Philadelphia’s Rachel Dispenza and Lauren DeLucca, the dry wry local punk duo Coping Skills, are a non-binary force (Dispenza is genderfluid; DeLucca is agender; both use they/them pronouns) in their daily lives. When it comes to their work — albums such as “Relatable Web Content,” and “Worst New Music,” — it is a wearily humorous, monotone vocal world filled with death, taxes, college loans, weather, religion, us
er errors and dozing drivers. The duo will debut their “Worst New Music” March 23 at JJ’s Diner for the Music Matters Project benefit show.
Dispenza and DeLuca responded to PGN’s questions as one, via email.
PGN: The new album eschews some of your usual ideals, such as self-production at home, for bigger sounds and outside production. What does that signal for the future of Coping Skills, or at least the present?
RD and LD: We could have just made ‘Worst New Music’ ourselves, but we wanted to see what else it could become if we recorded with [producers] Evan [Bernard] and Chris [Baglivio]. Collaborating with other people opens you up to new skills and tools you may have never discovered on your own. We like that we can just do it ourselves if we want to. But it’s also fun to bring other people into the room, and the end result can really benefit from new perspectives.
PGN: I love that you call yourselves moderately gay post-ironic bummer pop. How did you come to that — the post–ironic and not so much the moderately gay — notion in the first place?
RD and LD: Like we do with our music, we just took a bunch of stuff and put it together and said, Well, I guess that’s it. Real genres are exhausting. Everyone has a different opinion of what they are. So we made one up to describe us as a whole, not just the music we play. As far as post-irony goes, we like stuff because we like it. Doing something or liking something just as a joke seems kind of silly and a waste of time/energy. All of our jokes are 100 percent sincere.
PGN: Are the two of you together as a couple or have you been in the past and how has that contributed to your music?
RD and LD: We dated briefly after starting the band, but aren’t dating any longer. We were friends before we dated and will remain friends and collaborators long after. It can at times make all of the other work that goes into being in a band more challenging, but the thing it complicates least is the music. We’re really open about playing songs we wrote about each other.
PGN: You both lived and went through school together and worked at Boot & Saddle together. Did you hang around each other before each of you started playing and singing? And were the choice in instruments, sonic-song and lyric direction a joint decision?
RD and LD: We essentially met while going to school together because we moved into the same house through a mutual friend, but we didn’t really know each other before that. We became friends while living in that house, started working at The Trocadero together, graduated UArts, started playing music, then started working at Boot & Saddle. Rachel was starting to learn how to play guitar a little in college. Lauren wanted to play drums, but getting a bass was way cheaper and more convenient. We only really started playing music because we wanted to write songs and start a band. As far as lyrics go, they’re all very much, ‘these are the things we’re thinking and feeling and want to say right now here ya go.’
PGN: I get that most of your songs are motivated by true-life incidents …. i.e., you have no money because school cost too much so you write about that. Where does ‘Fuck Me Up, Ben Gibbard’ fit in?
RD and LD: Many of our song titles have little to do with our songs themselves. Half the time, our titles are jokes inspired by the lyrical content or some other unrelated situation. We keep a running list of potential song titles specifically for this reason. The song ‘Fuck Me Up, Ben Gibbard’ has nothing to do with Ben Gibbard (sorry to disappoint). But sometimes, it’s the middle of December, and you’re in the AC Moore parking lot after buying T-shirts to spray paint to make merch, and you get back in the car, and the intro to the song “Transatlanticism” starts playing, and you throw your hands up in the air and exclaim, ‘Fuck me up, Ben Gibbard.’ You know?
Coping Skills will perform during The Music Matters Project benefit 8 p.m. March 23 at JJ’s Diner, 1065 E. Erie Ave. Visit http://bit.ly/2FLkVV9 to purchase tickets.