Shaun Fleming needs caffeine. It’s 9:30 a.m. on the morning after his last night of touring with his magnificent band, Diane Coffee, and he’s got a BUST photo shoot to do. Despite the very un-rockstarish hour, the 28-year-old former-child actor, also known as the drummer for the California band Foxygen, is chipper and upbeat—a consummate pro.
I first fell in love with Diane Coffee’s soulful, glam, psychedelic sound after their 2013 debut, My Friend Fish. And their follow-up last fall, Everybody’s a Good Dog, further established them as the finest arbiters of retro rock realness. Their songs swing from lush Bowie gospel jams to Motown mash-ups and have a lil’ T. Rex boogie thrown in for good measure, while somehow still sounding fresh. When on tour, away from his home base of Bloomington, IN, Fleming taps into a manic feminine energy with the help of makeup and sparkly outfits (some made by friends, others picked up at thrift stores for a buck). His dramatic strutting recalls Lance Loud or David Johansen, and his “Let’s Put On a SHOW!” attitude and feel-good energy is infectious. At his live gigs, every audience member is left grinning and the vibe is loving and fun, something Fleming says is always his goal. “There is so much anger in day-to-day life, so I do like the idea of these shows being positive,” he explains while a makeup artist applies gold and silver to his face.“I’m having a really good time. I’m also just generally a happy person, so I’m having a blast, and I want everyone else to have as much fun as I’m having.”
“I’m having a really good time. I’m also just generally a happy person, so I’m having a blast, and I want everyone else to have as much fun as I’m having.”
Another very intentional part of the Diane Coffee essence is the blurring of gender lines, both with the band’s name and with Fleming’s personal style. The name Diane Coffee is a combined tribute to both Diana Ross and to the song “Mr. Coffee” by singer/songwriter Nathan Pelkey. And Fleming says that every day he gets a message through social media saying something like, “Oh, someone told me to check you out. I thought you were some lounge-singing woman, but this is great!”
“I think it’s plenty fine,” he says, seeming to enjoy the confusion. “It doesn’t bother me at all—I mean, I chose the name. I came into this wanting to have a more feminine name and persona. That’s something I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. I raided my mom’s closet and put on little shows, and I just kind of always loved exploring.”
When asked why he thinks he’s always had this inclination, Fleming’s answer is simple. “It’s fun,” he replies. “There’s no really deep meaning. I never give it too much thought. It makes me happy, and I think that’s enough.”
By Laurie Henzel
Photographed by Michael Lavine
Makeup: Claudia Lake
Pantsuit: Melinda Danielson
This article originally appeared in the February/March print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
More from BUST