You may not be able to find New York state-based indie rockers Coupons easily by Google search, but this obstinate quality is part of their allure as a band deeply nested in the furrows of DIY culture. Coupons are just celebrating the release of their most recent album, Up & Up, out September 4, 2020 on Counter Intuitive Records. The record is a playful, earnest, and powerfully hooky piece of work that will scratch the itch growing in that crevasse of your brain that recalls the comfortable of hitting a tall boy of something cheap and sharp while watching your friends bang out some tunes in the corner of another friends basement. Up & Up is the band’s second LP, and a somewhat protracted follow up to 2016’s Number One Hit Album. One reason for the gap between releases was that one of their singers, Collin Reynolds (Dan LaFave and Dan Maddalone also trade vocals duties in the band), moved to Tennessee following the release of their first record to attend med school. But all of Coupon’s other members had projects that took precedence for a short time as well. Keyboardist Shannon Straney and guitarist Dan LaFave devoted their efforts to their other band Geoff Gordon, while their bassist Dan Maddalone busied himself booking bands and helping out in the local scene, and so on and so on…
With the band spread out and in pursuit of their individual ambitions, the new record more or less happened by accident when they all happened to all be hanging out in February of 2019. Someone suggested that they record a couple of songs and things just started happening in quick succession from there. Like a ghostwriter penning a memoir, the album came together without much effort, almost like it was to writing itself. Spooky, maybe. Exciting, for sure! The first songs off Up & Up to make it on the books were the summery slink of “90’s Kids” and the love-drunk, retro rave-up “Moz Disco.” Such honest sounding tunes could only ever be the product of Coupon’s members’ natural attunement with each other. This shared wavelength allowed a simple suggestion of an impromptu recording session to stack up mightily into a full-fledged LP.
Suppose you were to catch up with the band and talk to them about the new record for any length of time. Interpersonal dynamics aside, something you’d invariably hit on in the course of the conversation was the setting from which their music emerged, a place with a deep appreciation and abiding support of DIY music. Albany, NY.
If there is one thing you’ll pick up on after even the briefest of interactions with Dan Maddalone, bassist of Coupons, it’s that he loves living in, and playing around, Albany. “It’s a cheap place to live, there are a lot of creative people, close to New York, close to Boston… I think it’s just a great place to live.” Dan has been a member of the Albany scene since he moved to the city in college, and despite touting its proximity to larger metropolitan areas, he seems more enamored with the lifestyle that a city of its size can afford someone with a high degree of interest in art and comparatively meager means. “You realize, like wow… One could buy a house here!” he explained.
The real selling point of Albany though, is not the price of real estate, but the local music scene and the specific benefits it offers indie rockers like Dan. “The music scene here is fantastic! People have a hunger for live music. There are lots of great places to do it. It’s a pretty good hub for putting on shows too.” Albany is apparently a magnet for talent working its way up the Eastern Seaboard. As Dan recalls, “When I’m trying to book stuff, I’ll just be hitting people up and saying, ‘Hey, you have a dead date on tour, did you want to come through here?'” Fortunately for Dan and his housemates, the answer is usually “yes.”
Not unsurprisingly, the onset of an incredibly infectious and deadly virus has washed out most, if all, of the plans Dan and others in the Albany scene had for keeping the party going this past spring and summer. “I was supposed to have Great Grandpa come and play at the house… They’re just such an incredible band, and they had a day where they were traveling from Boston, to I think, Toronto, and they were literally going to drive through Albany, and they were like ‘Yup, cool we’ll play your house…’ and the booking agent was like, ‘You can get them a place to stay and some money? Cool, let’s do it.'”
Under normal circumstances, most of the hot shows happening in town on any given night would be transpiring at either Dan’s place or the house of someone he knows. But as you may surmise, most of this aspect of Albany’s music scene has been put on ice due to the insane circumstances arising during a global pandemic. However, the situation is not as dire in for DIY as one might assume. “People are currently resting. They’re eager to get out and play shows… but especially the younger ones, they’re hunkering down and recording music… they’re staying busy and looking towards the future… they’re taking it seriously, no one’s loving it, but they’re adapting.”
Dan includes himself and Coupons in this category of artists who are attempting to make the most of a bad situation. “We’re demoing a new record right now,” he said. Adding, “everyone is doing an awesome job, whether it being writing or playing, I think we’re just feeling kind of blessed in this moment.” As he put it, “The most important thing is that everyone just stays safe, and kinda deals with it, this is what life is, shit happens… and it’s better to deal with it with some sense of thankfulness for what you got.” As he admitted, though, “I would have loved to have played a big fucking show this weekend, for the week that the album [Up & Up] came out.” But the well-being of his bandmates comes first, and they’re no less proud of the album then they would be under any other circumstances. “We’re not going to let it [the situation] hinder the fact that this [their record, Up & Up] is an accomplishment and we should feel good about it,” he affirmed.
Even when there are not touring bands to welcome and pal around with, Albany itself is a fertile garden of sonorous delights and a melomanic’s dream. Of course, the city has its breakout hardcore bands like Drug Church, as well as chart-scalers like the clean-cut punks of State Champs, but Dan’s attention is drawn more to the rising cream of the underground crop, rather than the known quantities who happen to still call the city home. “There are so many fucking bands, and the thing about it is that they’re good!” Dan related, “The amount of great band’s here is staggering!” When prompted, some of the band’s he proudly shouted out were, Prince Daddy and the Hyena, Dark Honey, The Age, Pink Nois, Lemon of Choice, Blue Ranger, Laveda, Bruiser and the Bicycle, and the delightfully anachronistic sounding, Lone Phone Booth. “Do I even know any bands?” he said in a moment of rhetorical self-interrogation while extolling the virtues of each group mentioned, “Of course I fucking do! [Laughs]”
If there is one thing that Dan can’t stand though, it’s people who can’t appreciate the lucky hand they’ve been dealt in life. “I hate when people paint the narrative that that ‘This place [Albany] should be the next big thing!'” Dan said, imitating some grubbing galoot as they strive for relevant commentary on the local art scene in a vignette excerpted from the by-gone, pre-COVID era. Dan rebuked this position, stating, “Nah, it is exactly as it should be… and if you spend some time here you will be like, ‘Wow, this is an incredible community, the people here are making great art.'” Finally declaring, “I’m proud to be a part of it.”