Nashville alt-pop trio COIN finds purpose in peaks and “Valleys”

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Nashville indie pop trio COIN is not used to this. After nearly a decade on the music business ride of chutes and ladders, the band is playing a different game. More headlining, less opening. Taking calls, not just knocking on doors. Climbing to number one instead of slipping down the charts. It’s a big moment which, in some ways, actually mirrors the crossroads when the trio almost called it quits.

Last fall COIN played a sold-out concert at the Ryman, its biggest headlining show at the most legendary venue in the city. The next day the band shared a video. Shot from the stage, it starts with rehearsal of the song “Let It All Out” and fast-forwards to a speaker-blowing scene of nearly three thousand voices following the command of the chorus.

Looking at the video a few months later, it still resonates. Lead singer Chase Lawrence believes fans have developed an even deeper connection to the songs during the pandemic

“It feels like people have so much life they’ve lived that they’ve put into the music,” Lawrence explains. “It’s like all of that life is coming into that venue with us.”

Guitarist Joe Memmel says he hasn’t wrapped yet his head around all of the recent success, but is “holding on for dear life and loving every second of it,” while drummer Ryan Winnen says he’s “never been more afraid of dying.”

“Because this is the happiest I’ve felt in these shoes,” Winnen fleshed out the thought. “And the most grateful and present. But there’s still an element of it that I don’t understand.”

The Ryman was one of many recent landmark “firsts,” including their first Billboard number one and their first late night TV appearance, leading up to the band’s fourth album, Uncanny Valley.

Winnen says the band “idealized the schedule” they have this year: “This whole thing just feels like what we what we dreamt was possible for zero zero zero zero zero point one percent of people who tried to pick up a guitar and write a song.” 

While the odds have been against COIN at times, the band got off to a strong start in the 2010s. The guys landed a major booking agent after just their second show, and a major label record deal soon after. Then came two albums, tons of touring and a certain level of success, but the big breakthrough was elusive and that record deal went away.

Flyer for COIN’s first show in Nashville

Singer Chase Lawrence says there’s been “an encyclopedia of moments” when the band almost quit, but there was one fateful string of events that nearly sank them. 

After hitting a high point with the certified-gold single “Talk Too Much” in 2017, the band had a really bad week. Wildfires shut down a festival appearance in California. COIN’s equipment got busted during a TV show taping. Guitarist Joe Memmel broke his foot. All the Los Angeles co-writing appointments for the group’s next album got canceled. And then, original bass player Zachary Dyke announced he was quitting.

“That was a moment where I said to myself, like, ‘I get it. Maybe this is time to just hang it up,’” Lawrence remembers. “I was pretty sure that was it. And (then) we had a show Music Midtown. 

Winnen and Memmel say, “That show saved our lives.”

COIN at Music Midtown in 2017, courtesy of the artist

Lawrence says the show came just two days after the California catastrophe, and when he and his band mates stepped on stage, an estimated fifteen thousand people were there to sing along.

Longtime booking agent Jeffrey Hasson remembers looking out at the largest crowd the band had ever drawn at a festival and thinking, “Oh s**t, we’re doing this!”

While the Music Midtown fest was an initial turning point, they band still had some hurdles to clear before the rest of the business would catch up. COIN self-released the album Dreamland and later did a series of EP’s called Rainbow Mixtape through an indie deal, but they had to wait out lockdown before proving they could be headliners in rooms the size of the Ryman.

Hasson says that the combination of that slow build and the hit single has had a big impact on booking.

“As opposed to me constantly having to pitch them, there has been a lot of incoming calls, especially on some of the A level festival stuff [like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza],” Hasson says. “The numbers finally spoke for themselves.”

Despite the change in circumstances, Lawrence says it’s still “weird to not have to think it’s all going to go away.”

“That’s been my experience for the entirety of our band,” Lawrence confesses. “It’s like this move could undo the whole thing. I’m not used to this kind of comfort, like, we can take risks, we can do strange things.”

Those risks include turning to Artificial Intelligence as a theme and actual tool on Uncanny Valley. After a flash of inspiration from the documentary “AlphaGo,” the band used AI inspiration for everything from randomly collaging guitar parts to generating lyric ideas. And for their first ever late-night TV appearance, a marimba-playing, AI robot joined the show.

As the band mates take a moment to look back on the last, transformative six months, and the tumultuous six years that preceded it, they see a “glue” that helped them stick together in tough times and inspired them to move forward. It was a feeling they first had at Music Midtown, that grew even stronger at the Ryman: that their fans aren’t just there to watch COIN but are with them.

Lawrence says that’s the only way he’s been able to keep going, “realizing that it’s not my band anymore.”

“I’m OK with that,” he adds. “Actually, it gives me purpose.”