Photo: Alyssa Frost
“This is truly unfathomable. We’re just a band who started in a dorm room, and now we’re playing in Houston, Texas.” It’s a rainy Monday night at White Oak Music Hall, which sits just outside of the city. Their upstairs venue is filled to the brim with late teenagers, eager to let the band know that this is the night they have been waiting for. And wait, they did. When I pulled up to the venue early to meet the band, many of the attendees were already camped out in line, chatting about the night ahead of them. I wondered how a recent up-and-coming band could already garner such an extensive fan base. …And then I witnessed COIN’s show.
COIN, an indie pop band comprised of lead vocalist and synth master Chase Lawerence, drummer Ryan Winnen, guitarist and vocalist Joe Memmel, and bassist Zach Dyke, came together at Belmont University in 2012. After releasing a few EPs and the lead single off of their first album, “Run,” the guys were signed to Columbia. A year later, COIN released their biggest single to date “Talk Too Much,” and followed it up with their sophomore album, How Will You Know If You Never Try, that dropped in late April. For the past year, they’ve been on the road invading the festival scene and every major city with their infectious, high-energy gigs. Lucky for you LA folks, the band is playing two sold out shows at the Troubadour with opener ARIZONA June 15 and June 16.
Prior to the show, and their slot at Bonnaroo, I sat down with the guys on the first night of the second leg of the tour to discuss their new album, falling onstage at Hangout Festival, and the true pronunciation of R&B singer Mario’s name.
OTW: How did you guys initially form?
Joe: Chase and I met in a music theory class at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and somebody who sat beside us was friends with Ryan so that’s how we got introduced to him. And Zach…
Chase: Pretty much just the college but Joe’s and I was destiny because we met on the first day.
OTW: Living and forming in Nashville, a town that’s known for its honky tonk music, what made you guys want to make pop music?
Ryan: But we’re certainly aware of what’s going on in the history of Nashville, and we totally love and respect that for all that it is. I think when we came together it was just a culmination of all things that we’d been listening to up until this date, and then this side or type of music that felt natural to us. It didn’t really feel like it was intentional, like pop music or anything.
Chase: It’s naturally what came out. If country music is naturally what would have come out with the four of us, then that’s what we would have made. It’s just the style of music we make just ended up being the style of music we made. I wish I had a better answer for that.
OTW: No, that makes sense. Your second album, How Will You Know If You Never Try, recently dropped. Who wrote the album?
Chase: We all did. Collectively.
OTW: What was the inspiration behind the title of the album?
Chase: This album is full of firsts for us, and it was definitely a departure of something we were comfortable doing. We kind of went out of our comfort zone, with cowriting with other people or trying different genres or different themes or expressing our emotions which we hadn’t really done in the past. We saw the entire album through this lens of, “How will you know the greatness or the possibilities if you never pursue these different routes that we had never ever done before?” It wasn’t initially the title, but we just kept saying that kind of mantra. Maybe it wasn’t the exact phrase but if we would have pursued certain ideas, maybe we would have shut down quicker in the past.
OTW: The lead single “Talk Too Much” has been getting a lot of love. It’s charted on Billboard, Nashville stations have been playing it. What has been your reaction to that?
Ryan: It gave us a large boost to a new audience that we’ve never seen before, so we were able to play in front of people in essentially every major city that we didn’t know existed prior to that. “Talk Too Much” gave us a good foundation to stand on before the album came out, because it was released well in advance to the entire full length, so I think more than anything it gave us a platform, and then it’s our job to collaborate on that.
Joe: We’re just grateful for the people who took it to where it needed to get to. Behinds the scenes stuff, those people who play it, radio people. It’s just one thing stacks on top of the other, and we’re just grateful for those people.
OTW: I’ve been listening to the album and in “Don’t Wanna Dance” and especially “Boyfriend,” I feel like you touch on our generation’s idea of relationships. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind those tracks?
Chase: It’s funny because those are both the “don’t wanna” songs. Both of the songs say that, and it was totally unintentional. Now I realize looking back on the album, there’s so many things that we don’t want to do, and even though the whole album is about missed opportunity and regret, it’s capitalizing on those missed opportunities and pursuing bigger outcomes.
I guess it’s the relationships. I don’t know if I have a specific lens on that. Most of us were going through interesting emotional times for the past year and a half writing this album. Three out of four of us ended relationships and the 4th, I, was like questioning everything, and trying to figure out what we were doing. I think they just came out really naturally.
Ryan: I just think it’s cool that through the lyrics you were able to form your opinion on that. Even just asking the question lets us know that someone is listening in that specific way, so I think it’s just cool. I think the whole album has kind of surprised us because things that are said are being kind of honed in on people that feel that that specific thing has happened to them. I think that’s what you hope will happen, and we’ve noticed a lot of fans coming to us and saying that this actually meant this to me at this time, although maybe that wasn’t what one of the guys wrote the song about.
Chase: Lyrically, we’re very specific with this album where we haven’t been so much in the past. We were very, very experiential about the past year and a half of our lives. It kind of documents that.
Joe: Chase and I went to LA and we had a lot of people there who were pop writers who challenged us to write very straight forward stuff we were feeling.
OTW: Let’s talk about your tour. You’re kicking off the second leg tonight. What’s the most embarrassing or funny moment that’s happened on tour so far?
Chase: I fell on stage at Hangout. That’s not really important but just embarrassing.
Joe: I heard him say, “Ouch,” while the music was playing onstage. I was like, “Oh no!”
OTW: At least it happened on stage. You didn’t fall off the stage, right?
Chase: Oh no! It was on stage in front of a lot of people, and I like played it off like that was fine, that’s what we meant to do.
Joe: The only thing I can think of right now is when we were just playing in Florida recently, and that guy was spraying everybody with a water hose while we were playing. It was really weird.
Chase: It was so hot that he thought that was what they wanted, and I don’t think anyone wanted it.
Joe: It was very weird. [Laughs].
OTW: Yeah, I personally don’t think I would want to be sprayed at a show. Do you guys have any backstage rituals before you go on?
Chase: We pray before we go on. We sing the Mario song. Is it Mario (Maa-rio) or Mario (Mar-ee-o)?
OTW: I think it’s Mario (Mar-ee-o).
Chase: Yeah, I think so too. Anyways, we sing Mario’s song, “Let Me Love You,” collectively, and then we do high fives.
Ryan: Sometimes push-ups but that’s not always the ritual.
Chase: High fives are very important. It couldn’t be a show without the high fives.
OTW: You’ve been on a lot of this tour with A R I Z O N A. As two major up-and-coming bands, what has been the best thing about touring with them, and is there any advice or anything that you’ve learned from each other?
Chase: They’re wonderful people. Really great and just awesome to have, and they’re so easy to work with. They’re just fun to have around, but we’re probably learning stuff from them that I probably won’t realize until a year from now, and it’s probably the same for them. I think it’s the experience we’ve had with a lot of touring–you don’t realize what you’re taking in and what you’re gathering from who else you’re touring with until a year later, and you realize when you’re in that situation that you’ve picked up the skill set from them or something. We’re both kind of new at this so we’re just learning from each other as we go.
Photo: Alyssa Frost
OTW: If you guys could tour with anyone, who would it be?
Ryan: Phoenix. Phoenix would be cool. They’re back on the scene.
Chase: We saw them at Hangout, and it was really great.
OTW: You are playing Bonnaroo. Even though Tennessee isn’t your official home state, it still seems like a special place for you guys. What does it mean for you to play that festival? (Question asked prior to performance)
Chase: It’s cool. I don’t know how else to describe it because it’s like one of those things. It’s like a rite of passage for a lot of bands, but specifically if you live in Nashville, a lot of people go there, and when we started the band I think specifically.. Oh my gosh, I’m just recalling this. We had that meeting with that guy at Bongo Java. Do you remember?
Joe: Oh wow. Was that Seth?
Chase: Seth, yeah. We talked about, “What’s the next goal for you guys?” and we were like, “If we play Bonnaroo, we know we’re going in the right direction.” I remember saying that and here we are.
Photo: COIN Facebook Page
OTW: That’s awesome! Last question - who are 3 artists on your Ones To Watch list?
OTW: Are there any specific reasons for that?
Chase: We know Arlie. Joan is playing with us tonight, and they’re wonderful guys and we love their music. Same with Arlie. Sure Sure is just this really awesome band that we are super inspired by. They’re from LA and just really cool.