628 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA, 94117
Doors 8:30 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh man, this guy might be better than me, and that’s really awesome.’ I always wanted to work with people who I was a little bit intimidated by,” says Josh Epstein of how he came to collaborate with fellow Detroit-area native Daniel Zott to form JR JR. Coming together through a shared love for bands that effortlessly flexed harmonies like the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, the multi-instrumentalists recorded a couple songs in 2009 just for fun. It wasn’t until their friends started reacting with genuine excitement to theirmusic that they realized they had something real on their hands, and with that Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. was born (the band’s original name).
“We suddenly had this thing that people wanted and we were sort of forced into it, but it was a natural thing,” recalls Josh. They put out two EPs on Quite Scientific Records in 2010, Horse Power (which included a cover of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”) and My Love Is Easy: Remixes Pt. 1, and soon major labels were reaching out to them. The band shortly thereafter signed with Warner Bros. Records to its 2011 full-length debut, It’s A Corporate World.
With 2013’s The Speed of Things and 2015’s JR JR (which featured the top 10 Alternative single, “Gone”), the duo continued to expand its already broad fanbase. Listeners across genre lines were drawn in by their adventurous, danceable blend of classic songwriting, intricate melodies and electronic elements. “Epstein and Zott remain purveyors of kaleidoscopic pop music,” said Paste. AllMusic noted, “Despite the use of zingy electronics and an array of mechanical drums, they maintain a warmth and humanness to their sound led by frequent McCartney-esque turns of melody…”
“It can be interesting that for some people, we’re the weirdest band they listen to, and for others, we’re seen as very mainstream”, says Daniel Zott. “And that’s great because it allows us to speak to people in very different ways.”
Daniel and Josh wanted to avoid the typical trappings that come with having defined roles in a band, so there’s no frontman in JR JR, just two guys who relish in the ying and yang of a close partnership. They continue to do the bulk of the creative work themselves – from writing and producing their songs to designing JR JR’s stage show.
“Dan is the most relaxed person that I’ve ever met,” says Josh, “he’s really nice, really caring, and he doesn’t take much personally and he doesn’t let much get him down. I’m the opposite. I’m high strung, over-analytical sometimes.” The balance of personalities is what helps helm their left-of-center sound into accessible pop.
Hembree’s path to success is proving to be as nostalgia-inducing as it is powerful: labor away at home and in fly-by-night studios creating music you love; send your song to the local DJ (yes, on the actual radio) and have him love it so much he plays it immediately; tour and tour and tour and tour and tour; and begin to hear that song on radio stations across the country, acting as early beacons to the larger world taking notice.
Hembree are from Kansas, a state best known for not much worth talking about in a band bio, but also a beautiful place with cracks in its highly conservative foundation where creativity and ambition flourish. This is the Kansas Hembree are from. They come from families of musicians and music-shop owners, people who find the divisive politics of the state just as foreign, if more immediate, as their Coastal peers. And in the grand rock’n roll tradition Hembree are also family: Isaac Flynn (lead vocals, guitar) and Eric Davis (keyboards, synths) are brothers-in-law and high school buddies. Sadly, Garrett Childers (vocals, guitar) has to be content with the role of life-long friend and general bon vivant.
Their new EP, Had It All, arrives on the heels of Hembree’s second single “Holy Water” and its slow, simmering success. That song, released in November 2016, made it onto the Billboard Alt Radio chart (virtually unheard of for a band without a machine behind them), garnered close to one million streams, and opened the door for Hembree to perform with artists as varied as Cold War Kids and Elvis Costello.
Their sound - smart, tightly constructed rock songs with stick-in-your-head hooks and soaring vocals - makes them great companions to the current crop of Alt-chart-dominating bands - like Portugal. The Man, Alt-J, Lord Huron and Royal Blood – Hembree are quickly taking their place next to.
Had It All features 4 new songs plus a re-released “Holy Water” - yes it’s that good, just listen - and showcases a sonic ambition and clarity of purpose that’s formidable. Over the last year and half the EP was recorded in Kansas City, in Isaac’s bedroom and various home studios. Working with friends that the band love and respect, in places they live and work everyday, the convivial environment shines through on these recordings: you can hear their lives in these songs. The band continued their fruitful partnership with producer Eric Hillman and the Grammy-winning mixer Joe Visciano (The Kills, Jamie XX, and Beck), with the end result being some of the best sounding guitar music being produced anywhere in the world.