Diane Coffee Talks New PEEL Single, Upcoming Tour Dates, Acting, and More
Diane Coffee is a (thoroughly pleasant) double threat both live and in the studio, and in recent years here at WMF we've had the pleasure of sharing past Diane Coffee recordings, several fantastic live shows, and also an earlier conversation with Shaun Fleming, the multi-talented force behind the Diane Coffee moniker. With the new PEEL 7-inch out and a fall tour on the books, it felt like a great time to catch up with Shaun about new music, upcoming projects, and more. As always, the discussion with Diane Coffee was a lively and inspiring one.
Bobby Weirdo: Your new 7-inch single is titled PEEL - all in caps. Is that an esthetic choice, or is there significance to its spelling?
Shaun Fleming: It’s just an esthetic thing, since I like the way it looks. Melinda, [manager] Dave [Mount], and I were going back and forth with it, and thought it was something like “POW” or “WHAM” You never do lower case spellings with those words – everything’s capital. I never had a short-titled released, so the title felt small, and I needed to make it big somehow.
BW: It’s unusual for a 7-inch to have a title – was there a thought behind that?
SF: A lot of times, you’ll call the 7-inch the title of the A-side, but to me, these tracks seems like two A-sides. I couldn’t really pick a single from it, so I thought I’d give it a title and treat it as a work with two songs that need to be listened to together.
BW: I know you’ve been recording new music for some time now. Are these two songs a precursor to something else, like an upcoming album, or are they stand-alone works?
SF: These were the first two songs I wrote for the new record that I’m working on, and they are a little bit different than the last record for sure, but they still felt too much like the last record. As I got back in the swing of writing, my creative concept for the next record was finally realized, and these two songs no longer fit with what is going to be the third LP.
But I still liked these songs a lot and didn’t know what to do with them. I was having a mild panic attack that I might not ever release these two songs, and they would fade away. It’s taking a while to get this next record rolling because I’ve been writing a lot for it, so I thought we could just release these two as a little EP, and give people something while they’re waiting for the new record.
BW: Are the musicians on these two songs the musicians you’ll be working with on the upcoming album?
SF: No, not at all. These are Bloomington folk, and people who had time when we were around [to record]. And if they didn’t have time, I just stepped in. That's the same situation that I’ve [had in the past], where if someone isn’t around, I just do it myself.
BW: So you’re going to track the album in L.A.?
SF: I think so. A lot of the stuff on the third record is still really up in the air, and I have a lot of ideas of what I want to happen. Technically, I’m a free agent right now, and I’m not exactly sure who I want to roll this next record out with. And record companies help finance the records, so I’m essentially writing and composing an entire record so that I can record it [again].
BW: So you don’t like to present something finished to a label, and just work with them on promotion and distribution? You’d rather present the label with really refined demos, and then take it a step further with the label’s help?
SF: With this next record, what I really want to do is work with a producer, go in with demos that are finished as rough skeletal versions, and then work them out in-studio. I did the first record by myself, and then the second one was in a studio, and I brought friends in.
For this next one, I want to work with a producer and build it in-studio, because that’s something I’ve never done. Every single time I get into the studio, I like to try something I’ve never done before. It keeps things interesting for me, pushes me creatively, and if anything it’s going to create a different sound for the listener.
BW: Was there something about where you grew up in Agoura Hills that was especially conducive to creativity? I know of several musicians and artists have come from there.
SF: There is a lot of amazing art, music, and acting coming out of there, and maybe it’s just because it’s so close to the L.A./Hollywood thing. It could also just be the fact that it’s a well-off neighborhood and a lot of the kids who grow up there feel comfortable going into the arts. They can focus on that because they don’t necessarily have to worry too much about finding a job or career. They know they’ll be fine, and can do something like spend a few years writing an album, which is cool.
BW: You have experience both as an actor and as a music artist. How do you see the two interacting?
SF: I never thought of myself as a musician or an actor; I’ve always thought of myself as a performer. Whatever it is that I’m doing, as long as I’m performing, I enjoy it. I’ve always thought of my act as really theatrical, so it’s not too far off from what I’ve already been doing. I don’t think acting is behind me, and I’ve been wanting to get back to acting on either screen or stage.
BW: Speaking of your background as an actor, you played Billy Taggart in Jeepers Creepers 2, the son of Ray Wise’s character. That’s pretty surreal that you acted with Ray Wise!
SF: You know what’s crazy, too, is that I had no idea who Ray Wise was yet. I didn’t know about Twin Peaks. If I knew then what I know now, I would have been way more star-struck. That was a trip, and a really fun time in my life.
A funny story from that is that when the movie came out, it was rated R, and I was sixteen. I went to the movie with a lot of my friends who were seventeen and eighteen, and could get into the movie. But I was too young to get in, so I had to ask for the manager of the theater, show him my ID to compare with the movie credits, and ask for permission to get in!
BW: You have Diane Coffee tour dates coming up. Will you be playing a mix of the first two Diane Coffee albums, plus the new songs on PEEL?
SF: Yes, and I’ll probably also be playing songs that I’m working on for the upcoming album, too.
BW: You’ve mentioned working with your partner, Melinda Danielson. When you collaborate, do you have formal roles you designate for each other, or is it more informal?
SF: I definitely focus on the music, and a lot of the stage show stuff and the concept behind the tours is her world. She’ll take the lead in costuming, and I have my input. I trust her a lot. She’s my partner in all things – in life and in art.
BW: I’ve seen you play several times, so is it safe to say that Melinda has had a hand in the costumes and visuals for those shows that I’ve seen?
BW: In the past, you’ve opened for bands like Of Montreal and St. Paul & the Broken Bones. Do you like that model of opening shows for those kind of acts, and is that something that Diane Coffee will continue to do?
SF: The goal is to no longer be the opening act, and to become the headliner or co-headliner, but I have learned so much from all the people I’ve played with. Of Montreal is so visually striking, and always has so much energy, and works as a team with so many people on stage. St. Paul & the Broken Bones has an insane presence on stage, and is such a powerhouse vocally. But I’d like to take somebody on the road in the future, and that’s the idea.
BW: What’s the personnel for the band on these upcoming live dates that Diane Coffee will be playing?
SF: Spencer Klein is drumming, Cameron Cowles on guitar, and Nick and Matt Romy on bass and keyboards.
BW: You made a really long, epic home movie with your dad where you were a spy.
SF: Doomsday Double Trouble. It might not be up online anymore, because YouTube takes down things that have music or video footage, and we just directly ripped scenes from other movies and put them in there, and just used whatever music [we wanted]. It wasn’t for anyone other than ourselves, and we just thought it would be hilarious [to do].
BW: Because this was almost pre-Internet.
SF: Exactly. My dad put it on Beta, and then we ripped it from Beta to DVD. Now a lot of us don’t even have disc drives anymore, so we found someone who did and uploaded it, but now I think it’s been taken down.
BW: It was really impressive how long and involved that movie was. I wasn’t a professional venture, but it was a lot of work to just be something for fun.
SF: Oh yeah – that was like a feature-length film! My dad wrote the whole basic story arc. It was like a straight Mission Impossible rip-off movie, but with kids. Our whole family was in it. We were vacationing in Minnesota, and there’s a scene where we’re running through the airport with these squirt guns that my dad had spray-painted black so they looked real, and [all the people at the airport] thought that was just totally fine!
BW: So your dad just has a vision to do these sort of things?
SF: Yeah, we’d do them all the time. My dad had a VHS camcorder, and his made-up production company was First Take Productions, because you’d press record, and that was it. There was no editing bay. We went back and added digital clips and titles, but the original one just had cardboard cut-out titles.
BW: What’s the plan for after you’ve done the tour dates?
SF: I’m going to play these dates, work out the details for what’s going to happen in 2018, and do the next record.
Diane Coffee Fall 2017 tour:
- Friday 3 November 2017 Columbus, OH (Rumba Café)
- Saturday 4 November 2017 Detroit, MI (Marble Bar)
- Sunday 5 November 2017 Cleveland, OH (Beachland Tavern)
- Tuesday 7 November 2017 Washington, DC (DC9)
- Wednesday 8 November 2017 Brooklyn, NY (Rough Trade)
- Thursday 9 November 2017 Boston, MA (Middle East Upstairs)
- Friday 10 November 2017 Northampton, MA (Iron Horse Music Hall)
- Saturday 11 November 2017 Philadelphia, PA (Boot & Saddle)
- Sunday 12 November 2017 Pittsburgh, PA (Spirit)
- Friday 19 January 2018 Chicago, IL (Lincoln Hall)