Checking In

Where DNCE Would Have Cake by the Ocean

DNCE’s suggestion to have “Cake by the Ocean” has gone global. (Photo: Meredith Truax)

When you meet DNCE, you totally get how they produced the infectiously fun and slightly off-kilter dance song “Cake by the Ocean.” The group consists of a Disney pop hitmaker, a Korean-born guitar player that rocks funky shades, an asymmetric Mohawk-sporting bassist and a low-key drummer that once roomed with the Disney pop hitmaker. Three of the aforementioned might even spontaneously start singing the “Friends” theme song in the middle of an interview. (Yes, that really happened.)

But make no mistake this cast of characters is super talented, having worked with chart-toppers like Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga and CeeLo Green. When we talked to singer Joe Jonas, bassist Cole Whittle and drummer Jake Lawless (guitarist JinJoo Lee was absent) at the JW Marriott in Austin during SXSW, we learned that the group takes a different approach to travel, maybe as unique as its songs.

“We’re definitely all from different places,” Joe says. “Whether that’s JinJoo from Korea, Cole from Outer Space, and Jack and I are originally from Jersey; I think that kind of embodies what DNCE is. We’re all from different backgrounds and that’s why we left out the ‘A.’ We’re perfectly imperfect in our own weird way. That inspires music and that’s what we bring to our concerts and our shows. We want everyone to feel comfortable, be themselves and be as weird and wacky as they want to be.”

“Cake by the Ocean” hit some pretty impressive numbers in the U.S., but did you know that you were number 1 in Poland?

Joe: We were told recently that we hit number 1 in Poland and our minds were blown. As DNCE, we haven’t been there, so it’s awesome. And we are hearing reports that we’re playing in Russia and parts of Asia and it’s awesome for all of us. To have this warm welcome in other countries like we are, is a dream come true. And a lot of those countries don’t even have beaches.

Cole: Maybe that’s why they like the song so much.

DNCE bassist Cole Whittle gets acrobatic during the SXSW Music is Universal Showcase, hosted by Marriott Rewards and Universal Music Group, at the JW Marriott Austin (Photo: hristopher Polk/Getty Images for Universal Music)
DNCE bassist Cole Whittle gets acrobatic during the SXSW Music is Universal Showcase, hosted by Marriott Rewards and Universal Music Group, at the JW Marriott Austin (Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Universal Music)

Why does music have the power to resonate across so many boundaries?

Cole: I think since living things existed they’ve heard rhythm, whether it’s in finding food or doing anything; there’s rhythm there…I think it’s just a primal thing and it doesn’t matter who you are. You can feel the emotion of a piece of music that you maybe don’t understand the words to, or you like how it makes you feel or how it makes your body move. I think that’s an ancient thing. It’s no different today.

What are your top two or three essentials when traveling?

Cole: When we’re traveling we need one person with a working phone, that’s always Joe. We need our ATM cards and maybe a pen and a napkin to write down phone numbers. That’s about it. This world is a huge, vast rock and people have been wandering it for a long time and that’s what we do, we’re wanderers, like Caine in “Kung Fu.”

What music do you listen to when you travel?

Joe: When we’re traveling we listen to a lot of new music. There’s a playlist “New Music Fridays” that I like to zone out on.

Jack: I’m always listening to Spotify.

Cole: When I get on a plane, I usually need sleep so badly that it’s a problem. So, lately, my sleep album is Miles Davis’ “Nefertiti.” When I wake up and we’re about to land, I listen to some ridiculously hard trap music.

What’s the first thing you guys do when you’ve been on the road and you get to your hotel room?

Cole: When we get to hotel room in a new city, we literally throw our bags down in our room and leave immediately, because usually have 15 or 30 minutes to an hour to explore before we have to do something or go to sound checks. So we want to get out there into the world and see what’s up.

What guilty pleasures do you look forward to when you’re traveling?

Joe: We try to out do each other with restaurants and coffee shops and try to find the bougiest spot.

Cole: I try to take everyone to the weirdest, most controversial place I can find in every city and usually everyone drops off and then I’m there alone or it’s not even open.

Where have you been recently that impressed you the most musically?

Joe: We were just in Portland and I would say the music is pretty sweet there.

Cole: Portland is a great indie rock, kind of underground city. You can hear a cool band anywhere.

DNCE JinJoo Lee and Joe Jonas
DNCE members JinJoo Lee and Joe Jonas at the SXSW Music is Universal Showcase, hosted by Marriott Rewards and Universal Music Group, at the JW Marriott Austin. (Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Universal Music)

What’s your favorite travel memory as a group?

Joe: Cole and I stayed up quite late one night in Toronto and missed lobby call and the bus left us in Toronto. The bus was at the border and we called and they were like, “We left you.” So, we were standing in the streets; it was cold and it was raining on us. Cole thought the Space Needle was beautiful, which is odd and would mean we were in Seattle.

Cole: Yeah, I was like, “Look at the Space Needle!”

If you could have cake by the ocean any where in the world, where would it be and what kind of cake?

Joe: I’m going to go with Bora Bora and I’d probably go with Natalie Portman cake. Cole would have Penelope Cruz cake or bourbon or whisky or both in Berlin…. Jack, I feel like would be on the Jersey Shore. (Turning to Jack) I feel like you’re a classic man and you’re gonna go with chocolate cake.

Cole: With a candy version of Bruce Springteen on top and you are feeding Bruce Springsteen cake, no Cake Boss!

What are you most looking forward to doing in Austin?

Joe: We’re looking forward to roaming the streets, finding good food, walking into little bars and listening to some bands. There’s a lot going on, so it’s overwhelming. Today, we just took a long walk and it never ended. We have a lot of strolling to do while we’re here.