October 29, 2013

Diane Coffee

Originally in the acting industry Shaun Fleming transitioned into the music scene as the drummer for psyche-rock band Foxygen, but what’s new?

After leaving the sunny beaches of California to move into a New York apartment Diane Coffee – Fleming's new stage name - emerged, as well as a new record, My Friend Fish, consisting of ten soul-written songs. He's now residing in Indiana, but is back in New York tonight to release My Friend Fish at Pianos. 8 bucks. Show starts at 7. Openers are the beautiful Ms. Deradoorian, and Tavito Nanao, coming all the way from Japan. Followed by a tour around the States accompanied by rock bands Those Darlins and Jesus Sons. Dates are below!

Maria had a chance to talk to him yesterday and we get a real perspective on what lead up to this point and what you may be expecting from tonight.  

Who are your musical influences?
I have a lot of musical influences. Jonathan is a big one. He was probably one of the people that really influenced me to get into my music. You know, kind of just classic Beatles. A lot of Motown guys. And gals. A lot of newer people are Jon Brion. People like ... Bon Iver, or St. Vincent... There's a bunch but kind of a mix of classic bands. Classic psychedelia, classic rock, and some modern stuff as well.  

Do you think there will be an essence of your musical influences? Do you think you'll hear some of your influences in the album?
An essence of it? Oh, yeah! I think definitely. I think most any artist is gonna put out something that you can hear, you know, yeah, like you said, the essence of their musical influences. Mine definitely. I mean the feedback I've heard has been that it's definitely kind of Motown-y, gospel pop. Which is pretty cool, I mean that's the stuff that I listen to and I'm glad that that kind of shines through.  

You were initially in the acting business, you then joined Foxygen, now you're releasing this album as Diane Coffee called My Friend Fish. Was writing this album in the span of two weeks a surprise for you? Or had you already thought of possibly writing a solo album? 
  Oh, well, yeah, it was definitely - it wasn't planned, I didn't have any of these songs written out. I had a tour with Foxygen that was just coming out then I just moved to New York City. So I had two weeks to just kind of explore the city but I got really sick and I couldn't really leave the apartment and I didn't know anyone. So I just kind of, out of the insanity of cabin fever, I needed something to occupy my time. So, I thought it would be a good time to just start writing songs. I didn't really have an album planned, I just started writing and recording. I was doing about two songs a day. Some of them were good, some of them were bad, some of them became better. But yeah, all of a sudden before you know it, I had just a few collections of songs. The ones I didn't completely hate, I just kind of bundled them all up. I showed a couple of friends, and a couple people, everyone suggested that I maybe put it out. My Friend Fish was born.  

The name of the album is My Friend Fish, but who is Diane Coffee? Is there a significance to the name?
Oh yeah, everyone thinks it's a Twin Peaks reference and that's not a Twin Peaks reference at all. Actually, the name - well, My Friend Fish was named... Well, I was thinking about what the loneliest kind of pet that you could own would be, and that's usually a fish. I mean, that's one of the only pets that we're completely fine with owning as a pet that we love, and eating. It's like the only one that crosses that border. So, that was kind of my make-believe - the album was my lonely friend. With the Diane Coffee, it's kind of a long story. I'll give you a shortened version of it. There was a singer-songwriter named Nathan Pelkey and he pretty much recorded these demo tapes with that artist Devandra Banheart and they were never released and he didn't really have... I wouldn't say much - I heard he was institutionalized - his story is amazing. But one of the three tracks, the ones that he ever recorded was called Mr. Coffee. So, it was kind of my way to honor a really amazing singer-songwriter that never was. The Diane part, well I wanted a female name. One, because I had been shedding a lot about the masculine vs. feminine archetypes, and kind of my history, and trying to balance my feminine side with my masculine side. Just from like my history, growing up. Plus, I like girls with boy names, so I went with a girl name. I mean, there's a lot, it's not a really cut and dry answer. So, that's why I wanted it to be a girl's name, but Diane was because I was listening to a lot of Diana Ross the day that I named it. So, Diane Coffee. She's a lovely lady.

Was there a specific process while writing the album, like a specific sound or theme?
... Not really a concept or theme, I think the theme throughout that kind of surfaced was... a bit of the loneliness and the insanity of moving, of cabin fever, missing old friends, being sick. Like, there's plenty of references to 'soup' and 'sued'. Because I was completely broke from the move. As anyone who's lived in New York would tell you, stuff is really expensive. So I was living on just... cans, and chickens, and hard boiled eggs - I just wanted nothing more than to eat anything else. So, yeah, there's references to food, and there's references to the people I might've left behind, in Los Angeles. There's a few references to some of the crazy drama that we have had on the road as Foxygen, but nothing really too heavy in that regard. A lot stuff was just what I kind of saw day-to-day, on my way to New York, and just by looking out my window. There's a track called 'Stupid Girl Who Runs A Lot', which is about this girl who's running - I moved to New York in Christmas, and there's this woman who would run in the dead of winter wearing these like bright pink booty shorts. I had no idea how she would wear that and I thought that was the most ridiculous and stupid thing you could do. I saw her everyday and it was like she was tormenting me, she looked so happy just running and I was so sick.

The album has 10 songs, can you pick a favourite?
Oh, gosh!... Oh, man. That's like asking me which one of my children I love most. Oh, damn. Well, I really feel like... Oh, shit (laughs). That's hard. I mean 'Hymn' is great, I think that's just kind of a fun one. Pretty cute. Maybe 'Green'? I don't know. I honestly don't know if I can answer that question, I really like them all! For different reasons, they all mean a lot to me. Every one has something... you know. It's like looking back at old photographs.

Your tour starts tomorrow... Are you excited for this?
Yeah, excited. Completely terrified. I never had to really front a band other than you know high school cover bands, I haven't been up front for a long time. It's scary but I mean I love to perform, that's what I want to do, that's what I always wanted to do, so I'm really excited. I just wanna play to people, that's all.

How would you describe your show?
Well, you know, we haven't had any real shows yet. You know what, I'm just hoping that they're fun. We have one CMJ show, and from what I was told - I mean CMJ is always kind of crazy and hectic. I'd like it to be a big show, that would be great, some visuals. I also love when artists connect with the audience. I really enjoy being myself. I just want, from start to finish, people to be movin' and smilin' and having that happen is gonna be fine by me. I mean, I move around a lot. Yeah, we'll see. We haven't played enough shows to really even describe what our live shows are yet, I'll tell you when I find out myself.

Describe your album in one word.
... Woah... No, that's not the word (laughs). Hmm... Smile.  

I'm really looking forward to seeing you in San Francisco!
I'm really looking forward to playing San Francisco. Make sure you come up and say hello and remind me!

Diane Coffee tour dates + Those Darlins
November 2 Austin, TX @ Red 7 
November 5 Phoenix, AZ @ The Rhythm Room 
November 7 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo 
November 8 Santa Ana, CA @ The Constellation Room 
November 13 San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel 
November 15 Seattle, WA @ Barboza 
November 16 Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar 
November 19 Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive 
November 21 Kansas City, MO @ The Record Bar 
November 22 Carbondale, IL @ Hangar 9 
November 23 Louisville, KY @ The Zanzabar

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