Diane Coffee on Touring, Recording, Falling in Love, and More
If you could see inside the heart of Weirdo Music Forever, you'd see that a big old chunk of it is occupied by the one and only Diane Coffee. And for good reason: Diane Coffee's first two albums and relentless touring have established this remarkable artist as one of the standouts on the scene today. We were thrilled to check in recently with the remarkable creative force that is Diane Coffee, and hear the latest on touring, recording, falling in love, and more.
Bobby Weirdo: I’ve caught Diane Coffee three times in the last year and half or so. I didn’t realize you're touring pretty solidly through the end of 2016.
Diane Coffee: Yeah man – this train never stops rolling!
DC: I’m actually starting to write again, and that’s pretty cool, though I forgot how frustrating it can also be (laughs). But yeah – it’s been nice. I’ve been home recovering and healing up after this last leg of the tour.
BW: Yeah, touring the way Diane Coffee does looks really fun and rewarding, but also challenging.
DC: It does take a lot out of you, but in the end, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
BW: Do you write on the road at all? What’s the process for writing new music for Diane Coffee?
DC: I can’t really do it on the road. I’ve done a couple tracks on the road, like, hashed out ideas here and there. But for the most part, the easiest way for me to write is just be home by myself in the studio until something happens (laughs).
BW: When you’re coming up with ideas for music, is it guitar-based, keyboard-based, computer-based, away from any kind of instrument? What’s your starting point?
DC: Usually it all starts drum-based, of all things. I’ll sit down and record a beat, or even a whole song, without even an idea in my head. It’ll be a basic formula, like “This’ll be the intro riff, this’ll be the verse riff, this ‘B’ section will be two phrases long.” I’ll phrase everything out, and then write over that. The drums are kind of like my backbone.
BW: Speaking of drums, I was glad to see you recently got your old cymbals set up again.
DC: Yeah man, that was my old set up from Foxygen. That stuff was out in L.A., so I grabbed my keyboard and drums and drove them back to Indiana.
BW: You grew up in L.A. Where exactly?
DC: It’s called Agoura Hills. It’s about an hour north of Los Angeles, just inland of the Malibu area. It’s great; I miss that place a lot.
BW: But it seems like you’ve got a great setup where you are now [in Indiana].
DC: Oh for sure! I’m definitely in a good spot. I mean, even just for touring, we’re right in the central hub of things. Especially during these summer festivals, it’s all here. I can do weekend warrior trips to Nashville, Louisville, Chicago. I can even make it up to New York or Minnesota in a day.
BW: What do you think happened writing-wise between the first and second album? As good as that first one is, the compositional evolution heard on Everybody's a Good Dog is remarkable.
DC: Thanks! The first record was just a bunch of demos – quick writing and free riffing in New York. I wasn’t really planning on making a record. Those demos ended up in the hands of Western Vinyl, who was like, “This is great – let’s put this out!” so that’s how that happened.
But with Everybody’s a Good Dog, I knew I was actually going to release this thing into the world, so I think I took just a little more time to hash out the ideas. And plus, I wasn’t doing it on Garage Band in a small apartment this time (laughs). I was able to do the things I wanted to do sonically, and work with people I wanted to work with.
Tim Smiley, who is a freelance sound engineer also based in Bloomington, worked with me on the whole record. We’re good friends and he’s great at what he does. It was new and exciting for both of us, and there was a lot of good energy on those sessions that hopefully translated into the final recordings.
BW: Was there any thought behind the song order on this latest album?
DC: Well, I knew that “Spring Breathes” was going to be first, because that song is so big. The whole album is looking at the past couple of years of falling in love, my move to Bloomington, and being on the road. The very first lyric is asking the questions, “Should I be doing this, and is it the right time for this?” Then, the last track, “Not That Easy” is coming to terms [with those questions]. So I knew those two were going to be first and last, but for the rest, I just kind of rolled through my track listing. You know, kind of like you would create a playlist [at home]. I wanted the energy to move and continue to build and sway. I tried a couple different listings, and this one felt like the right one. The only place these songs could fit is exactly where they were.
BW: I never really know what your take on the name Diane Coffee is. Is it a band? Is it a solo artist? Is Diane Coffee an “I”, a “we”, or a “they”?
DC: It’s a little bit of all of that. It’s kind of hard to say. I don’t know if I can pin that answer down. It’s definitely a “we”. It’s definitely an “I”. I kind of think of Diane Coffee as more of an energy than a persona. I mean, the role I play onstage is that I’m embodying this performer archetype – this energy.
It’s that feeling when you’re at a concert, and maybe you’re a really shy and reserved person. You don’t really speak out often, but when you get into this energy, you’re screaming at the top of your lungs and singing, because everyone else is, and you lose that fear and are able to really, truly express yourself and be big and bold. It’s that piece of me that I’m amplifying and magnifying when I’m onstage. And that’s the Diane Coffee for me. So when my guys and gals are onstage, they are Diane Coffee, and I’m Diane Coffee. When people are at the concert and getting into it and moving around, and having a good time, they’re Diane Coffee. It’s more of an experience, a state of being.
BW: What’s next for Diane Coffee?
DC: We’ll be on a fall tour with St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and we’re doing some headlining shows as well. There will be a few shows after that, and then I’m just focusing all my energy on the third record, which I’m hoping to do L.A. Hopefully the record will come out in 2017, and there are a couple other projects that I’d like to do after that’s done -- some musical and some not. I’ll keep chugging along! -BW