David Taylor Coffey is a musician originally from Marlborough, which he describes as “a small rural suburb of Hartford without much going for it.” He is based in Hartford but has played numerous concerts throughout the Northwest Corner of Connecticut. His music can be found at https://coffeynocoffee.bandcamp.com Here he talks to The Winsted Phoenix about his music, his influences, and how he is dealing with the pandemic.
How did you get into music?
My Dad is a guitar player, which drew me to music. I tried getting into guitar a few times, and I had a short stint with playing saxophone in elementary school, but neither ever stuck. During my freshman year of high school, I messed around on the bass guitar for an ill-fated attempt at a band with my friends. Things didn’t get serious, though, until I was 17 and my dad taught me a few basic chords to a song called, “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After. The rest is history.
Who are some of your influences?
My influences vary depending on what genre I’m writing or what band I’m performing with. Jack White has always been one of my favorites throughout all of his projects. I’ve always admired how much he’s able to do with so little, his music usually isn’t very complicated, it’s carried by his soul and passion more than anything. When I first started writing my music, the Raconteurs (one of White’s bands) album, “Consolers of the Lonely,” inspired me a lot. Learning those songs helped me recognize how technically simple songs could be while still resonating so powerfully. I don’t think a good song needs to be extremely complex to be good, what’s more, important is the emotion and passion behind it. Some other musicians that have inspired me are Mikal Cronin, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Ochs, Elliott Smith, Woody Guthrie, Bass Drum of Death, Frank Turner, AJJ, The Hives, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Nirvana, The Clash, Ty Segall, Neil Young. The list goes on…
How do you describe your sound?
I think of my sound as a blend of folk/singer-songwriter stuff mixed with punk, rock, and indie. I’ve been described as “anti-folk” a few times, but I mostly get slapped with the label of “folk-punk,” and the artist I seem to be most compared to is probably Frank Turner, which is extremely flattering because he’s one of my favorites.
The tricky thing about genres is that they’re very fluid, there’s a lot of overlap, and different songs by the same artist can vary greatly in what genre they might be. If you’re trying to determine a label for me, “folk-punk” works fine I suppose; I play mostly acoustic music, and I usually play it pretty loudly. That being said, I don’t necessarily identify with the folk-punk scene too much. A lot of the time, I’ll be on bills with full punk and rock bands, sometimes as an opener, sometimes even as a headliner.
What have been some career highlights for you?
In February of 2018, I hosted a show called, “Sing the Sad Out” which was a show dedicated to singer-songwriters singing their sappiest tear-jerkers. It was born partly out of me writing a bunch of sad songs in light of a break-up; I wanted an outlet to perform these songs without fear of judgment. The show ended up being one of the most cathartic and beautiful events I’ve ever put together. I ended up doing a second “Sing the Sad Out” and have been dreaming about doing a third-ever since… Fun fact: I met another ex-girlfriend at the first “sing the sad out” who also inspired a few sad songs.
In January of 2019, I lost one of my best friends, Noah, unexpectedly. The news became public the Friday of that week, the same day I was supposed to play a show in Boston. I had a lot of people reaching out to support me, including my friend who booked me for the aforementioned show, Quinn. (who is also an extremely talented Connecticut musician and all-around great person) She assured me that if I was uncomfortable or feeling vulnerable, I could sit the show out. Ultimately, I decided to still play the show because it felt like the best way to honor my late friend. That show ended up being something of a turning point in my performance style. I’d always been a pretty commanding presence on stage, but I feel like this show was where I let everything go for the first time. I was jumping into the audience and standing on chairs, and my friend never felt far…
On April 20th of 2019, I held a show in my old apartment (which was pretty common for me, it was a sizable studio in Willimantic) which I called, “An unremarkable show on an unremarkable day.” Don’t let the name fool you, though, it was anything but… It was just a great time with a ton of friends coming together to make and listen to music, all stuffed into my tiny apartment. (Oh how I long for the days before Covid) I had just seen Frank Turner perform the day before with my buddy, Steve, so maybe that affected my performance, perhaps I was channeling Frank a little bit… We had this running gag throughout the night that the show was dedicated to cabbage so I had people bring coleslaw and I made brats with sauerkraut, as well as mixing drinks for people-half the fun-of-house shows like that for me is being a host. The show wasn’t necessarily anything revolutionary or game-changing, it was just fun, and everything seemed to happen exactly how it was supposed to. It’s still amongst one of the best shows I ever played.
This one is pretty broad, but a huge highlight for me was going on tour in the summer of 2019. I was originally just planning a small thing to do with my friend, Noah, while they were on spring break from college. They ended up passing away unexpectedly in January of that year, which put me into a very dark headspace. (This is the same friend I mentioned before in my story about playing in Boston) I ultimately decided that the best way for me to honor their memory was to still go forward with the tour over the summer. I ended up learning a few of their songs and played them and my own all across the United States. The experience was unbelievable, and I felt “in my zone” so to speak. Being on the road, exploring, meeting new people, and playing music, I felt like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do. I was at peace.
When I was on tour I played in New Orleans and broke three strings in the course of one show without ever slowing the momentum. The first two times it happened I managed to do a couple of songs by having the audience clap and stamp their feet in time as I sang while restringing my guitar. By the third sting, I called up a fiddle player that I had met beforehand and made plans to invite up for a few songs anyway. I had him keep everybody busy while I re-strung the third string. (which-luckily for me-was the last string I had to fix that night)
In Early November of 2019, I played my first show with my drummer, Zach. (who plays with me in my band, “The Human Fund”) We performed as The White Stripes as part of a Halloween show at the Noelke Gallery in Torrington, CT. That venue has always been one of my favorites to play at for many reasons, the least of which being the incredibly supportive management in John and Rana as well as the strong arts/music scene of Torrington; I’ve got a lot of really good friends up that way. (and I’m very excited to play at the new Noelke Gallery location at Howard’s) This show was as special as any other show at Noelke Gallery, but this one was particularly good in that it was the first time The Human Fund ever played together, (at the time we didn’t have a name) and I just loved playing the role of Jack White.
How are you dealing with the pandemic?
I’m dealing with it the best I can, I think we all are. I was working on organizing another cross-country tour for this past summer, but as you can imagine, the pandemic threw a wrench into that. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve done my fair share of live-streamed concerts, as well as some socially-distanced outdoor gigs when the weather was warmer. Now that it’s cold, in-person gigs are pretty rare, and it weighs on me. There’s a lot I miss about performing live…
I miss seeing my friends who I came to know through the music scene. I miss hosting shows, elevating my fellow musicians, and the hustle of making sure everything runs smoothly. I miss having command of the audience at a show I’m playing at, getting them to sing along or move their bodies with the music. I miss sharing something deeply personal in playing my songs for people. I miss mosh pits, I miss jumping into the audience and getting everyone moving. I get especially nostalgic for mosh pits when I’m listening to my favorite punk bands.
Can you tell me about the projects you’re working on?
I play in a two-piece garage punk band called, “The Human Fund” with my good buddy, Zach Fontanez, on drums. Zach is super talented, and he also plays drums in “The Not Mikes” and “Socially Inept.” One of the things I love about playing with Zach is that the weight of being a frontman isn’t completely on my shoulders. We both share a lot of the singing responsibility, and we have a lot of fun bantering on stage with each other, it’s nice to have another energy up there with me. Our last gig was almost a year ago, and it’s tough for us to get together and stay socially distant when the temperature is freezing outside, but we had a practice not long ago and are hoping to record an album shortly.
Additionally, I have a small side project called, “The Buzzard Republic,” which is mostly just an outlet for my political songs. This one isn’t too much of a “separate project” as I’ll still play a lot of the songs as David Taylor Coffey. I’m hoping to get more people involved with performing the songs with me in the future, though.
What are your plans for the future?
Once the pandemic is over, I’m hoping to hit the road again pretty much as soon as possible. It might be a good idea to record another album before then, though. I was working on something before the pandemic hit, maybe I should get back to work on that so I’ll have a new CD to sell at my shows. Given that I’m not entirely comfortable with getting into a studio right now, it might mostly be recorded DIY. (Do-it-Yourself) My album, “Nothing Short of Mediocre,” was recorded almost exclusively using my laptop and the built-in microphone, that might be how this one is done too. (though I think I’ll at least buy a real microphone this time) I’ll probably try and do the same thing with Zach for the Human Fund… Keep your eyes open…
Is there anything else you want the public to know?
When shows come back, we need to do a better job of supporting fellow musicians and the scene. I keep hearing people talking about how much they miss shows, and while I trust that much of that is sincere, I’m worried that when live shows come back we’re going to fall into the same habits as before.
For example, when live shows are back, I’m hoping we don’t see headlining bands showing up so late to a gig that they miss the first two acts. This sort of thing kills off a lot of the sense of community in the scene-especially for the smaller opening bands that were probably looking forward to showing off their music to headliners they likely admire. This is where “punk time” (the practice of starting shows later than the official “start-time”) is very valuable; starting shows late is a way of accommodating people that might not be able to show up immediately when the doors open. Consequently, it also helps to make sure that the opening band isn’t playing for the three people who showed up “on time.” The problem here lies in bands showing up so late (without communicating with the person booking the show or other bands) that they miss everyone before them-even with accommodation of punk time.
Additionally, I think we also need to be wary of booking shows with more than 4-5 acts. (unless it’s more of an all-day event, like a festival) Overbooked shows usually end up hurting bands that go on later. Look, we’re all busy people with families and day jobs outside of the music scene, a lot of us just don’t have time to sit through a 7-band show on a weeknight. We need to keep bills relatively small if we want people to stick through them to the end.
These examples aren’t something I’ve always been good at myself. Over time, I think that I’ve gotten better as a promoter and musician in the scene, though-and I’d like to be told if there’s something I can do better in either of those roles. In the end, I suppose my main point is that we all need to focus on lifting each other up. Especially if someone’s not an established musician in the scene. The community needs to be there for the scene to thrive.