You might say that Amber Coffman is the strongest female voice in the indie collective Dirty Projectors, masterminded by David Longstreth. She's been singing with the band since 2006, when she moved out to Brooklyn, a place she'd barely visited before, from San Diego. It was a fortuitous decision to relocate.
Dirty Projectors' newest album Swing Lo Magellan, released in July 2012, has been praised, discussed, and analyzed extensively all up, down, and around the web. So instead of badgering Coffman with questions about the band or the album, we thought we'd talk to the 20-something songstress about herself and her predilections. She shared about her youthful love of Mariah Carey's music and high school identity politics.
New Times: When you were with Sleeping People, did you imagine then that you'd be where you are today?
Amber Coffman: I've been singing my whole life. And I guess I always had
big dreams. You can't ever expect what's going to happen. It's, I
guess, it's surprising and delightful. But it also feels really right.
You collaborated with Major Lazer (on "Get Free") and Rusko (on
"Hold On"). Both are really beautiful songs; they kind of remind me of
like '90s dance music, a little R&B, a little housey, especially the
Rusko song. How was it to work with them?
I grew up singing a lot of R&B music. That's how I got into
singing until I was a teenager, and then I got into rock music. I have,
like, dozens of R&B albums memorized from the '90s. So it's very
different to step into that world, but there's also a part of me that
has that in my heart. It's really fun to be able to do that and then
come back and do our thing in Dirty Projectors.
What was one of the R&B albums or artists that you enjoyed listening to when you were younger?
My first-ever CD was Mariah Carey's debut album. I had all of her
albums up until just before that song "Honey" came out. And then by that
time, I started getting into rock music. Also SWV's It's About Time.
That album was huge for me. TLC's Crazy Sexy Cool. Janet Jackson, her
self-titled album, was a big one. Whitney Houston, for sure.
You didn't like "Honey"?
I like that song. That was just sort of that time when I started
just getting a little older, and you're in school, and there are all of
these identity politics. Like, what sort of music are you into? And what
does that say about who you are? I sort of started identifying more
with rocker kids. [laughs]
So, there's been a ton of press surrounding the new album, Swing Lo
Magellan. Is there anything left to be said about it that hasn't been
Well, I think it's the best thing Dave has done. I think it's really
special and, I don't know, it's really thrilling to be out there
playing this music. We've never been so excited about the band; the
lineup we have right now, it's really great.
Part two of the interview, where Coffman discusses Hi Custodian, John Waters, and karaoke