lower east side

THE FUNDAMENTAL DIANE COFFEE
November 14, 2016 9:00 am

Guys. Me and Shaun Fleming of Diane Coffee have the same silver eyeshadow. And now that that’s out of my system, I can tell you that we were able to grab some quality time with the shiny bombshell himself Thursday night before his show with St. Paul and The Broken Bones at Terminal 5. Keep reading to get the essentials on how Shaun feels about touring, turning the big 3-0, and what it’s like to sing opera at Macaroni Grill.

It’s been a really weird week, with the election happening two days ago. Did you perform last night?
We did. I needed that more than anything else I’ve ever needed, ever. I look to music and to artists to get me though everything from cracked a toenail, or this. [The band] were talking about it, and none of us had slept the night before, and we were just…I’m sure a lot of people were stressed on both sides. It was really close for a long time. So we were feeling pretty down, plus sick all over from the outcome. [Drummer] Kate was throwing up before she went onstage. Everyone was feeling really dumpy and awful. We were in Philadelphia last night, and the crowd was so positive and so energetic, and it was really awesome to be someone’s relief.

How is your tour going otherwise?
It’s really great, we sold out tonight. It’s been one of my favorite tours. I feel like [St. Paul and The Broken Bones] and I are cut from the same cloth in a lot of ways, but we’re different enough where I think it’s a nice blend. We’re playing to a lot of people who have never heard us before, and they’re walking away really enjoying what they heard, so we couldn’t have asked for a better pairing. Crowds have been awesome, they’re here to dance, they’re here to have fun, and the few headlining shows we had done were great. I got sick early on; right when we hit the road, it became fall all of a sudden. I had to cancel a show, which was a bummer, but other than that I think it’s been awesome.
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Is it hard for you to sit in a van with a group of people for the entire length of a tour?
I’ve been playing with Foxygen as well, so I feel like I’ve been on the road for like five years straight. [Diane Coffee has] been touring this record since September of 2015, almost nonstop. It’s funny; I get home and I feel like I need to go to the gas station just to go to the bathroom to feel any sort of normalcy. It’s been awesome and very tiring. You get used to it, and I’m traveling with great people who are my closest friends, kind of the only friends I have now with being on the road.

The lineup for this tour is new; I was playing with a separate band for everything prior to this for the Good Dog tour. And this tour kind of came up last minute and the other band couldn’t commit. It’s fun for me, because everyone brings their own personality to it, so everything feels very fresh and very new and very exciting again.

Will you be playing with Foxygen when they perform in New York?
No, I’ve stepped away from Foxygen. I’ve got so much to do with this project now, kind of focusing on my baby. They’ve got a whole new lineup though, and it’s amazing. They just played their first show that I haven’t played with them, ever. It was kind of surreal to see the tweets and stuff, “Excited to see Foxygen!”, and I’d have a little panic attack like “I’m supposed to be onstage!”. It’s like that dream where you forget your clothes and you’re at school. It was that feeling. I’m excited to see my first Foxygen show.

I have to ask, what brand is your silver eyeshadow and is there a method to the madness in its application?
There is, I got way better at it. It’s been about 2 or 3 years in the making now. I started doing it with Foxygen and it developed in that world and spilled over into this one. I’m using Maybelline Color Tattoo. Once it dries, it doesn’t come off. And just a basic eyeliner. And I use that Maybelline silver eyeshadow for my lipstick too, which I don’t think you’re supposed to do. I got this stuff by L’Oreal, Liquid Diamond powder, and I was thinking of doing gold, but it kind of looks like you have jaundice. But if you mix it with a silver powder, it’s kind of a weird halfway point between silver and gold.

Guitarist Matt Kronish walks in.

Me and Matt grew up together in L.A.

Matt: I feel like we’re still growing up together.

What was he like as a teenager?

Shaun: Matt had shorter hair.

Matt: He was just as much of a dynamo when we were 15.

Shaun: We were just talking makeup. Matt wore makeup for the first time the other day.

I’m a serious journalist, and we’re talking about makeup.

Matt: Getting to the hard issues.

Shaun: How do you feel about the election? What brand [of eyeshadow] do you use? Actually, that’s actually exactly where it went.

Matt leaves.
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You’ve mentioned in interviews that you embody a female role for your Diane Coffee persona.
Not necessarily a female role. I embody the feminine archetype, which is sort of that performer. Everything gets lost in translation with interviews, especially stuff like that. Diane Coffee is that feeling that you get when you’re a shy, reserved person, but maybe you go to a concert and the energy surrounds you and because of that community, you’re singing at the top of your lungs, and you’re dancing and then you’re back home and you’re quiet and reserved again. It’s the same thing when you go onstage; that thing that kind of takes over.

You hear a lot of artists that say they don’t remember what they do onstage. I remember what I do onstage to an extent, but that part of me takes over completely. That’s what I call Diane Coffee. When I’m performing, I’m Diane Coffee. If the band feels it, they’re Diane Coffee. If the audience feels it, they’re all Diane Coffee. I definitely wanted a more feminine name, but I don’t think it’s a character I’m playing onstage. It’s a piece of me that’s amplified greatly.

You used to live in New York and L.A., and now you’re in Bloomington. Do you feel like a big fish in a small pond when you’re at home?
I really love Bloomington. When I grew up in L.A., I wasn’t in L.A. proper; I was in a small place called Agoura. New York is kind of scary; I lived on the Lower East Side, which was a lot. Everyone was like “You should’ve moved to Brooklyn”, and they’re probably right. Bloomington felt to me like going back to business as usual. I don’t feel like a big fish or anything like that. A lot of my band members come from Bloomington, and there’s a sea of talented people there. There’s the Secretly Canadian label, Jagjaguwar, all that stuff, so they’re there. It feels like an artistic community in the middle of Indiana. It’s like this cultural oasis in the middle of corn. It doesn’t feel like a lot of other midwest towns; it’s a college town.

I’m far enough away that I do kind of become a little bit of a shut-in. Me and my girl have a house out in the woodsy area and it’s great. When you tour, it’s like city, city, city, city, all the time. And when I get home, I don’t want to be in a city, I want to be somewhere where I can have a fire and kind of just unwind and get creative again.

You’re turning 30 in the coming year.
Yes, I am. I’m trying not to think about it though. I feel like 29 was freaking me out more than I think 30 will be. My then-girlfriend in high school, me and her made this pact: she made me promise that if nothing starts happening with music by the time I’m 28, I had to get out of music and get a job or something like that. When I was 25, 26, I was like “Fuck that, I’m gonna keep doing what I’m gonna do”, and I started playing with Foxygen and things were taking off and it was going well. But still, in the back of my mind I was like “Oh man, 28 is coming up. How am I going to feel about it when I hit that point?”. And then my birthday was during the Primavera festival in Spain, and I think that was the biggest crowd I had ever played to, like 20,000 people or something like that. And I remember just thinking “This is cool, I think this counts as ‘I can keep doing this.’” But I mean, I know a lot of cool 30-year-olds. You seem cool. The world’s not going to come to an end. At least not because I’m turning 30.

Have you ever had a “real” job?
I did acting and stuff as a kid, and then no one really taught me about saving any of it. And one day it was like “Ok, this is over now. I have no more money.” My first job was at Cold Stone Creamery.
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Did you have to sing when they put money in the tip jar?
We’d holler for a dollar. Everyone had to sing. I was not getting into it. I had a job at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and I was a host/opera singer. Every hour on the hour, I had to go into the middle of the restaurant, pull out a chair, take out a fork and a cup and sing some opera standard.

Our Macaroni Grill never did that.
I don’t know if it was just this one, or if they knew I could sing and were like “This is what you do, this is part of the job.” And I would have to go around to the tables and ask if people wanted a song and they would maybe tip me a dollar or something. It was so brutal. I hated everything about that job. That was, like, my darkest hour, I think. I was living in Reseda, in this little cramped apartment by myself. I was trying to play music and write, but I couldn’t get a band together. And L.A. just sucks for trying to put a band together.

That sounds like the theme of a Tom Petty song.
I tried everywhere – Ventura sucked, Reseda sucked. I ended up moving to Boston for six or eight months, crashed on couches. Tried to be in a pop band, that didn’t work out. I did a lot of teaching; I taught voice and guitar and a lot of stuff like that. Things were getting super dark and I didn’t know what to do anymore. So I was thinking about going back to school and trying to get into music business, which I’ve never really wanted to do. Anything to keep me in the world. That’s when Rado [of Foxygen] hit me up, and was like “Hey, we got a show, do you want to play some drums?”. That’s when one show became two, and two became more.

When you were a voice actor on the Disney cartoon “Kim Possible”, were you held to a strong code of ethics like many of the actresses on Disney’s live-action shows?
No, no one knows who the hell we are. It’s great, my dad would just pull me out of school, drive down and we’d sit in a booth and do the thing and get out. No one really knows who you are. Especially pre-internet, no one knew who the hell any of these vocal actors were.

Do you look forward to coming back to New York at all? Is there a pizzeria that you like?
I was living right across the street from Lombardi’s, so I was right in the thick of it. I look forward to the dumpling houses. I was right near Chinatown and I was broke as all hell, so dumplings.

I love being in New York and playing in New York, but I hate living in New York. I hate driving in New York. I hate parking. I always end up getting a parking ticket.

Do you have any last words before you go on tonight?
I think this is going to be the last show in New York for a while. I’m going to be doing the new record soon. I’m sure this will be one of the first stops. Don’t forget me, New York.

LOWER EAST SIDE FILM FESTIVAL RECAP AND WINNERS
June 20, 2016 6:03 pm

This year was my first year attending the Lower East Side Film Festival, and I was not disappointed. Amidst the whirlwind of independent festivals that happen throughout New York and cities around the world, it’s refreshing to attend one that holds onto the quintessential essence of being low key, and highbrow. I initially found out about the festival while mindlessly staring into space towards a wall while waiting for the beloved R train somewhere in Brooklyn in the wee hours of the night. It took a few minutes of gazing into mental nothingness before my eyes started to actually focus and realize that I was staring at a poster for the 2016 LESFF. Having always held an indefatigable love of film and art festivals, I took a picture for a later google search and was able to attend and speak with some prominent people who represent what this festival had to offer.

The winners of the festival were released last Thursday night as part of the closing night party in which most of the writers, filmmakers, producers, and curators attended to celebrate. The panel of judges who announced the winners included Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”), casting director & producer Cindy Tolan (“Straight Outta Compton,”), Steve Farneth (Cinetic Media), Raul Castillo (HBO series “Looking” member LABryinth Theatre).

Among the winners were:

-Best Feature film: Americana (Written & Directed by Zachary Shedd)

-Best Live Action Short film: Killer (Written & Directed by Matt Kazman)

-Best of Fest – The LESFF Prix D’Or: Art of the Prank (Written & Directed by Andrea Marini)

-LESFF Audience Award: The Babymooners (Written & Directed by Shaina Feinberg & Chris Manley)

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The festival started 6 years ago in a storefront on Norfolk St with a cramped space, holding about 30 folding chairs and a pull down screen creating a makeshift theatre space. The landlord of that space was acquainted with the 4-pack of now festival directors and allowed them to try to make something of the tight storefront space for a month- the inception of the low key fest. It’s always refreshing to hear stories of growth; people who started out tiny and local and have gained the recognition to become what they are now. Roxy Hunt, one of the directors, briefly walked me through their humble beginnings:

We started in 2011 with very humble beginnings…It sold out every single night…we started handing out free booze and popcorn and everyone was forced to sit on top of each other because the space was that small, but that created the energy for it. The other 3 directors [Shannon Walker, Damon Cardasis, Tony Castle] and myself were the ones sweeping up every night at the storefront the first year, watching a mouse run across the room. We just kept it going, and now we obviously have a lot more help and we’ve expanded quite a bit but we try to keep it approachable. 

I attended a couple of the short films series, films that offer encapsulating stories and perspectives in a time frame made for those who fear the commitment of a feature. I hold a strong love for truly well-made short films since they offer such a beautifully told (usually) and unpredictable tale serving as a respite from normal life. It allows people to immerse themselves in truly unique, peculiar and relatable narratives.

I have a fascination with petty crime because to me you identify with it way more than, like, an ”Ocean’s Eleven” heist with like demolition experts and such. I feel way more people have been tempted to do things like seeing a cash register open in a bodega and just reaching over. Even though you wouldn’t do it, you would think briefly like ‘wow I could really get this money.’ It’s a relatable petty crime.

We had a delivery boy who would come over, a wimpy guy who carried a backpack full of treasure, that my buddy Trevor Wallace and I, we had the idea that it would be kind of easy to…maybe rob. We talked about it, and were like we probably shouldn’t do it, but we could make a movie about it.

Weston Razooli, writer, co-producer, director, and actor of Jolly Boy Friday.

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There was also the fair share of discomfort that every artist knows all too well. Faiyaz Jafri, director, writer and producer of “This Ain’t Disneyland” created this 6 minute film as a reflective piece of the ‘juxtaposition of the collapse of the Twin Towers and Disney. An incredibly well-done film, the animated display showed imagery that was initially confusing and uncomfortable, while shedding some light on person’s perspective of how they experienced the tragedy.

I was in NY when it happened. I experienced it right from my apartment right around the corner here and it pretty much fucked me up badly for a couple years. I felt a little embarrassed about how much it affected me considering that there are places in the world where that kind of stuff happens everyday. I sort of needed to tell my own story in my own style. I was commissioned to do an audio/visual piece that was projected in downtown Denver. I thought it was kind of a fitting thing to put this story far far away from New York and so I figured it’s the time to make the movie, that’s why I made this film…. I usually get the same reaction as here; everyone is just a little quiet, like they don’t know how to deal with it. I get a lot of “WTF” like what were you thinking.

“WTF” was indeed my reaction… at least for the first minute or so. As someone who was also living in NY when 9/11 happened, I was not at a total loss for words for very long. I am all too familiar with how much the attack fucked up people in the Western world, let alone those who were here to witness firsthand. The film included images of tall black and grey buildings, identical to those of the twin towers, crumbling to their demise while being shot from different angles. While the black smoke filled the aqua green background, dozens of reindeers are seen falling to their own demise as well, accompanied by giant Mickey Mouse-like figurines. When asked about the relation of the towers to Disneyland, Jafri said

To me Disney land has that wholesome, Americana, 50s ideal (scene) in the United States. It also represents the mediocrity of how everyone tries to please everyone and this idea of an ideal world that totally doesn’t exist and I think it kind of led to eventually what happened in September 11 and how the American dream doesn’t exist anymore. I use the Disney references… as visual shorthand to tell the story.

Props to keeping it real. Check out some photos of the event below!

Written by Annie Paul 

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Saintseneca Release The Spirits @ Mercury Lounge
October 11, 2015 12:21 pm

Saintseneca passed through New York City’s Lower East Side on Friday night as they celebrated the release of their new album Such Things. The band shared the Mercury Lounge stage with the likes of Yowler and The Sidekicks as they began the Northeast leg of their three month long Intercontinental tour (wow!). This melting pot of friends and musicians came together in Columbus, Ohio, and they brought a distinct American tinged rock n’ roll with them. Yowler (who also happens to be a member of Saintseneca) began the night with a stripped down solo set which softened the crowd up for the explosive fullness of The Sidekicks. These guys brought an energy to the room which brought you back the post punk days of Fugazi, but with the moves of a thrash rock mosh pit. The show was riddled with minor sound issues, which allowed Saintseneca frontman Zac Little to use his humor to create a comfortable and entranced crowd. And as expected, there were plenty of melodic harmonies, washed out vocals, and musicians switching instruments, which has come to be a routine set for Saintseneca.

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Saintseneca formed around Zac Little after he moved from rural Appalachian Ohio to attend college in Columbus. They have been actively releasing music and touring since 2008. It takes a noticeably different direction as it seems to be moving closer to indie-rock and farther from folk but still keeps a noticeably unique balance between the two. This band is a refreshing escape from the Major city bands which miss out on a large portion of the American experience, and can sometimes be a little too close to each other  stylistically. All in all this is another sonically eclectic album from Saintseneca. The Beasts suggest you have a listen, and step outside the box. Make sure to support them out there when they pass through your town. You can find a complete list of shows right hereand their newly released music video for “Bad Ideas” below!

 

Save B&H Dairy/A Short History of Diners in Music
July 9, 2015 11:00 am

East Village restaurant B&H Dairy has been closed for over 3 months at this point. Narrowly escaping the gas explosion that destroyed Pommes Frites on March 26th, B&H Dairy has yet to reopen, and the 73-year old luncheonette is at risk of going out of business.

Though B&H Dairy was unharmed in the explosion, subsequent inspections of the restaurant found it needed a new fire system at a cost of $28,000. A post on the blog EV Grieve outlines the full extent of the red tape the owners are trapped in:

For starters, owners Fawzy Abdelwahed and Ola Smigielsk needed approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (the building is in the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District) to install the new fire suppression system. The LPC approval finally came through last week. And as of Wednesday [July 1st], the DOB had issued the necessary permit for the job. Work starts on Monday. (The contractor needed to be first approved by the FDNY.)

Jeremiah Moss of Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York adds in his own article on the diner:

…the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City promised financial assistance to residents and businesses impacted by the Second Avenue explosion, but no funds have made their way to Fawzy and Ola, and no one from the city has been in touch with them.

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So what’s the big deal about this place? It’s the best diner on earth. In its 73 years on Second Avenue, it’s been a home-away-from-home for countless people looking for comfort in a bowl of mushroom barley soup and a few thick slices of house made challah with butter. Little Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence was kind enough to share his memories of B&H with ATYPICALSOUNDS:

I was born and raised in New York City and for 14 years I lived on 7th Street and 1st Avenue with my roommate and drummer Kitty. We spent most of our time on St. Mark’s Place and the surrounding neighborhood and one major staple of that neighborhood was and is B&H Dairy. It is a small, one-counter, old-school establishment with the most famous Challah French Toast in the world.

I’m not a vegetarian and have never been and I tend not to eat at super healthy places, but B&H was different. Kitty and I ate there thousands of times. Sure there are tons of places on the Lower East Side to get a good knish or blintze but B&H has a charm and a quaintness that is packed into the smallest restaurant I have ever frequented.

For years I would write songs all night until six in the morning and inevitably end up around the corner at B&H downing an omelette before I crashed for the day. I’m proud to say that B&H is a very big part of mine and Kitty’s life working and living in New York City. I don’t know much about the current situation that B&H is in as I have not lived in the city since 2005, but I would be very saddened to see another great local L.E.S. establishment lost like so many before.

Jimmy and the rest of Mindless Self Indulgence are getting ready to release Pink, an album of never-released tracks from the band’s early years. Pre-order the album here.

Another East Village native, indie folk musician Jeffrey Lewis, offered his memories as well:

B&H is a mainstay of the neighborhood, and has been for generations. I’ve been going there for years (I grew up a couple blocks away), and despite the small size I often bump into friends or neighborhood familiar faces; bumping into an ex-girlfriend there inspired a song on one of my albums a few years back.

When Lower East Side cultural hero Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs died in 2010, Ratso Sloman catered the local memorial with borscht from B&H, a Tuli favorite. In fact, I may just be the only person who has figured out that the dark, obscure photo of Tuli on the back cover of his 1967 solo album No Deposit/No Return is, if you look closely, a photo of Tuli standing in the doorway of B&H. You can’t see the name, but the door-frame and surrounding details are unmistakable, for those who would know!

Jeffrey Lewis just completed a tour of Europe in support of his recent album, Jeffrey Lewis & the Jrams. Order it here.

What can you do to help B&H Dairy? Donate if you can. If you can’t, Jeremiah Moss has started a Twitter campaign to light a fire under the ass of city officials. And to remind you all of the importance of diners in pop culture, let alone New York City, here is a short list of diners in music.

Suzanne Vega – “Tom’s Diner”

While this pop iconoclast is on every. single. list of food-related songs, it would be wrong to leave out. There is no better place in the world for people watching than your local diner, and this song is a perfectly concise illustration of that. The song’s namesake, Tom’s Restaurant, is located at the corner of Broadway and 112th Street. It’s also known as the exterior for the fictional Monk’s Café on Seinfeld.

Listen: Suzanne Vega – “Tom’s Diner”

King Missile – “Detachable Penis”

Bet you haven’t heard this one since high school. While searching the East Village for his missing phallus, our hero stops for breakfast at the now-gone Kiev Restaurant. Closed in 2000, Kiev was known for its Eastern European fare, including blintzes and mushroom barley soup (much like the menu at B&H Dairy). Kiev was open 24/7 at the corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street, and must’ve seen some pretty incredible characters in its nearly 30 years in business.

Listen: King Missile – “Detachable Penis”

Rent OST – “La Vie Boheme”

This one isn’t about a diner, so much as it is a celebration of diner culture. In the Rent musical, the characters meet at the Life Café after Maureen’s protest of the eviction of the homeless from a vacant lot. It’s late at night, and Life Café stands out like a warm beacon on a dark city street. They celebrate. The real Life Café was located on Tenth Street and Avenue B. It closed in 2013 after 34 years in business.

Listen: Rent OST – “La Vie Boheme”

The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me”

This classic song about a failing relationship between a cocktail waitress and a jerk is a still a mainstay on dance floors everywhere (or just in Williamsburg). Since its release in 1981, the song has also appeared in commercials for mops, shower heads, cookies, and chicken.

Listen: The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me”

Greta Gertler & The Extroverts – “Veselka”

This polka-infused love letter to Ukrainian diner Veselka is all the more poignant when you learn Gertler originates from Australia, but still has a place she feels at home at the East Village diner. In it, she sings, “I used to go there on my own a lot/or with my best girlfriend/over coffee and pierogi/our hearts began to mend”. Veselka still stands at the same place it’s been since opening in 1954 at the corner of Second Avenue and Ninth Street, just over a block from where B&H Dairy remains closed. It’s clear Veselka won’t be going anywhere soon, and B&H Dairy shouldn’t have to either.

Listen: Greta Gertler & The Extroverts – “Veselka”

LUCID DREAMING WITH SAY LOU LOU
May 18, 2015 10:25 am

With a lot of sister bands emerging nowadays, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd. Swedish-Australian twins Say Lou Lou have voices that are each the missing puzzle piece to a perfect sound. They have finally released their debut album after teasing fans for three years with a few dropped singles here and there. Like their album title “Lucid Dreaming,”  their sparkling tones and nu-disco soundscape can make any listener fall into a trance. Both of their shows in New York were sold-out, and I was fortunate enough to scope them out at Mercury Lounge on a Tuesday night.

They appear on stage with chic silk print matching outfits, ready to wow the crowd with their fierce personas. As soon as the music starts they switch gears and electrify the crowd with their sensual voices. The drummer starts to bang on his glittery set while the keyboardist swings her vibrant orange wig to the beat. Their set consisted of an array of colorful lights, transporting you into a fantasy.

I was temporarily put into an arcade game when “Games for Girls” came on. It’s playful theme had rainbow lights that hit me with the nostalgia of old school recreation. “Nothing but a Heartbeat” stood out the most because of the way the lights rhythmically flashed like the heartbeat they sang about. It was surreal. It was a dream I didn’t want to wake up from.
It’s safe to say that Say Lou Lou left a great impression on their New York fans. We’re excited to see them back in the city for some more dreamy experiences!