomorrow for their Warner Sound Showcase. Photo by Jeff Snow.

The Daily Texan: You guys recently finished up a tour with Fitz and the Tantrums, correct?
Daniel Zott
: Yeah. We had a January tour with them up in the west coast.

DT: How was it touring with them? Any memorable experiences?
It was great. It was great playing to a different crowd, rather than returning home and playing to the same people. They're [Fitz and the Tantrums] are a little bit older, so the crowd was a little bit older. But it was cool playing to people who may have never heard of us before. It was a good time on that trip; we had a lot of fun doing karaoke, and had some of our own headlining shows in LA, and a performance on the Conan show.

DT: Any notable performances during karaoke?
I'm really good at doing Creed, or anything that has the Pearl Jam-y, Creed voice. I was bringing the house down, but then I got trumped by this random dude wearing a suit and trench coat, who dropped Prince on everybody. It was unbelievable; that was the highlight of the night.

DT: You guys are also scheduled to do this year's Bonnaroo. How does it feel to be a part of such a festival, and who do you hope to see?
It feels great. Whenever you're on the same bill with groups you respect, it's just really exciting. We did Austin City Limits last year, and it was so much fun. Now that I know what it's like I always look forward to playing festivals, and playing in front of really large crowds. I imagine Bonnaroo will be pretty hot; I'm thinking of getting a dunk tank and allowing fans to dunk us in the middle of our set.

DT: That would probably be the greatest onstage prop ever.
(Laughs) It would be awesome.

DT: You guys recently had a competition where fans remixed your song "Simple Girl." How did you guys go about choosing your winner?
Well, Josh and I sat down one day and listened to all of the remixes we received and just rolled through it. We narrowed it down from 72, to our top ten picks, and made a decision on just one of them. The reason why, I think, we picked the PETA Chip one is because, it kept the melodic nature of the song, but also created its own melody. It was really fun to see people mix the song, and hear what they would do when given the opportunity to make something new.

DT: You recently tweeted about how all of Notorious B.I.G.'s records with all of the Puff Daddy filler needs to be muted out. I found that super funny. What other hip hop groups are you into, and have you ever slow danced to "Big Poppa?"
Of course, man. (Laughs) Although it's not my favorite, there's this cheesy movie with Keanu Reeves Where he teaches kids how to play baseball [Hardball]. In the movie the pitcher can't pitch well, and when he does it's because he has "Big Poppa" playing in his headphones. I love that movie, it's so sad, but it's so amazing to me. As for other rap I listen to all sorts of it; Kanye West had the largest effect on me.

When I was in high school I heard "Through the Wire," and it was just really inspiring. I went and bought the record that day, and since then I've been really into him. We he hired Jon Brion for Late Registration, that was one of my favorite records because I loved Kanye at the time, and Brion is one of my favorite producers. So that album blew my mind; the reality of it is, is that Kanye is really smart. There's no rapper close to making beats like him, and mixing samples with real playing.

DT: What I really enjoyed about your latest album, It's a Corporate World, is that the narratives behind the songs showcase your guys' knack for songwriting. Does the melody usually come first and then the lyrics, or do both feed off of each other?
They both feed off of each other. I may have one word for a line of a song, and once I get the rest of the melody, the melody kind of tells you what to say. But then again, there are times when there's something that I've written, but I have to find the right way of phrasing it.

DT: I know you guys have performed in Austin many times. What would you say has been one of your more memorable performances here?
We did go to Austin for a week, where we rented a house, and played two Modest Mouse after-shows, two days in a row at Stubb's. We also went to a movie theater and played Jurassic Park, and talked about why we liked the film. I felt like I was able to see Austin for what it really was; that's the best time I've ever had in Austin.

Joshua Epstein, left, and Daniel Zott, right, make up indie pop duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., performing tonight at Stubb’s. (Photo courtesy of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is fairly unique in that it has managed to create a dreamy pop, alternative sound, vaguely reminiscent of something that’s very west coast, despite it’s Detroit origin.

It is perhaps because of its experience with America’s ailing economy that it named its most recent album It’s a Corporate World. Although the band claims not to be taking a particular advocacy with the title, it does harbor opinions on the current state of the economy and corporatism.

“I don’t know if it’s our job to make political commentary,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. drummer Joshua Epstein.

“Sometimes, it’s really nice to be in the middle of nowhere and see that you can get coffee and Internet at Starbucks, and sometimes, it’s really shitty because you know that the American dream is harder to attain than it used to be. Like when you’re in Iceland and you see a KFC, it’s both comforting and shitty at the same time.”

The whole corporate world motif gets funny though: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist Daniel Zott, is in the freecreditreport.com band from commercials. Jokes aside, they are no slouches when it comes to talking politics. They are particularly interested in the work of Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

“We don’t know if capitalism is a bad thing,” Zott said. “We just want to start the conversation.”

The duality of their sentiment towards capitalism reflects the overall duality Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. possess. They carry a sort of goofy, childlike front, combined with a sort of serious poise and demeanor.

“[Lamberts, the venue we’re playing at], is supposed to have great macaroni and cheese,” Zott said.

While the duo that make up Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are fairly interesting, their music has certain compelling qualities as well. They sound like something that has been in indie-rock before, but it’s hard to put a finger on where exactly. It might lie in sample-driven instrumentals with folk guitars, placed atop fluid and noticeably reverbed vocals. Their conjoining of sounds can be likened to that of Foster The People if they sampled Flying Lotus beats instead of having a drummer. The heavy backbeat isn’t commonplace, either. With that, they’ve managed to achieve uniqueness within a sort of familiarity.

Their ambitions are even more unique.

“We’d like to play at some high school’s prom and then DJ afterwards,” said Zott, with Epstein behind him, nodding in concurrence. “We just really like DJing.”

Even if Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. doesn’t blow up, they still have a place in music thanks to “Corporate America” and those Free Credit Report commercials. The commercials serve as a revenue stream in the absence of mainstream notoriety. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is acutely aware of this fact.

“Everything is being sold now, and everything is for sale.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - Simple Girl (Tiger & Woods Remix) by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.