A Chat with Diane Coffee’s Shaun Fleming

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Taking a break from prepping for his tour, Fleming spoke with us over the phone about his influences, the creation of his first EP, and the Bloomington music scene.

By Breanna Cooper

High school can be a time when you discover who you are and what you want to be. For Shaun Fleming, a high school talent show changed the course of his life. Since then, the former voice actor has toured around the world as the drummer for Foxygen and is kicking off a tour as the lead singer of Diane Coffee. After a show on Jan. 21 at The Bluebird in his home base of Bloomington, Fleming is preparing for a show at Indianapolis’s Hi Fi this Thursday.

“Getting back to writing and leading a band feels like business as usual,” Fleming said. The 28-year-old California native has been living in Bloomington for three years, in what he describes as his favorite music scene that he has found so far. Influenced by early Motown hits and his travels, Fleming strives to incorporate new elements into his stage act in order to keep it as exciting as his first time performing in high school.

For his upcoming tour promoting the 2015 record Everybody’s a Good Dog, which was released on Western Vinyl, Fleming is “excited to get back to the Los Angeles area, because I have a lot of family and friends out there”. With 25 dates on the calendar, including one show in Vancouver, Fleming is preparing to return to a world he is already familiar with: life on the road. “You know, I’ve seen so many places because of Foxygen and Diane Coffee, I know a lot of these venues, so I’m excited to get back. I’m excited to see people who have seen Foxygen or Diane Coffee before. It’s sort of like catching up with old friends”.

Taking a break from prepping for his tour, Fleming spoke with us over the phone about his influences, the creation of his first EP, and the Bloomington music scene.

You have your first show at the Hi-Fi coming up this week. How do you prepare for a performance, and how do you get the feel of the venue when it’s your first time playing there?

It takes about an hour or so for me to really get into the zone, or get mentally prepared for a show. I usually dress up, and all of us get together in the back and warm up, and start getting real goofy and just having a good time. We have our show rituals that we do backstage before every show. As far as a new venue, we’re there pretty early for soundcheck, and we spend a lot of time onstage before we actually perform, so that really helps us understand the stageA lot of these places have a lot of similarities as well as differences, so you just have to play every show by ear.

You started out in LA, then moved to New York, and now you’re in Bloomington. What are some of the major differences you saw in the music scene in these cities?

Growing up in the LA scene, I never really could find a way to break into it, and it was disheartening. LA is so big, and most venues are pay to play. I couldn’t quite put a band together where I was living. I wasn’t living in the city, I was living in Agoura Hills, about an hour or so out of Los Angeles. I almost gave up on music, I was feeling pretty low about things. In New York, I had already been in Foxygen, so I was traveling around. The music scene there was pretty fun, you can always see something. But, trying to practice and play in New York was pretty hard for me. It’s very costly, and it’s hard to get around without a car when you’re lugging around a bunch of gear. Indiana, at least in Bloomington, is filled with so many great musicians, and it’s easy to get around. There’s always great music and artists supporting each other.

How would you describe the Bloomington music scene to someone from out of town?

It’s all across the board. I mean, you have the IU college here, which has a really great music school. So, you’ve got a lot of classical musicians. There’s a lot of psych, a lot of garage bands.There’s so much music being passed through in Bloomington, so musicians here are exposed to so much. By that token, there’s a lot of musical groups that pop up around here that are a mix of many different genres. There’s a lot of venue that can cater to those performances here. There’s so many house shows out here. The fact that the midwest has so many basements, you can just put on a show everywhere. That’s something I never got in LA, is a house show, which is something that’s really big here.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Oh, there’s too many to list. I’m a fan of a lot of the old motown classics. I’m a fan of some stuff that my dad listened to, and then, there’s people like St. Vincent, I mean, there’s so many, the list just goes on and on.

Are there any specific elements from these artists that you try to incorporate into your own music?

I think if you look at the two records, it has sort of an eclectic element to it. I think some songs I pull from Motown, and some stuff I pull from Stacey Glam, or modern garage rock. I haven’t really done a record yet that is very much a singular sound. Although, I do feel that it all fits together as one album.

When you started with Foxygen, you were thrown to the wolves in a sense when it came to the drums. Are you self taught on your other instruments, as well?

Yeah, pretty much everything. You know, you pick up a lot of things from different people. Being surrounded by so many great musicians, I’m always learning, and that helps. I’ve never taken any formal lessons. If you can play guitar, you’re able to play bass, and pick up a lot of string instruments and kind of figure it out. Like, with drums, you understand basic rhythm, so you can learn other percussion. If you give me any instrument, I’m going to have some element to figure it out.

Your upcoming tour is a nationwide tour with a show in Canada. What are you most excited for?

We’re playing a lot of new songs, so I’m excited for that. I’m just looking forward to having fun.

What changes have you seen since your solo release in 2011?

I didn’t really have a solo release. I’m not sure how people started talking about that. I made an EP that I didn’t show anyone. It’s stuff that I recorded with Jonathan Rado (of Foxygen) right out of high school. It was the first stuff I ever wrote, when I was just starting to make music. We recorded in Elliot Smith’s studio in LA, so that was fun.It’s so old, and it sounds so different from what I’m doing now. It’s embarrassing, like lyrically, it’s so bad (laughs). But, I have like 150 to 200 of these CDs that are in my house that I’ve been carrying around since high school. I don’t want to get rid of them, because they’re the first things I ever did, but I just don’t know what to do with them. I’ll just hold on to them.

From the growth that you’ve seen since then, what changes do you expect to see in your music in the next five or ten years?

You know, I’m just going to be traveling and living and experiencing new things and experiencing new music, and that will undoubtedly be inspiring. I’ll just be pulling from all of those things. That’s the great thing about any art-is that you’re always pulling from an endless source that is life, so you’ll always find inspiration and new influences.

What are some of the best ways that people can promote artists in their communities?

Go to shows. Show people the music.That’s the best way to really support artists, just listen to music and share it. I mean, that’s all that we want. We just want to do it, (laughs) this feels weird to say this, but it’s for the fans. You know, it’s for the fans. It’s for everyone. It’s helpful for us to write, because it’s what we love to do, and maybe it can move people and put into words what they weren’t able to, or it makes them happy. That’s why we do it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

Just don’t give up. Keep writing. Like I said, that first album that I wrote, I find incredibly embarrassing. Just keep working on your craft and don’t give up. And do it because you want to do it, don’t think of it as a job. Do it because you want to and it makes you happy.

Diane Coffee will be performing at The Hi-Fi  on Thursday, January 28th.

Doors open at 8:00 pm.  $10//21+


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