Diane Coffee is the brainchild of Shaun Fleming, the live drummer for the indie-pop band Foxygen. Fleming’s first LP under the moniker Diane Coffee, 2013’s My Friend Fish, was an album he recorded partially on his cell phone over two weeks alone in a New York apartment. While indeed reminiscent of Foxygen’s 60s pop sound, My Friend Fish’s warm melodies and soulful lyrics solidified Diane Coffee as an entity and gave Shaun a new voice.
This is just one of many voices for the prolific Fleming, who is also an actor and former voice-over for children’s television. You may have heard or seen him on more than a handful of Disney shows. Fleming holds on to the whimsical quality he honed that way and expresses it through his music, shown on his sophomore release, Everybody’s a Good Dog. In 2014, he left New York for the small town of Bloomington, Indiana, and seemed to find more comfort there. For this album, the production values are higher and the sound is fuller, but moreover, this album sees Diane Coffee come into its own as an act. Good Dog is where we can really hear the stylistic sound that Fleming and the band define as “Psychedelic Motown.” With tracks like “Mayflower” and “Everyday,” the album is colorful, fun and funky. Fleming fines his swagger, but keeps his youthfulness. All in all, he truly is a goofball.
Diane Coffee toured with the indie group of Montreal this past year, with whom they share some qualities. Fleming is wont to putting together shows and music videos that are flamboyant and silly in nature, and quite fun. I got to query Fleming about his creative process, Diane Coffee’s recent tour with of Montreal, and his relocation to the Midwest.
SP: First, I’d like to ask you about the inception of the band. The story goes that when you moved to New York in 2013, you were sick and alone in the apartment. After a few weeks, you came out of it with My Friend Fish and thus Diane Coffee. How did making art help you through sickness?
Shaun Fleming: I think making art helped me more through my boredom than through my sickness. I didn’t know my new city or anyone in it. Moving to New York was truly awe-inspiring, but also incredibly overwhelming.
SP: To you, which is creatively preferable— fast, fluid production, or a more measured approach?
Fleming: Both have their ups and downs. It’s always more fun for me to quickly write and lay it down that day. I think some of my best ideas have come from that style of free writing. However, if I’m going to be releasing a piece of work, I will usually reserve that method for demoing the tracks, and spend the right amount of time polishing the final recording. It really depends on the sound you’re trying to achieve.
SP: My Friend Fish has a darker, more solitary feel, while your latest LP, Everybody’s a Good Dog, has a much more colorful and lush sound. Even the album covers are like night and day. What inspired the change?
Fleming: It’s hard to say. Life, love, state of mind. Another move. Bloomington feels a lot more cheery to me, maybe that’s it.
SP: Does living in a smaller environment help you to keep in tune with up-and-coming musicians?
Fleming: Yeah, having SC in the neighborhood definitely helps when it comes to hearing about great new music. But, more so than that is the friends that I’ve cultivated in all my travels. Word of mouth is my number one way of coming across great new acts.
SP: How are you getting along here in the Midwest? Do you think you’ll stay a while?
Fleming: I love it! My partner and I have a little place next to the woods. I don’t think I’ll be leaving anytime soon.
SP: What are some of your influences, musically and otherwise?
Fleming: Lately I’ve really been into Patsy Cline. I can thank my band “The Good Dogs” for that.
SP: What was it like to tour with of Montreal this past year? I was bummed that you guys didn’t play together for their Champaign show, but it was still great to catch you at Pygmalion.
Fleming: That was truly a remarkable tour. By the end, we felt like we gained a new family. I love each and every one of them and it was such a privilege to be a part of such a magical show.
SP: Diane Coffee and of Montreal are like a match made in heaven when it comes to your performance styles. What can we expect from your performance?
Fleming: High energy, lots of costumes, and a whole lot of love.
Diane Coffee is playing The Accord on Friday, February 12th, with special guests Church Booty and We the Animals. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance.