Like younger brother Nick, middle sibling Joe wasn’t done destroying any traces of his Disney halo when he freewheeled through our recent talk. Read on as he chats about his fondness for S&M, gay fans that send him pics of their privates, and preferring an “older, mature” man play his hypothetical onscreen lover.
It’s been surprising to hear you talk so salaciously while promoting this album. But then again, I keep forgetting you’re not 17 anymore.
A song from your new album, “Be Mean,” is essentially about S&M. Tell me about your decision to be so sexually liberated in your music.
What do you want them to learn?
Maybe you should teach them, Joe.
JJ: I’ll do a handbook.
JJ: Exactly. I expect you to be one of the reviewers.
Were there moments before when people were trying to guide you to be something different than who you felt you were?
JJ: I would say “yeah” to that. Yes, because it may have been subconscious; it could just be friends you’ve surrounded yourself with, or on a deeper level it could be music people around you saying, “This is the right direction for you, and this is where you should go next.”
I remember when I did a short run of a solo project (2011’s Fastlife, released on Disney Music Group’s Hollywood Records), all signs were pointing to a very R&B, smooth, sexy vibe for an album, and I listened without taking time for myself to really utilize influences that I love. I learned from it, but at the same time, it was jarring. But I feel really comfortable in my life and career right now. I definitely feel like the best version of myself, and I’m glad I can have a good label now that allows me to spread my wings and create music that really is, for all of us (in the band), unique and special.
Another change: Your body. What inspired the muscles?
JJ: I wanted a change of pace and to put myself through a challenge. It’s easy to eat junk food and party every night on tour, so I put myself through a season where I challenged myself physically, and I really enjoyed it. There were days that were tough, but seeing your body slowly changing, you just want to keep on it. I had a trainer on tour with me — this amazing boxer Ava Knight — and she came out and busted my ass, and I was really enjoying it.
Has your beefier body gotten you more attention from gay men?
JJ: I think so! Probably, yeah. I’m seeing it just through DMs. It’s quite funny. But I take it as a compliment. It’s cool. At the end of the day, for me, it goes back to the music, and DNCE has done a lot of cool concerts, like Pride shows. We have a lot of gay fans, and we love that they’re so supportive, so hey, if that makes them happy, it’s all good.
What do gay men DM you?
JJ: Oh, man. Thanks! You know, honestly, that’s what we’re all about: taking people out of a place they don’t wanna be in and bringing some joy to a situation.
Why is it important for you and the band to perform at Pride events or, like you did recently, at a club like G-A-Y in London?
JJ: In the world we live in now more than ever, it’s especially important that, like you said, our music can take you out of that. I think, what is a better time than now for everyone coming together and being stronger together, whatever your thoughts are on the election? It can be a heartache for some. I think for DNCE we try to bring some joy to you and happiness and share the love, and that’s what it’s all about for us. If we can put a smile on your face, that’s what’s important to us. And look, our gay fans are awesome and we want to give back in every way we can, so we’re putting on shows for them.
How have you been processing the election outcome?
JJ: I’ve been able to see a lot of different viewpoints. What I mean is, I just presented at the Glamour Women of the Year event, and it was a pretty somber crowd, obviously. Toward the end, there was a bit of hope. Bono actually won Man of the Year, and he said it best when he was like, I shouldn’t even be up here, but now more than ever, men and women should be uniting and coming together. It was interesting to see how they’re handling it, but for me, personally, I was bummed. Now, it’s time to come together, and there’s going to be some positive things hopefully. It may suck, but I love this country and I think that’s what it’s about.
There are several videos online of paparazzi chasing you down and asking if you’re gay. Why do people think you’re gay?
Reinforcing those rumors: the fact that you want to collaborate with Barbra Streisand.
JJ: Yeaaah! I love Barbra Streisand. It’s so funny: Our stylist is like the biggest Barbra Streisand fan in the world, and it’s amazing because I always make sure we play the song “Barbra Streisand” when we walk in the room before a fitting.
Do you have a favorite Barbra album?
JJ: That’s tough to say. Look, I love theater as well. I had the opportunity to be on Broadway when I was younger, and I hope to be able to do it again one day. So, I would say the theatrical side of Barbra, I really love.
You’ve also dabbled in acting. If you ever followed in your brother Nick’s footsteps and played gay, who’s on your shortlist of male romantic interests?
JJ: That’s a great question. I’d say for sure Daniel Craig. I think Matthew McConaughey is a hunk of a man. I’d have to go with George Clooney. Older, mature men.
What message do you hope to send to people who are reluctant to support LGBT issues?