Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Tim Lannen. Together we discussed The Diggs, their coffee shop, their latest release “The world’s a toothache”, and so much more!
1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
I’m great! Thanks for asking!
2. According to your Spotify biography the idea is to keep going. What are we currently working on? What must we continue?
Right now I’m attempting to spread the word about my upcoming LP ‘Collarbone’ This includes social media posts and making videos and trying to book gigs etc. You know, the fun stuff! In regard to ‘keep going,’ we all MUST continue doing art and making songs.
3. What was your relationship with music growing up?
Music has always been a part of my life. I grew up in Long Island, New York, watching MTV and listening to Z100. My father loved oldies from the 50s and early 60s, like doo-wop. He would sing along to them in the car, off-key but happy. I made fun of him, but I also understood how music could transport him to a better place. Maybe it was just the catchy tunes, or it was something deeper. I don’t know. I liked music too, and I played trombone and tuba in the school band. There was a change when I picked up a guitar in high school. I discovered that I had a knack for it, and I started writing songs almost immediately. I wasn’t interested in being a virtuoso; I just wanted to express myself. Sometimes I wish I had taken lessons, but I don’t regret anything. I was in some bands in high school, covering songs by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, and other bands we liked. We rocked out and had a blast.”
4. From 2004 to 2009 you fronted a band called The Diggs. Could you share more about your time with The Diggs? What was the music landscape like at that time?
– “I loved being in The Diggs with Charlie Schmidt and Rob Hausman. They are like brothers to me. The 2000s were an amazing time to play shows in New York City, where there were so many great bands. We released our music on Sugarspun Records, an upstart label run by my two amazing friends, Brian Berger and John Darcy. It was all about pursuing our passion and doing it with the people who mattered most to us. We didn’t become a huge band, but we had the best time ever. We did a little bit of touring and made friends with some other bands. One of them was Heads Up Display, where I met Steve Pellegrino. He played bass on my latest release.
5. After your time with The Diggs you began to create music that was more experimental. What inspired this music? How did it differ from your previous work with The Diggs?
“After The Digs, I started producing music on my own, using different recording software like Ableton and Logic. I bought some cheap synthesizers and beat makers and experimented with them. I never released any proper electronic or ambient albums, but I would occasionally post some snippets on SoundCloud or social media. I was mostly doing things by myself, in a kind of isolation. Sometimes I get like that. The main difference between working solo and working with The Diggs was that they kept me on track and motivated. I don’t do as well when it’s just me. That’s why for this release, it was nice to go back to a studio and work with Phil Jimenez. He mixed and mastered the album. We had worked with him before on Commute, the first Diggs album. There was more structure to this process, although I still took a long time to record the vocals and guitars in my apartment and my workflow can be a little scattered.
6. Who (or what) influences you?
That’s a hard question. I need to think about it. Most recently and musically, I’m really into Big Thief. I also like Good Looks and Big Nothing. They sound like awesome bands to be in. I also love the song Runner by Alex G. It makes me happy whenever it comes on. I find my friends in Beat Radio and Totally Real Records to be powerful influences. Those guys have really solid motors in them.
7. What kind of music could be found playing through your coffee shop? What flavor and style of coffee best describes your music?
In my coffee shop, we play a lot of 90s music, along with some of my current favorites, like Big Thief, Big Nothing, Good Looks, and Hiss Golden Messenger. My business partner, Heather, is a fan of The Replacements, Jenny Lewis, and Ben Folds Five. We try to keep the music upbeat and pleasant. Sometimes I want to listen to something more edgy, but it often doesn’t fit the mood of the store. For example, I love Ants from Up There by Black Country, New Road, but it’s not the best choice for a busy breakfast rush at 8 am.
I usually drink black coffee or espresso, so maybe that’s what my music sounds like. Or maybe it’s more like a cup of coffee with some steamed milk. It’s simple but a little fancy. I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. Maybe my music is a latte or a cortado. My sound is a small vanilla latte with an extra shot. Yeah.
8. You described your songwriting process as “then all of a sudden the shit writes itself.” Would you consider this consistent throughout your time as a songwriter? Has your process changed at all throughout the years?
My songwriting process has evolved over the years, but I usually write music and lyrics separately. I have a long note on my phone with random sentences and phrases that either come to mind or I hear them or read them from somewhere. I also have many voice memos with guitar riffs. I try to match them together and see what works. Sometimes, a song comes together easily with just one line and one guitar part. Other times, it’s a struggle. I have to cut and paste, move things around, and discard some lyrics or songs. For example, the song What It Was Like on Collarbone started with lyrics from another song that I just could not get to work. When I sang those lyrics over the main riff, the song came to life. It is the best feeling. Euphoric.
9. Mustard is fascinated by time and your collections “Heaven O Clock.” What was the inspiration behind both those parts? What numbers best represent or symbolize Heaven O Clock?
I wrote and recorded Heaven O’clock, Pt. 1 shortly after my father passed away. Before that, I was working on some sketches and ideas for songs, mostly electronic music. But my father’s death made me want to go back to the basics and play songs in a band with a bassist and a drummer. Losing a parent is a life-changing experience. It makes you think about your own mortality and what matters to you.
10. You are a solution. What problems do you solve?
I don’t know how much of a solution I am, actually. ‘Solution’ is about pleading your case romantically to someone who does not reciprocate. Tale as old as time.
11. You describe Heaven O Clock Part 2 as meditation on loss and nostalgia. Could you elaborate more on this concept?
As I said before, I had to deal with the death of my father and a friend. That was hard. It’s part of getting older, I guess. It makes you reflect on your life and what you’ve been through. Writing helped me cope with my feelings and let go of the people I lost. Black Hammer was one of those songs that just came out of me over a riff that I was playing with. It’s about the rough times and the good times, and the fact that I’m still here. I’m one of the lucky ones who didn’t end up in a ditch or overdose on drugs. Sometimes you just survive. No rhyme or reason. I am grateful, but I don’t dwell on it too much. I don’t want to jinx it. I love being alive and enjoying life.
12. “The World’s a toothache” is your most recent release. What is the world doing to cause your mouth pain?
That phrase came to me during COVID, when the world was full of bad news that I couldn’t avoid. It felt like a toothache, a constant pain in my head that I couldn’t get rid of. The lyrics of that song are scattered and disjointed. Each verse could be the beginning of a different song. The song is paranoid and sad with a tinge of gratitude
13. What can humans do to numb the toothache? Does the world need a root canal or to have its wisdom teeth out?
Humans can go to the dentist and address their issues, even though it’s almost definitely the last thing a human wants to do.
14. What is next for Tim Lannen?
I suppose once I’ve wrapped up promoting and releasing Collarbone I’ll just start working on the next one. I’m really looking forward to that. I have a lot of ideas.
15. Do you have any upcoming shows?
I have a show coming up at the Bowery Electric in the Map Room. It is Wednesday, May 17th. In New York City.
16. Where can readers listen to your music?
You can listen on Bandcamp or Spotify or Apple or just wherever and you should definitely order it on cassette and/or vinyl from Totally Real Records at the end of June.
One thought on “At the Coffee Shop with Tim Lannen”
Great interview with Tim Lannen! It’s always interesting to learn about the creative process and inspiration behind an artist’s work.
founder of balance thy life