5 Questions: New Town Drunks

When you hear the name New Town Drunks, the moniker of the married Chapel Hill duo of Diane Koistinen and Roberto Cofresi, you might get the wrong idea about the band. Well, at least partially. Sure, the band's old-time and country inspired early records seemed ready made for a late-night kegger in a Southern back yard. And yes, the two do occasionally like to indulge in their titular vice. But that's not the whole story. Over the years, the two have settled down and now have a nearly three year old baby. The changes in their life are evident on the band's new debut full length, The Ballad of Stayed and Gone. With a sound that's like a back porch strumming session while recovering from last night, it's a thoughtful refection on life in transition. In anticipation of that record's Saturday release party at Local 506, Diversions Editor Jordan Lawrence sat down with the duo for a short chat about getting drunk in a new town, the appeal of a two-person band and the conotations of the term "drinking band."

Diversions: I've always wondered about the name. I know Jack Whitebread of Neil Diamond Allstars came up with it. Why?

Diane Koistinen: We had just moved here to Chapel Hill. We were going out a lot. When you move to a new town, at first you feel like you're on vacation. You're like, "Whoooo!" But then you realize, "Hey, I live here" and "I'm going to see you again probably." This is a small town. I mean, we moved here from New York. We realized really quickly that you see the same people everyday. But we were definitely getting our "new town drunks" on. We were going out a lot. We walked in the door, and he said, "Here comes new town drunks," and I thought, "Man, that's a great name for a band."

Dive: Coming into the community and having been in bands before, what did you think of it as opposed to where you've been before?

Roberto Cofresi: We loved it man, especially because we came from New York. I worked with a band in New York, and getting any kind of rehearsal anytime it was a nightmare. I really felt like you had to have your secretary calling somebody's secretary to arrange for a five-minute rehearsal at 7:58. Then you have to get on the subway, you have to drive. Everybody's looking to: What's the payback here? What's the goal? How many records are we going to put out? How much are we getting paid? I hate to say rat race, but it's pretty rat-racey. Here we could just relax and play.

DK: In New York or a lot of other places, it's harder to do a drop in and just go, "Hey!" You know, stop at someone's house. Here you can do that. People were all musicians. They all wanted to just sit and jam together.

RC: Yeah, we did a lot of porches, a lot of living rooms, just hanging out and trading songs. A lot of the songs were written in that kind of situation for the first record.

DK: It made it real easy to meet other musicians because everyone seemed so open.

RC: A friend Autumn let us borrow a truck for the first year we were here. We didn't have a car. We came from New York. And we didn't really need a car. We lived right on Merritt Mill. We could pretty much walk everywhere. But she had a truck that was just a little bit on the outs. And she was just like, "If you want to put it up to date, get the registration and all that, you can borrow it." And we borrowed it. That kind of welcome, in New York? Somebody lending you a car? That's unheard of.

Dive: I was reading the Independent Weekly's review of the new record. It said that you've "sobered up." Have you sobered up? What's different about this record?

DK: There's a lot different about it. We definitely have sobered up if you want to put it that way, just kind of getting comfortable where you're at. Like we were talking about, all the excitement of being in a new place, a lot of drinking and partying and all that stuff. Which is great, and we still try to do that when we can. But we did have a child. We have an almost three-year-old baby now. So that's going to sober you up real quick.

RC: Because of that we weren't going out all the time. Our whole social circle kind of narrowed. A lot of the writing happened when we really couldn't go out at all, when the baby was just a newborn. A lot of the songs are a lot more introspective. You think about the party lifestyle and how that translates and the changes that happen. It's a little more of a thoughtful analysis of what it means to change.

Dive: Over the last stretch of years the duo has become a very prevalent lineup in music. As a duo, what do you think is so appealing about that configuration?

DK: Relationships are hard, and the more people you add, the more difficult it gets. We have a longstanding relationship, so we can get along really easily. We live together. Day to day, we go through all these different things together. With two people it's a little bit easier to keep it together and work through things.

RC: I remember meeting the guys from Giant Sand in New York and going out to their tour vehicle. It was like a Pinto. They had all their stuff in there, just the two of them. I was like, "Man, there's something to this." Rather than having to tour in a stinky van with five people. It's just so much more comfortable.

DK: You don't have to worry about going in a cup or in a bottle. It's just two of you, so you can just go, "I've got to pee." And then they're like, "O.K. I don't mind stopping."

RC: With a large number of people, and considering that we had a limited amount of time, it was just easier to say, "This is where the gig is going to be, whoever wants to show up, show up."

DK: Everyone here plays music, but everyone plays in a lot of bands. I don't play in any other bands. Neither does Roberto. But everyone else who plays in our band plays in other bands. There's scheduling conflicts that happen, and that's just something that's going to be. Sometimes somebody can make it, and you have to fill in with another drummer or bass player.

RC: I mean Nickleback did ask me, but I said, "No way." (Laughs)

Dive: Most times I read about your band some variation of the term "drinking band" comes up. Does it ever offend you to have your music simplified to that label?

RC: I do take a little bit of a concern. I don't get offended by anything anybody writes about us. Press is press, bad or good. But I think a lot of people when they think of drinking bands, at least the first image that comes to my mind is like a frat party.

DK: I think it sounds like you're going to have a good time, so I don't take offense to it at all. I don't think of it as sloppy or all these other things that come along with drunk.

RC: Right, but in my mind we're a broader definition of a drinking band: not just the fun aspects of drinking, but the whole life experience of what happens when you drink. You get hungover. You have problems. You smell bad sometimes. It's that kind of deeper understanding of a state of mind rather than just the party. That's the way I look at it.

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