At that point, they were as fresh-faced as a band of mischief-makers with impressive résumés could possibly be. Lawless was the drummer from Jonas Brothers; JinJoo was playing with the likes of Charli XCX, CeeLo Green, and Jordin Sparks; Whittle was in Semi Precious Weapons—and Jonas had gathered them all to concoct DNCE. “From that moment on, we knew it wasn’t just a project,” says Whittle.
The swift nature with which the band originated likely contributes to its explosive energy. No matter the setting—a small, overcrowded basement of a hidden venue in New York’s Meatpacking District or an arena in Cincinnati—DNCE always bring a contagious, entropic enthusiasm to every performance. They enter the stage to Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” litter venues with balloons and cardboard cutouts of various celebrities, run directly into the crowd, and shred their instruments to bits.
While their live shows haven’t cooled since their debut, they certainly have developed. “We’re still as wild and crazy as you saw us on the first day, but I think we kind of lock it in now, too,” says Jonas. “On top of being able to run around like maniacs, we also want to be great musicians.”
The group’s liveliness could also stem from its dynamic. “We’re like superheroes who came together from different backgrounds of life to bring some funky rock to the world,” the lead singer says. And, as Whittle suggests, it’s the wide range of their personalities that allows them to explore all of their creative outlets: “Some days, we’re like four grandmas going on a cruise together and Cuba Gooding Jr.’s there. Some days, we’re like the new Ninja Turtles movie. Others, we’re like The Goonies—a bunch of 11-year-olds that don’t know anything and just cause trouble all day. And then sometimes we’re like Striptease—really sexy.” After spending nearly every moment together for the better part of 16 months, their bond has only grown stronger. “I can’t even imagine life without these guys,” says JinJoo. “Sometimes I ask myself: ‘How did I live without these three guys, like, around me all the time?’”
But maybe the reason behind DNCE’s infectious energy is even simpler: “There’s no ego involved,” says Lawless. “We’ve all been in bands our whole lives, and we’re all really happy to still be doing it. That’s why when we go on stage, we give it 100 percent every time.”
Their debut EP, Swaay, caused a frenzy among fans. The accompanying videos for their singles “Toothbrush,” a sweet ode to the beginning of a relationship, and “Body Moves,” an innuendo-riddled song that Maroon 5 probably wish they had written, both racked up eight-figure views on YouTube. Plus, they were awarded best new artist at the VMAs, an honor previously given to Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Tyler, the Creator. But while expectations for their debut album have inevitably been high, DNCE aren’t sweating it. “Starting this [band], we had the great support of just working on music without any pressure,” says Jonas. Instead of nerves, there are troves of excitement. “We’ve always had a blast together,” adds Whittle. “The only difference is that in the beginning we slept six hours a night, and now we sleep two hours a night.”
Clockwise from left, on Whittle: coat by DSQUARED2; on Lawless: top by 3.1 Phillip Lim; on JinJoo: dress by Dion Lee, earrings by Vita Fede; on Jonas: top by 3.1 Phillip Lim. Grooming: Matthew Tuozzoli at Atelier Management using Dior Homme. Hair (for JinJoo): Seiji at The Wall Group using Bumble and bumble. Makeup (for JinJoo): Nick Barose at Exclusive Artists Management using M.A.C Cosmetics. Special thanks to ROOT Studios.