Diane Coffee Headed to The Union Friday, January 26< < Back to
If one was to combine the genderless ferocity of T. Rex’s Mark Bolan, the emotional tease and release in the vocal delivery of Love’s Arthur Lee, and the hard-boiled songwriting perfection of Smokey Robinson, one might have something close to Diane Coffee, a project made incarnate by Shaun Fleming. He is childhood friends with experimental rock duo Foxygen, and has been known to play drums for the outfit, he has a substantial acting career under his belt including roles in “Jeepers Creepers 2” and “Kim Possible,” and he’s bringing Diane Coffee to The Union on Friday, January 26. Tickets are $10, and Water Witches will open the show, doors to which open at 9 p.m.
WOUB’s Emily Votaw spoke to Fleming about the making of his latest EP, “Peel,” (released as a 7″ by Polyvinyl records last October,) his hopes for his third full-length LP, and even a little bit about the virtues of folk rock singer-songwriter Marc Cohn.
WOUB: Could you tell me about the making of the video for “Poor Man Dan?”
Shaun Fleming: Sure! That was an art piece my fiancé Melinda had put together back in college – so, I mean it’s at least like 12 years old — and when we were trying to decide what we wanted to do for the video, we decided we wanted to deal with a sense of voyeurism. So I suggested to her that it would be great if we could remake the piece, Death Wind, and we decided to play it over the song and it fit so well with the narrative that we thought why not just use this?
WOUB: Your debut, My Friend Fish, was recorded with some pretty limited resources, so I was curious what kind of resources you had at your fingertips for the Peel EP?
SF: I’m kind of blessed to be in Bloomington right now, surrounded by very talented musicians and access to several different recording studios. We did it here in Bloomington in the Blockhouse Studio. I had same engineer at the helm who co-produced Everybody’s Good Dog, Tim Smiley, and I brought in a bunch of friends, whoever was around. It was a pretty quick process because we only had three days in the studio and maybe one afternoon for the final mixing. It was very quick – I usually demo stuff out at my house and get everything pretty much ready and charted out and then I get everyone into the studio and it’s like ‘okay, let’s do this really quick!’ I got to use brass all over this EP, and that was nice. These songs were originally written for what will be the new record, and they were some of the first songs I wrote, but as I continued to work on the album, it’s direction changed and they just didn’t fit anymore. But, I really liked these songs, and I did want to put them out in some way. And there have been a few delays in terms of when the next album is coming out, so I wanted to give people something new to listen to while they’re waiting.
WOUB: How comfortable are you speaking about the new record? I read that there might be some more electronic, poppy sounds we can look forward to?
SF: Yeah, that’s something I’ve always been curious in working with. In the beginning, like you said, I’ve had some pretty limited recording resources, so I would always just demo kind of whatever I had, and that was the first record. And with the second one, I had never really done a proper full-length in a studio, so I got that out of the way. I don’t ever try to write pop or even deal with electronic sounds at all, so I’m learning as I go, and I’m looking to maybe bring a producer in to give me some direction – we’ll see how it turns out.
WOUB: Very cool, I really loved Everybody’s a Good Dog, thank you for that record, so I’m excited to see what you would do with a different sound palette like that.
SF: Thank you for listening! I don’t know, it’s hard to say how it will end up. I kind of really want to get everything loosely together and bring it into the studio and write and finish up in there. I get into the habit of nitpicking my demos, and then I’ll have demo-itis a little bit. Like the demos for Everybody’s a Good Dog sound like a My Friend Fish, low-fi version of the record, so I want to try something a little different and be creative in the moment in the studio. It’s something I’ve never done before, and maybe I’m a little bit bored and I just need to try something new. We’ll see what it yields.
WOUB: For sure. In past interviews, you’ve described Diane Coffee as sort of the expression of the essence of the performer, and I was curious if there was a moment in your past when you remember first feeling like a performer?
SF: I mean, I’ve felt like a performer for almost as long as I can remember. I was that kind of kid who would raid his mom’s closet and put on everything I could get my hands on and do little shows for my parents when they got home. By the time I was in the second grade I was being tossed into doing little vocal performances for the town, and then I got into acting pretty young, around age five or six, so it’s just always been there for me, I don’t know if I had a moment where I realized that was who I was, I’ve just always been that way.
WOUB: Yeah, I was wondering if that was the case. People often compare Diane Coffee to people like David Bowie, very emotive performers — and I was wondering if that came from particular admiration of those kinds of performers, but it kind of sounds like it is more from your own performative streak.
I was that kind of kid who would raid his mom’s closet and put on everything I could get my hands on and do little shows for my parents when they got home. By the time I was in the second grade I was being tossed into doing little vocal performances for the town, and then I got into acting pretty young, around age five or six, so it’s just always been there for me, I don’t know if I had a moment where I realized that was who I was, I’ve just always been that way. – Shaun Fleming, a.k.a. Diane Coffee
SF: Yeah, I think that’s right. I didn’t get into music until the end of highs school, so I never grew up listening to Bowie or Prince or Meatloaf or any of those types of performers. I mean, I heard “Changes” and “Purple Rain” on the radio, but that was it. But that kind of music didn’t really click with me until later in high school, and that’s when the a-ha moment really came for me, when I realized I wanted to pursue music as a career path. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever done any kind of heavy research into musicians in general – I kind of feel like if you start doing that you might be more likely to start… not stealing, that’s not the right word, but maybe become more set into a set of parameters that are a part of a particular style. That being said, people tell me all the time that I sound like T. Rex, and I didn’t even know T. Rex until people started comparing me to Mark Bolan. I mean, I thought that “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” was by War! So yeah, but when I did start to listen to T. Rex I was like damn! I do sound a lot like T. Rex!
WOUB: Yeah, what music do you really listen to? Could you share maybe two or three albums that you really love?
SF: You know, that really changes depending on my mood and on the week. That’s always a really hard question for me, when people ask like ‘okay, you’re on a desert island, and you can only bring three records, what are they?’ Because then I start really thinking about the logitictis of the situation – like maybe I don’t feel like listening to Abbey Road right now, but it has sucha variety of sound son it that I know I will sometime down the line! What I’m listening to right now is a lot of that new Chairlift record, Moth. That’s a solid record. It took me a long time to get behind it, but I’m a big fan now. The new St. Vincent record is slamming, too. And Andy Shauf’s The Party, that was my favorite record of 2016. I think that he released a couple of records prior, but it really felt like it came out of nowhere. Really amazing production and songwriting. It’s really hard. If there was a record that I would take with me forever it might be the first Marc Cohn record with “Walking in Memphis” on it, I grew up with it, and I get a lot of nostalgia listening to that record.