Let it not be said the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t provided some benefits: remote work, a heightened awareness of self-wellness and the creation of duo Penny Billionaires.
When the pandemic hit, Greg Jacks’s — one half of the duo — European tour and all of Evan Berg’s shows were canceled. Everything was put on standstill, and not just in the music industry.
“We were stuck with a lot of time on our hands,” says Berg, who recalls he and Jacks had played in projects together previously. “It seemed like the perfect time to finally start writing and producing the songs. When we realized there was something there, we called our good friend, producer and engineer Jeremy Parker ((Evanescence, Disturbed, Slipknot) to help us cut the final productions for these tracks. Jeremy listened to the tracks and gave us a big “Hell yeah” and that was that. A few days later we were at his studio in Phoenix cutting the tracks.
“As a performer, Greg is a monster,” Berg continues. “Playing with him, not only as a musical partner, but also as my friend has improved me in a lot of ways. The energy he brings on stage pushes me harder every time and I found without him, I don’t have that magical feeling. The chemistry we share musically is incomparable.”
ED Magazine caught up with Penny Billionaires, courtesy of StripJointsMusic.com, about the duo’s sound, how they’ve handled music during the pandemic and their new single “Awoken”. Of note, the single doesn’t drop until Sept. 17, but DJs registered with StripJoints can download it now!
ED: Your music seems to transcend more than one genre. How would you describe it and where do you get your influences?
BERG: I would almost classify it as a hybrid of Electronica and hard rock. I spent my early years dabbling into EDM Pop production but have always wanted to do something heavier like the bands that I grew up listening to: Linkin Park, Metallica, Papa Roach, etc. I wanted to do something like that but with a production style using elements from DJs such as Skrillex, Zedd, and Porter Robinson. Some of the songs developed a retro industrial sound along the way and some have become something else entirely. It’s a very exciting process.
ED: Greg, we featured music from you previously here in DJ BOOTH with your previous band, The Dukes. Both bands have only two members. Is this just coincidence or do you prefer creating with only one partner?
JACKS: It’s purely a choice. It’s a lot easier to create and get straight to the point when you’re only two. When you’re a band of three, four or five individuals, with their own egos, views, and wants, it’s very hard to be on the same page all of the time. I love the chemistry of duos on stage and in the studio.
It’s a lot easier to create and get straight to the point when you’re only two. When you’re a band of three, four or five individuals, with their own egos, views, and wants, it’s very hard to be on the same page all of the time. — Greg Jacks
ED: Have you noticed you’ve gravitated toward music more than usual since the pandemic started?
BERG: Not really, music has always been a part of both of our lives. If anything the pandemic gave us time to step back from being performers to being listeners.
ED: What is the most awe-struck you’ve been in the company of other musicians?
JACKS: Above all the artists I’ve met, I would have to say hands down, the late Kato Khandwala. Being in the studio with him was absolutely magical.
BERG: I met Adam Clayton (Bass player for U2) in Parker, Arizona while I was playing a show down there. His friends came up and told me he was in the audience. I performed “Beautiful Day” and he came up and gave me one hell of an ovation. I actually spent a good half-hour sitting and talking with him one-on-one after the show. He was a super nice guy! His advice, “Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re going to go places. I’ll be looking out for you.”
ED: Do you all have any crazy gentlemen’s club stories?
BERG: Well, besides lunch with some friends I haven’t had much experience inside a gentlemen’s club, but I have had some crazy times with some of the ’employees’ that work there.
JACKS: I’m still waiting for your guy’s invite. 😉
ED: StripJoints services DJs at gentlemen’s clubs nationwide, so, in your words, why would “Awoken” be a good choice to play at a gentlemen’s club?
JACKS: Because it’s sexy, heavy, hard, and big … the sound of course.