Joshua Epstein, left, and Daniel Zott of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. sing the National Anthem before Monday's Tigers game. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. has to slow down to catch up with “The Speed of Things.”
The Detroit dance-pop twosome’s second album hits stores today. But since wrapping the album last winter, group members Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott have been steadily working on new material, including a mixtape that’s taking the group in a more hip-hop direction.
“We’re not just a band that writes songs and goes out and plays them,” says Zott, on the phone last week from a tour stop in Cleveland. “We do production for other people, we can make beats for someone, we can do all sorts of stuff. And we can do it well.”
The material he and Epstein have been working on won’t compete with “The Speed of Things,” he says, but rather present the band in a new light. Included in the new songs are collaborations with Flint singer Tunde Olaniran, who has toured with the band, and Marvin “Slim” Scandrick from ’90s R&B group 112.
“We’re just exploring our options, because we have the talent and the resources,” says Zott, who knocks out material in the basement studio of his Ferndale home. “We love making beats for other people, and we want to be a part of all of that. We’re constantly making stuff. We don’t let ourselves just sit around.”
Revisiting “The Speed of Things,” Epstein is taken back to the making of the album, which was written in Ferndale and recorded in Ortonville in 2012. “I can really feel what I felt making it while listening to it, and I think that’s a really amazing thing,” he says. “I feel like it’s a real time capsule.”
The songs on “The Speed of Things” are delicate and poppy, and lead single “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t on the Dancefloor)” has an elastic 1980s feel that makes it one of the year’s most exuberant singles.
Coming off the group’s 2011 debut album, “It’s a Corporate World,” Zott says the group wanted to focus more on songcraft this time around.
“I want the songs to feel like they have a flow to them, like a well-written poem,” says Zott, who formed Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. with Epstein in 2010. “On this record it’s a little bit more focused in that way, where they feel like songs, and not just blips and bleeps everywhere.”
The group — who sang the National Anthem before Monday’s Detroit Tigers game — has been on the road for the better part of the year, and will play the Jack White Theatre at Detroit’s Masonic Temple on Nov. 23. “I’m excited. I think we have something that’s really special,” says Zott. “I hope other people see it the same way.”