WNXP’s Nashville Artist of the Month COIN is on a blazing hot trail heading into Uncanny Valley. Leading up to the band’s fourth full length album, there’s a hit single, sold out shows and exponentially increasing numbers on all fronts. But the path to this point was uneven and uncertain even from the very beginning.
As they prepare for a 2022 schedule that reads like a “wishlist” from their early days, the members of this indie pop crew look back on a few key moments from their nearly decade-long career, starting, like so many Nashville stories, with a song.
Three Roads to Nashville
COIN frontman Chase Lawrence first came to Nashville as a West Virginia teenager at the request of a friend. That was back when Belmont University students were allowed to record projects in the legendary RCA Studio B, and Lawrence brought an original song to the session.
“It’s called ‘Hello,’ which is so symbolic, right?” Lawrence laughs. “I’m just realizing that right now. I haven’t thought about it in years.”
“I wanna hear that!” guitarist Joe Memmel chimes in.
And the recording?
“Yeah. Probably somewhere on my Yahoo Music account or something,” he says.
Drummer Ryan Winnen insists, “You’ve got it. You have everything.”
Lawrence admits, “Yeah, I do keep pretty good archives.”
He says that that one day in Nashville “opened” him up to a possible future that “proved to be true.” He says in retrospect, he learned less about making records and more about what going to Belmont with “like-minded” people could be like. The school is known for its music business program and later, on his first day as a student, he met future bandmate Joseph Memmel and his “life changed.”
Memmel says he also first came to Nashville as a teenager to record his high school band at a studio in Franklin. But he wasn’t immediately enamored. Memmel is from the Northeast and was planning to go to Berklee before his mom “randomly” told him about this “weird” intuition she had that he should move to Nashville.
“I don’t like the South.”
But he listened to her, and while it “took a minute” for him to warm up to Nashville, he says, now “it’s home, it’s awesome.”
Winnen says his own arrival in Nashville in 2011 as an aspiring musician from Cleveland wasn’t part of any plan or family vision. But a random meeting at hist first job would have a big impact on his eventual career with COIN.
While working at a clothing store in the Gulch, Winnen noticed a guy wearing a Young the Giant shirt and asked him about it. That person turned out to be Young the Giant’s booking agent Jeffrey Hasson, and when he asked Winnen if he was in a band, Winnen said, “No, but I will be the next time we meet.”
Winnen says he held on to the card until “we were worth any tickets,” which came pretty quickly after a self-released EP built a fast following at Belmont. Before that, the band made their inauspicious debut at 12th & Porter for “Indie Pop Dance Party.”
Lawrence says his archives “go deep” and he just found the flier for that show the other day. He says of the eight bands on the bill, they’re the only ones still going. He remembers there was a thankfully, short-lived concept that concluded their four-song set. The band’s friends threw quarters up in the air.
“Honestly, I’m glad it’s a tradition that didn’t stick,” Lawrence laughs. “Because it sounds dangerous and also like just too on the nose.”
An Independent Venue Provides Indie Inspiration
Before they were even a band, a show just outside of the now-shuttered venue 12th & Porter played an inspirational role for COIN. It’s also where our paths kinda crossed. I was running an event as part of Next BIG Nashville called Soundland, and we put on a show in the parking lot headlined by two artists the band say were big influences in shaping their own sound: Foster the People and Cults. It feels odd inserting myself into COIN’s origin story, but drummer Ryan Winnen insists.
“Well that was an event that planted seeds in our mind that this was possible,” Winnen says. “Of course, there’s origins from our childhood that got us here, but that was something that helped us along the way.
Joe Memmel agrees.
“That show was a huge turning point for me as well, because while I was watching it, I was like, ‘Oh, Nashville isn’t just country music.’ There’s really something shifting here. And there are indie rock bands and pop bands coming here. I remember that inspiring me like, ‘You know, I can be an indie rock band in Nashville, and it might work.’ And it did!”
“I wasn’t there for that show, but it got brought up a lot over the course of our band,” Lawrence adds.
“They talked about what it’s like to play outside and kind of that Nashville culture and transcending the arms-crossed energy. And just being like, ‘How can we bring people into the conversation and make this like symbiotic transaction happen?’”
‘Creeper’ Dreams and Rainbow Math
While the band technically began in 2012, Chase Lawrence says he feels the real starting point was 2015. That was the year their self-titled debut came out on Startime/Columbia. COIN followed that with their second major label album and a Gold-certified single “Talk Too Much.” Even after that deal fell apart, the band were still touring and recording and were prepared to release their third record Dreamland independently when the pandemic pulled the plug on everything. The uncertainty of lockdown was deflating but getting off the road afforded them time to create their most ambitious project, a collection of stylistic and sonic explorations based on color palates called Rainbow Mixtape.
Over the next two years, the two albums began attracting new fans who packed major venues like the Ryman last fall. COIN say they still don’t understand how that happened.
Chase Lawrence says the Rainbow Mixtape process was a bit of “musical dress up” and “getting out a lot of things that were pent up deep inside of us — inspiration and aspirations that we really wanted to showcase in our music and we never got the stage or the time or the place to do it.”
He says that was “really healthy” for the band and helped them move forward to make Uncanny Valley. He says Rainbow also “struck a chord with a lot of people who invested a lot of time in us” and might have wondered about their move toward pop. He says that project “showed the math for the equation.” Winnen says they almost started another band during the pandemic just to make Rainbow Mixtape, but all the songs ended up still feeling like COIN.
For Dreamland, Lawrence calls the record a “creeper” and thinks it just needed time to connect with people. Once the band were able to take the stage in 2021, they were amazed to see “the amount of tattoos and artwork and homemade merch that the album has created.”
Memmel says the pandemic period also offered the band a chance to slow down and become more confident in their craft, in understanding what they were doing and where they wanted to go. He feels that shift has been felt by fans who now share that confidence in following the band through “dreams” and “rainbows” and the Valley ahead.