Diane Coffee came strutting into the press lounge at the annual 4Knots Festival at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan wearing red and white pinstripes and giant, circular '70s pink sunglasses. The image matches the performance — bright, retro, and flamboyant. Coffee later sported a thick stripe of metallic eye makeup across their face, as they wailed into the mic, truly putting on theatrics for the audience.
A performer deemed "psychedelic Motown" by fans and friends, they truly bring an enthralling live performance, as proven by their set at the festival that July weekend. I was lucky enough to sit down and chat for a few minutes with Coffee, who talked band names, inspo, and theater.
Q: Was your name intentionally androgynous? I know you combined the names of two different performers, Diana Ross (female) and Mr. Coffee (male).
I mean, it’s definitely something that I wanted and had been exploring around that time, but more so than that, those were the two big things I was listening to the day I came up with the name. A name isn’t too important to me, and if you think about it, most band names are pretty terrible, including mine. I mean, the Beatles is just a stupid pun, but no one really cares because they made super awesome music and that’s all that really matters.
Q: What’s the experience of “going solo,” separate from Foxygen?
Foxygen was never my project. I went on a beautiful ride with them and I grew up playing with them, but I was always writing on my own. I understand where people are coming from, but it’s not a side project, it’s my project, it’s me. I do have Foxygen to thank because I was having a really hard time breaking into the scene and that’s what helped me meet the right people and get my stuff heard. But to answer your question, it feels great — it feels amazing to have my own thing. It’s a dream that’s taken a long time to come to fruition, but it’s here.
Here's Diane Coffee playing one of NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts:
Q: What is your most recent album, Everybody’s A Good Dog, trying to accomplish? What are you sending out to the world with it?
Some people started calling it that and I adopted that, but the new album is really an exploration of myself. The first album was more an exploration of my surroundings as well as things that I had left behind. With this one, though, I was in a really good place, being in Bloomington — the first record was just a series of demos. It was this one that I had time to sit down and say, “Okay, I’m going to actually release this; I’m going to think about it.” It was speaking a lot to the idea of travel, whether you’re a truck driver, or wherever your job, passion, or hobby takes you away. That idea that if you’re with someone, a partner that you love, you’re constantly leaving them. Is a good thing that you’re in a relationship? Yes, it feels good, but are you hurting them? It’s about that whole struggle.
Q: How strong is your inspiration from David Bowie? From the flamboyant looks to the stage presence, on the surface, there at least appear to be some similarities.
Yes, I’ve totally been influenced by David Bowie — I think anyone who truly appreciates music is influenced by him — he was a great musician. But I think more so what I’m influenced by is theatrics and theatre. I’m probably more influenced by Sufjan Stevens and people I will listen to more often than not, and even some folk stuff that I’ve been brought up on. Those are the people who I draw for more musically, but I’m also a child of the theater — I grew up doing improv comedy and stuff. So what I like most about seeing a live show is a crazy persona — I like to bring that to my music. I think that’s where the similarity between Bowie and I comes from: we both like to be flamboyant and big. I’m not trying to make any throwback sound, it’s just what comes out.
Q: What kind of power does considering yourself a performer in addition to a musician bring to you? Seeing you live is more like watching a performance rather than just a music concert.
It takes a lot more work and a lot more effort to come up with that kind of stage presence. I’m lucky to have my partner, Melinda, who is also my creative partner — we can sit down and go over these ideas and concepts for these shows. What am I trying to achieve and what am I trying to say with this show — that kind of stuff. It’s all about how everything — the props, the costumes, the music — how it all ties in together. It’s a lot more work but it’s a lot more empowering because of the performances being mine — I’m building an experience for the audience.
Check out their video for "Mayflower" below:
Images via Facebook.
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Let's talk about queerness, comics, and shutting down systems of oppression. Carbs enthusiast with a lot to say about living femme in this world and staying positive. Contributor to the zine Clitorally and founder of Static zine. Catch me looking for dogs to pet around town.