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New STAGE episode features DNM at Palace Theatre

Q&A: The band talk songwriting, collaboration, and appreciation for one another

August 4, 2022

By Macie Rasmussen

For Minneapolis band DNM (pronounced denim), consisting of DeCarlo Jackson, Naél, Moise and Joey Carl Hays, their work is simply a musical concoction mixed with fun with friends.

After tossing around many ideas, they settled on a band name formed by the members’ initials. (Joey joined a bit later). The artists genuinely all wear a lot of denim, but the name can also be considered an unintentional metaphor; just like denim is a durable fabric, the quartet’s talents rest on a solid foundation built by years of individual practice.

Leading up to DNM’s feature on a new episode of STAGE, we talked to the group to learn more about how their experience working both independently and with other bands has created an environment of experimentation and joy.

DNM’s episode of STAGE premieres at 9 p.m. on August 12 on TPT 2 or watch online at, or using the PBS Video App.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Are there any memories you have of the show at Palace Theatre in St. Paul?

DeCarlo: It was a frighteningly big stage, even considering I’d been on it before. It just felt different.

Naél: Since we didn’t have a super crazy setup for our band, it felt like we really had to stretch the stage out as much as possible.

DeCarlo: Or stretch out the performance to fit the stage.

Naél: We usually play on much smaller [stages]. Sometimes we’ll be bumping into each other.

You opened for the band Yam Haus. Are you familiar with them personally?

Naél: Moise was in a [Yam Haus] music video.

Moise: It was a really beautiful song. They had me acting in it. I was like the main character in their music video. That’s how I got introduced to them.

Naél: I met those guys (Yam Haus members) through Moise and DeCarlo.

DeCarlo: Alex [Kimball] too. Alex is their producer.

Naél: Oh yeah, our other friend, [Alex]. I have the connection through that as well. And then last summer, we played pick-up basketball with friends, and that’s just one way we all got acquainted.

Do you feed off Yam Haus musically?

Moise: That night in particular, we had energy going back and forth because you get there, you set up, you talk to them, [and] you get out the jitters of having to play that night. I feel like we kind of warmed up the stage for them. It’s like, we’re going to have to open this thing up and set a good stage for the Yam Haus guys to come up there and kill it, which I think we did. If anything, we had to set them up for a great night because it’s their crowd, their audience too.

Naél: I thought it was really cool to see their live performance as well. They’ve definitely been together as a group for longer than us and have cut their teeth a little bit with the touring. So that was cool to see their setup and some of the equipment that they had. They had some tech guys helping them, and that’s always really cool. I know DeCarlo has been doing this for a while, so it’s not new to him. But for me, it was it was cool to see.

What’s your favorite thing about performing live and being in front of a crowd?

Naél: I like the connection you can make, especially with people who actually listen to your music too. Because it’s one thing to play a show and no one knows any words. You’re just kind of trying to win them over. But it’s another thing playing for a crowd of people who know who you are and know at least a couple of your songs. So that’s always the fun thing — to be able to make that connection mid-set.

DeCarlo: I like watching the love grow. Just at the beginning of a show. Depending on the song the band starts with, you can really win a crowd over in one song.

Moise: If I could add anything, it would be that [it’s in] real time. No distractions. We’re all listening to the same thing — seeing the same thing. As far as human interaction, it doesn’t get purer than [live shows], especially today. You can’t buy those moments. You can see someone’s Instagram story of them at a concert, but you can’t feel that. You can’t put a price on that.

Because you all do individual projects and play with other artists, how do you bring your individual experiences together?

Naél: I think we all are definitely very different types of creatives and creators. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. It’s a fun experiment to be able to take what you do on your own already then try to mix it in with the group. Because it is really just an experiment. You’re throwing something out and then seeing what sticks and what doesn’t — what people resonate

with and what sounds good. I can take a specific style that I like to do, and then mix it with what DeCarlo and Moise are good at… and we just see what sort of concoction we can think of.

DeCarlo: Right, and balancing those ideas in terms of producing has been specifically unique thing that I’ve encountered for the first time with these guys. I’ve never been much into producing, but I guess my whole life I’ve been super into… like what we’re talking about with the concept of collaboration and improvisation on top of that together. But with these guys, balancing all those creative ideas in a production setting has been like such an interesting challenge. It presents different hurdles, and then once we get over them, it’s tight. So it’s fun — solving puzzles as a team when all of us have different answers. It’s so weird.

Moise: This band is definitely just fun for me. It takes the pressure off having to do it all yourself. Sometimes it feels like even though it’s never really yourself, [it’s still] the weight of being an individual artist. It’s nice to just share that with a band. Obviously, it comes with some pros and cons. You definitely have to just be fine with agreeing to some things that you might not agree with, but it’s all in the betterment of pushing this thing forward.

What do you all appreciate about each other?

Naél: With DeCarlo… It’s like a running joke within the band. Our music interests are opposite of each other, but I appreciate that. Essentially, from DeCarlo, we have somebody who’s thinking of everything that I’m not thinking of… It really helps diversify what we’re trying to do.

I really appreciate Joey’s energy as a whole. Joey wasn’t here at the inception of the band, but once he came in, he added that missing ingredient that I think we needed. Obviously [he’s] an amazing drummer… When we pin [Joey] down, it’s magic always.

I also appreciate Moise’s confidence in general, especially being able to take control of the stage [and] the audience.

Joey: Moise gives me confidence, and it’s infectious.

Moise: Nate (Naél) has kept a lot of the structure that we need sometimes when you have so many brilliant minds. With DeCarlo, it’s undeniable, the talent musically. Whether it’s us producing songs or us playing it, it’s just unleashing the whole bag that is the DeCarlo. Really just letting it shine. I see the joy that comes with that, and I really appreciate that. That’s infectious too.

With Joey, I’m glad I made a great new friend. As Nate said, when you can pin him down, it’s the best in the world — his contribution, whether it’s the creative stuff, whether it’s the music, the storm structures, the arrangement — it’s really valuable.

DeCarlo: It’s amazing though. I’ve always been scared to get up in the front of the stage for real, for real. Playing trumpet in the front of the stage feels completely different than having a guitar and seeing the front of the stage. That’s two completely different monsters. I always really appreciate the energy Moise brought to the role of taking the center. It teaches me so much every time I watch him do it.

Like Moise said, Nate is just our infrastructure, man. We would probably still be trying to work on our first release if it was up to me. Moise and I had already worked on some tunes together, so I was already knowing that with us two in a room together, we can make some crazy kind of stuff. And then with Nate on top of that, we really are kind of limitless with the type of songs that we could write together. And then on top of that, I think it’s been like 12 years since I started a band that Joey wasn’t in.

Joey: I’ve known DeCarlo for 14 years. A stupid amount of time is the time I’ve known DeCarlo. It’s been incredible to see someone like that blossom over that span of time. It’s been an honor to be alongside him for that.

We’re all essential in our own ways, but Nate… he’s the backbone. It’s cool to work with your friends. And it’s cool when it doesn’t feel forced. And it’s cool when your friends want the best out of you when you want the best for them. It’s a rare thing.

When you play with DNM, do you feel different than when you play with other people?

Joey: I think that if we’re going to play different genres, you have to put on different hats and be willing to fulfill different roles. It’s like when you’re around different friend groups, and you wind up behaving a little differently based on who you’re hanging out with… I think it’s kind of a necessity.

DeCarlo: I agree. It’s always felt like when I get up on stage, I have to start acting a little bit. When I’m not performing, I’m not the same person as I am when I’m on the stage.

Joey: I almost think of it as like doing a bit… It’s like permutations of the same people.

Naél: I feel the opposite, but only because I don’t have as much experience playing in different bands as these two guys right here. I just approach everything the same, but also, I’m usually playing the same role, as well as either singing or backup singing and playing guitar… front left.

How do you define the Minneapolis music scene?

Joey: I think the music scene here is something that changes very often… it’s a concept that is challenged a lot, which I think is important. It’s not a scene that’s comfortable being one thing, which I think is cool.

Naél: The Minneapolis music scene is very tight. It feels like people go to support everyone’s shows and people play in each other’s bands [and] support their music… Everyone knows everybody’s friends, and if you’re not really friends with people, you kind of become friends with people pretty easily… It’s very accessible.

DeCarlo: It could be a bit more accessible though. People tend to start working with the same people over and over… In a way, it’s accessible, but at the same time, it can become a bit cliquey to an extent, and breaking down social barriers like that is kind of tough. But I also think we’re in the position to figure out how to do that, which I also think is incredible about our music scene. We are truly close enough to fix that problem. In New York, you can’t really fix that problem.

Regardless of what you bring to the table, [if] you bring good work ethic and good songs to the table, you can just meet everybody, or at least, if you don’t, somebody can introduce you to somebody else. That’s amazing.

Do you ever have a vision of the sound you want to create, or is it a spontaneous process?

DeCarlo: It depends on what we texted about prior. Since we all do produce, sometimes we’re like, “We got a demo. Let’s chop this one out.” But sometimes we’ll be like, “Let’s just sit in a room and see what goes on.” To me, it seems like in writing a song, the first step is the most definitive stuff. If we take a step toward all of us sitting in a room and doing it there, that’ll produce a very specific vibe. However, if Nate hits us with a demo and we link on that, that’ll make a song that still pretty much equally all of us expressing, but it’ll have like a very specific Nate-y vibe to it. Which is tight. And I think that’s the essence of our music.

Can you describe your sound for readers/viewers who may not be super familiar with music?

Naél: I would say it’s somewhere in between indie music, pop music, and R&B music. I’m not going to say each song has all those different elements, but each song has varying degrees of each. It’s somewhere in the middle of that and bending them.

Looking ahead, do you have ideas of what you want to create?

Naél: We still have to release some songs that are unreleased right now. We’re working on finishing those up. I want to make sure for future songs we get Joey more involved in the songwriting. Joey’s a sick songwriter.

I live in New York right now. We’re still trying to figure out what our working process is with me being remote, and I think we all have started to progress in the music we all listen to. Part of it is what do we want to hear, and the other part is what do we want to make and perform as a band.

Joey: But to that end, I’ve never felt stifled by what the potential [is].

Do you have an idea of when new DNM music will be released?

Joey: We’re shopping around for someone to mix it now, but I think once that happens, we have two or three songs that are lined up, and then we just have to get in the studio and write some new stuff. We’ve had some stuff on the backlog for a while, and they’re 95% done…and Nate’s back in town for a little bit, so we can hopefully get some promotion rolling. I would say Fall.

Do any of you currently have individual work that you’d like to shout out?

Naél: I’m working on a solo project right now. It’s songs I’ve had for 2 or 3 years, also some that I’ve written in the last couple of months. If everything works out, hopefully it’ll be out by October or November.

Moise: I put out an EP in May. It was Vol. I, and then there will be a second one coming out starting in November of this year.

Decarlo: I just put out a thing a couple days ago on Bandcamp called shite ideas 1, which are a bunch of demos. One of the songs I did with Whistler of Hippo Campus, but the rest of them I did on my own.


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