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July/August 2016 Cover Story: Commando Jonas

Joe Jonas’s new band DNCE breaks its cherry at Toronto Pride
By Nelson Branco

The Jonas Brothers are all grown up. And they’re embracing their inner gay.
Not the way you’d probably prefer, but hot bros Joe and Nick Jonas, who have separately embarked on new musical careers (third brother Kevin is a New Jersey real estate contractor), have become two of our community’s fiercest and most loyal allies.
This is why Joe Jonas and his burgeoning band DNCE are proud to be headlining Pride’s Final Play party at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square on Sunday, July 3. (DNCE includes members JinJoo Lee, Joe Jonas, Cole Whittle and Jack Lawless.)
So bring your ‘dnce’ shoes.
IN dropped it like it was hot with the 26-year-old Arizona-native heartthrob to dish about his transition from boy band to adult rock star, if he’ll tackle acting next, whether he wears boxers or briefs, and his unconditional support for LGBTQ2 issues.
How did the Toronto Pride gig come about?
They approached us, and we were overwhelmed by the opportunity. We can’t wait to perform, to be honest. We’re excited to kick off Pride, and hopefully we’ll be there every year.
Can we expect anything different at the Pride performance? Chaps?
[Laughs] We might do a few different cover songs. Right now, we’re thinking of adding some Beyoncé! We have a long relationship with Lady Gaga, so maybe we’ll throw a song of hers in there too.
Is there a difference between performing for straight and gay crowds? Though there’ll be a mixture at Pride.
We’re very accepting of every fan base. Our shows and music attract a pretty eclectic group of people. I can’t say if there is a difference, but there’s a bit more freedom in our gay or gay-friendly audiences in terms of how they express themselves. Gay audiences are also very loyal. And that’s why we love performing. It’ll be great performing for Toronto Pride because it’s a huge party.
Your brother, Nick, has realized that. He credits his gay following as being a major factor in his success as a solo artist. Some critics call it ‘gay-baiting.’ Have you discussed that marketing approach?
I’ve watched him do a lot of stuff with the LGBTQ2 community. I think it’s awesome that he is so supportive of the community—whether it’s him playing pop-up shows at gay bars, playing gay on TV or taking his shirt off [laughs]! I have a lot of best friends who are gay. I love them so much. So it’s great to support and celebrate with the gay community. I think we’re getting closer and closer to acceptance around the world; we’re happy to be a part of that change. Watching Nick embrace his gay fan base? Yes, of course, that’s encouraged me and DNCE to do more.
It’s a good thing because you and your brother are highly influential and impactful with the millennial crowd, since many of your fans grew up with you as The Jonas Brothers—especially since you all grew up in a Christian home. You once said, “I believe in God, and that’s a personal relationship that I have, but I’m not religious in any way.” Does it worry you that there is an increasingly anti-gay rhetoric and escalating violence in the US?
We’re slowly getting somewhere better but, listen, it’s a long run. It can be frustrating and heartbreaking at times, but I like to think we’re also being hopeful. Yes, there are certain states that are slower in terms of getting their head on straight with the times and equality. With the right person in place [as US president], we can make a huge difference.
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Nick went solo—why did you decide to go back to a band?
I’ve always loved being in a band. For all of my life, I’ve been more comfortable in a band. I tried doing the solo thing for a little bit, but I realized it wasn’t for me. I like being the frontman running around stage. Musically, I like rock, pop and funk stuff. All that blends and lines up with forming a band. Nick has the R&B-pop thing down, and that’s what he does well. I prefer to play the kind of music that I always wanted to—and I get to be on tour with my
best friends. That’s always a good feeling.
Is there a healthy competition factor between you and your brother?
We’re definitely supportive when it comes to music. When it comes to sports or video games, that’s when we’re competitive!
How hard was it transitioning from boybander to adult rock star?
When we went into this, we didn’t even think about it. I remember telling my manager and record label: “Let’s just win and do what we do best.” Our strategy was just to release the music—and let the music speak for itself. And I think it’s proven to be a successful and true approach. For example, our [hit] song “Cake by the Ocean” did way better than we expected. And slowly, more and more people are finding out that I’m a part of the band. That’s encouraging. We
live in a generation where Drake could come out with a classical album and people will figure out a way to like it. We live in a good generation to be creative right now. Having said that, I’m glad I took the time off that I did and thought about everything before I launched into something new. I didn’t want to release just any kind of music and say, “Here I am, world!” I’m not that suave and serious; that’s not me. I like to have fun and crack jokes. While music is serious to me, the lyrics aren’t so much. Our lyrics are a little bit quirky, left-of-centre.
Do you write your music?
I write everything. I sometimes write with other songwriters, but it’s all generally from my heart.
It’s interesting that as more and more bands are dismantling, you chose to form one.
I’m glad that there aren’t a lot of bands out there right now. There are a select few, but being in a band can be tougher. There are a lot more editors and voices to deal with. When you have a younger, good-looking guy coming out with a solo song, you have five other guys competing.
When you were a part of The Jonas Brothers, social media didn’t exist yet. What are your thoughts on social media? And are you happy it wasn’t around when you were younger?
I think it’s great, especially for artists who want to connect with their fans. As tough as it may seem sometimes, it’s an adapt-or-die time for every generation. Everyone’s on social media, and those who know how to use it properly are doing very well. Yes, privacy is an issue but you can find anything you want on the Internet anyway, so why not be in control of it? We try to showcase our personal and professional lives to our fans: a bit of us on tour, us on the
bus, and some things on and off stage. There are some things we won’t post but we try to be as honest as we can.

Nick stars on the critically acclaimed boxing drama Kingdom. Any plans to act?
Definitely focusing on the band. Maybe it will happen one day down the road, but I am having a great time touring right now. I think I would go stir-crazy if I was sitting around set all day. Most actors I know say that. For me, I don’t know if I want to act right now. I’d go nuts.
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How did you and brothers stay so relatively sane during your teen years?
I was with my brothers. We weren’t random friends who were put together. We liked spending time together. When we were out of line, we had no hesitation to slap each other around. I think that’s why our heads were kept on straight. And, of course, we had incredible parents. They were really good at balancing our work and family time.
Having all those screaming girls—and boys—didn’t fuck with your ego?
I was able to separate reality versus what was happening on stage. It comes with the job. The attention also filled you as an artist. When you’re on stage and fans are screaming for you, it’s the best feeling in the world. Yes, there were certain moments when we wanted private time, but we ended up enjoying performing more than we did when we had time off. When we had time off, we went a bit crazy. We actually prefer working than being off.
Will there ever be a Jonas reunion?
Many years down the road. We’re all focused on our own music and individual careers. We’re not in any rush. We’re just happy we’re all doing well. We’re not ready to do The Jonas Reunion boat cruise just yet!
Drake. The Weeknd. Bieber. Canadian music is having a moment right now. Is that on your radar down south?
Yes! The Six is killing it. We look at all the success and we’re definitely impressed within the industry. I think Drake is an incredible artist. He’s like Mr. Mayor of Toronto. It’s cool to see so many of your artists doing so well. You guys are doing amazing. Toronto is having an incredible year. And Canada, with your Prime Minister.
How do you stay in shape?
It’s a balance. I have an amazing trainer, who is a professional boxer, on the road with us. I have a particular diet I stick to. It’s basically chicken, fish, oatmeal and egg whites. It’s three meals a day with a few snacks in there. On tour [currently opening for Selena Gomez’s Revival], you finish late at night and you’re starving, and you’ll eat whatever is in front of you so you have to be disciplined. That keeps me going—and working out actually gives me more energy when I’m on stage. We’re doing 40 minutes of cardio on stage, so you have to be in shape to not run out of breath when you’re singing. I work out almost every day each week and I enjoy it. A lot of times when you’re touring, you don’t have a lot to do, so working out keeps you busy and clears your head. Boxing allows you to let the aggression out; just hit the pads.
Do you party on tour? You’re young still so you can probably get away with it…
There’s a balance. When we’re in a city like Toronto, you want to experience all the incredible places. You want to enjoy the travelling. There are days when I hit bed early and other nights where I go out and explore.
Boxers or briefs?
[Laughs] Commando sometimes. Commando currently.

NELSON BRANCO is the editor of 24 Hours Toronto newspaper. As a contributing editor, he’s penned pieces for magazines like Hello Canada, People, TV Guide and online sites like Huffington Post. He’s also worked as a TV producer for Breakfast TV, The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News and Sun News Network