Chasing Indie Pop Perfection: A Conversation with COIN

COIN (Credit: Robby Klein)

Our Rating

Evoking the past decade’s indie/art-rock greats seems to come second-nature to COIN. The Nashville band made a splash with the single “Run” and their ridiculously catchy three-song EP earlier this year, and now they’ve exploded out of the gate with their debut full-length album, COIN, released today via StarTime International and Columbia Records.

COIN is everything one would have expected it to be, and a little bit more. Bright and catchy Walk The Moon-style pop songs are performed with the fervor of The Strokes in their prime: Overdriven guitars rattle and hum with hi-fi perfection, often sharing melodic responsibilities with shimmering synth lines. Frontman Chase Lawrence’s edgy, golden vocals are reminiscent of Phoenix’s Thomas Mars and Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn, adding to the sonic mix that extra sparkle that makes every song on the record truly pop.

Much of what I wrote about COIN’s EP earlier this year still holds true for the album. In the interest of not being too repetitive, see below for an excerpt from Atwood Magazine’s “COIN EP: Worth Every Cent!”

Listen: COIN (album) – COIN

COIN logo

The band’s mix of anthemic, hard rock beats and cleverly filtered vocals are proof that COIN are having lots of fun with their debut record – after all, they’ve got Jay Joyce (Cage the Elephant, Sleeper Agent) in their production room – but it’s lead vocalist Chase Lawrence’s effortlessly-executed octave-jumping vocals and expressive intonations that affirm this band’s level of passion and sincerity.

Synth-pop has been all the craze ever since Passion Pit mixed the male soprano with an equally wailing pad on 2009’s Manners, but COIN offer more than your run-of-the-mill knockoff. “Run” mixes a classic, pulsing rock guitar with an 80s-inspired keyboard riff, throws today’s beloved vocal “ohs” into a beefed-up chorus, and adds just enough Nashville grit and harmony to make something unique and special. Listen closely to the song and you’ll uncover layers of well-crafted production technique and inspired musicianship: This level of musicality does not happen overnight, and COIN deserve praise for their dedication to their craft.

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The newest voice in the indie pop/rock world sounds very much like a combination of all those who came before, which is a blessing and a curse for a young band like COIN. Mixing new wave with alternative rock, pop and post-punk influences, COIN’s sound is in line with today’s indie-gone-pop bands Walk The Moon, Bad Suns, Magic Man and The Mowgli’s. In a year’s time, COIN may stand among these artists as another genre-defining reference band, but considering how saturated the indie pop world has become, it’s unprecedentedly difficult for anyone new to stand out these days.

That said, COIN is not your run-of-the-mill indie pop band – in fact, they don’t even consider themselves to be “indie pop.” Despite the aforementioned similarities to other artists, there’s a good reason this band is signed to Columbia Records and so many others are not: COIN’s music is harder hitting, crisper, and catchier than that of their peers. They bring a palpable, infectiously vibrant energy to each of their songs that is sure to translate into a high-octane, engaging live show.

I understand that we have that ‘Top 40’ sound that Walk The Moon is making so popular… but at the same time we’re a rock band making guitar-driven music in a world that’s totally synth-driven.

Sure, COIN falter in not taking risks or trying to break out of the safe, pop-centric mold. This makes their album rather predictable, almost to the point of seeming bland at times. A little musical and structural diversity would go a long way for this group, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t delivered something special. Have we pushed the bar for new music so high that we cannot praise an artist’s promising debut when praise is most certainly due?

COIN has plenty of memorable moments. Key tracks include the bombastic album opener “Atlas,” the dynamic “Fingers Crossed,” lead single “Run,” “Better,” and “Holy Ghost.” It may be flawed by an innocent attempt at pop perfection, but COIN is nevertheless a very strong and cohesive debut. If their chic, clean-cut branding is evidence of anything, it’s that COIN are in control of their sound.

Always hungry for more, Atwood Magazine spoke with COIN’s Chase Lawrence to get the inside scoop on this young band on the “Run.” Read on for Chase’s perspective as an up-and-coming indie rocker, and be sure to catch COIN on tour this summer with Betty Who and Neon Trees!

Watch: “Run” – COIN

COIN (Credit: Robby Klein)

COIN (left to right): Joe Memmel, Ryan Winnen, Zachary Dyke, Chase Lawrence

A CONVERSATION WITH COIN

Atwood Magazine: Great to meet you, Chase! Where is this call finding you?

Chase Lawrence: I’m actually home in West Virginia! We just got off from California yesterday, and I decided to go home to the family.

It must be nice to take a break from everything.

Chase: Oh, yeah. Family means a lot to me, so I come home as much as I can.

You went to Belmont University, right? That’s where COIN started.

Chase: Yep! Belmont in Nashville is like Berklee in Boston. Joe (Memmel), the guitar player, and I sat next to each other in a music class on the first day of school. We started to get to know each other, and we played together a lot – like, a lot – before finding the COIN sound. At first, we were just copying bands that we looked up to, like The Drums or Passion Pit. Slowly but surely we hit our stride, and really honed in on our sound… It took a while! it was a tough experience, but looking back in retrospect, it wasn’t really ‘as difficult’ as it felt like it was at the time.

What drove you to music?

Chase: My father is actually a songwriter as well. He was the music leader at our church, so I always grew up with him playing piano while I was going to bed, or charting out different parts to a score. He never discouraged the idea of me being a songwriter and going into music, though I think he was a little discouraged when he first found out that’s what I wanted to do – like, “Really? Are you sure?” But there was never a time when he didn’t believe in me. My mom isn’t musical in the same way, but she has always been a cheerleader for me. So they’ve both been supportive of me, and it was just a big part of my life. I think it’s in my DNA, actually. It’s not necessarily the need to play music, but the need to create – and I can’t draw for my life, so for me, it’s music.

When you say you’re driven by a ’need to create’, which part of the music really drives you? Is it the songwriting, is it the performance, or is it some combination of the two?

Chase: I’m finding myself more and more in the performance. It’s been really tough: I had never played a live show before this band, so this is my first time really playing in front of people!… I love the production and the songwriting aspect of it, but i’m learning so much about the live show, and how to create excitement and an aesthetic experience, as well. So I’m definitely finding that I love the live show right now.

Do you feel like you were thrust into things?

Chase: Not at all, it’s such a slow-moving vehicle! Maybe to you, and to my friends and family, it seems like we’re going 100 miles per hour, but to me it doesn’t feel that way. Sometimes I actually get bored. It feels like we’re just creeping along to our final goal. I’m definitely aware of everything, like when I look back and think about where we were a year ago or three months ago, but in the moment I can’t really see it, or how it’s all relatable. I don’t feel the spotlight or the ‘success’ right now, but maybe in a year from now, I’ll look back on myself right now and say, “Oh wow! I was really in it – things were really happening!”

There’s definitely a lot to preoccupy yourself with right now. Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?

Chase: To some capacity, yes. I let the strangest things slide – I think you have to [do so] when you’re in a band with three other people, but… Yeah, to some capacity. Our drummer, Ryan (Winnen), and I are both perfectionists, so – how do I put this? We don’t butt heads, but… Let’s just say that we compensate each other in different ways.

Why the name ‘COIN,' and why the uppercase letters?

Chase: ‘COIN’ the name came from the eternal search for a one-word band name, and that is much harder than you’d think it would be in the twenty-first century. My friend’s in a band named after a horse, and it was my last resort – I remember sitting in my dorm room and googling horse names, and I found one named “Lucky Coin.” I looked up ‘luck’ – definitely taken. Then I looked up ‘coin,’ and there was a small band, but nothing of substantial success had been associated yet. So there wasn’t anything metaphorical at first, though I think something has come to bear. We’re not super sentimental people… Regarding the uppercase – branding is very important to us, with everything being cohesive and congruent around. We don’t like the lowercase ‘i’ so we prefer the uppercase aesthetic.

Your EP and album art are very clean. What can you tell me about those?
COIN EP - COIN

COIN EP – COIN

Chase: I’d heard these horror stories of artists being signed to labels, and having no say in what comes out. We’ve been so lucky – our team in Columbia has been so kind to us, to give us support and say, “Keep doing what you’re doing.” So we’ve been working with the amazingly talented Katie Moore for the artwork, and it’s been a great experience. I am thrilled with how we’ve been treated. Sometimes if we have something subpar, they’ll suggest we go back and try out some other ideas… It’s all very encouraging.

You’ve also been gifted with with quite the vocal range!

Chase: Thank you so much – sometimes you don’t know whether it’s Joe or me singing. We complement each other really well. Some people don’t understand where one stops and the other starts. I am the falsetto, yes, and the deeper tenor. Joe is singing the really falsetto high voice.

Do you consider COIN to be an ‘indie pop’ band?

Chase: Um, no… I shouldn’t say “no” so intensely, but I say ‘no’ pretty firmly, actually. We love those bands – we listen to them all the time – but I think that we love bands like The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, The Strokes – these are the bands that influenced us. I understand that we have that ‘Top 40’ sound that Walk The Moon is making so popular, and we realized when making this record that we had the capability of making something sounding generic – that wasn’t generic at the time, but now is. We sat down with our producer, and said, “We like records like these, and we want to make a good pop record,” but at the same time we’re a rock band making guitar-driven music in a world that’s totally synth-driven. It wasn’t always like that, because I’m the primary songwriter, but I kind of let go and let Joe and our producer, Jay Joyce – also a guitar player – take the reigns.

COIN certainly has distinguished themselves from the masses.

Chase: We’re trying to be – we definitely went in with the intent to be different.

What’s your fondest memory from the band's pre-signing phase?

Chase: That’s a cool question! There are so many things… The first time we sold out. We sold out this room in Nashville called “12th & Porter” – it’s actually shut down now, unfortunately – in May of 2014. I’ll hold that night so high in my head, it was probably six months before we were signed. That night kind of changed everything for us. We realized we had a shot of doing it full time. We had 200 to 300 people there, but it felt like we had the whole world watching us there.

Do you still get that rush when playing to audiences?

Chase: Yeah, I do! It’s really cool to get that still. It’s because we’re a new band still, and the music is still so new. It’s like, “How do these people know these words that came out of my brain six months ago?”

What’s the favorite show you've played since the EP came out?

Chase: I’ve probably got two tied for first. There was one show in Hartford, Connecticut in a really dirty club – there weren’t many people there, but it was a headliner, and everyone knew every word… That was surreal. There was another one in Norfolk, Virginia – the first one we played with Passion Pit, and that was equally as amazing.

You mentioned being excited about the live show. You’ve been working on it a lot?

Chase: Oh yeah, we’re rehearsing so often and making it the best show it can be. You know, it’s one thing to know how to play a song on record and write it, but it’s another thing to know how to do it live and switch patches… You really have to know the song and all the ins and outs of it.

It’s like, how do these people know these words that came out of my brain six months ago?

What was the hardest song for you to write on the record?

Chase: Without a doubt, the song, “It’s A Trap.” If you heard the demo of it before we recorded it, it’s a totally different song. The demo is a quintessential COIN song – very windows down, etc.. Our producer wasn’t happy with it. He said, “This is your comfort zone, and I’m going to push you.” So he blared this new wave music that we had never heard before, and he said, “This record needs to sound like this,” and I remember that we made this part of the chorus over and over for hours. We spent so much time playing that song, so yeah, that song is the most difficult, but I’m really excited about how it came out. It sounds like a Cure song, even sonically – Jay really nailed it.

It’s very cohesive.

Chase: Thank you, I really appreciate that

What’s the first thing you’ll be doing when it comes out?

Chase: Oh man, I don’t know – I’ve not even given one thought to that. I’ll probably drink a glass of chocolate milk. I think I’ll be in West Virginia that night, and I’ll probably sit in my bed and stare at the screen until it comes on. We have no more excuses anymore – there’s nothing else to hold onto anymore, so this is it: This is everything, for now at least. We have no more excuses – we have only our art to speak for itself. I’m nervous – I don’t know what I’ll be doing.

Do you have any idea what you’d be doing if you weren’t in a band?

Chase: I don’t know! I have no clue. I’m so glad things worked out the way they worked out. Hopefully I’d be a songwriter – that was my original plan, to be a songwriter and producer. It’s definitely something I’d like to pursue.

COIN

COIN SUMMER 2015 TOUR

June 8th @ The Pyramid Scheme^ in Grand Rapids, MI
June 10th @ Altar Bar^ in Pittsburgh, PA
June 11th @ Ottobar^ in Baltimore, MD
June 16th @ New Mountain Theatre^ in Asheville, NC
June 22nd @ The National^ in Richmond, VA
June 23rd @ Kings Barcade^ in Raleigh, NC
June 24th @ Visualite Theatre^ in Charlotte, NC
June 26th @ The Social^ in Orlando, FL
June 28th @ State Theatre^ in St. Petersburg, FL
June 30th @ Republic New Orleans^  in New Orleans, LA
July 1st @ Saturn^ in Birmingham, LA
July 2nd @ Firebird^ in St. Louis, MO
July 9th @ Revolution+ in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
July 10th @ Beacham Theater+ in Orlando, FL
July 11th @ State Theatre+ in St. Petersburg, FL
July 13th @ Center Stage+ in Atlanta, GA
July 14th @ The Cannery+ in Nashville, TN
July 16th @ Newport Music Hall+ in Columbus, OH
July 17th @ HOB+ in Cleveland, OH
July 18th @ Rams Head Live+ in Baltimore, MD
July 20th9:30 Club+ in Washington, DC
July 21st @ TLA+ in Philadelphia, PA
July 22nd @ Irving Plaza+ in New York, NY
July 25th @ MoPop Festival in Detroit, MI
July 26th @ Paradise+ in Boston, MA
July 31st @ Schuba’s (w/ Ryn Weaver) in Chicago, IL
August 1st @ Lollapalooza in Chicago, IL
September 12th  @ Loufest in St. Louis, MO

^w/ BETTY WHO
+w/ NEON TREES

COIN – COIN

Learn more about COIN online at www.thisiscoin.com

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The Breakdown

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com