One of the hottest days of the Summer didn’t stop Chase. While we waited for the rest of the band to return from their coffee run, Chase ran laps around the parking lot, basketball in hand. “Chase loves basketball!!” My friend Sophie texted me, an avid fan of COIN’s.
Seated in the greenroom, Joe and Ryan sipped coffee from Lamplighter. Later they’d tell me they make it a point to try the best coffee spots in town on every stop of their tour. Warm, and carrying no lack in energy whatsoever, Chase (lead vocals, synth), Joe (guitar), and Ryan (drums) of COIN took the time to talk about their start in music, their experiences on tour, and their upcoming album.
How did music come into your life, and how did you decide that’s what you wanted to do?
Chase: For me, I grew up in church playing music, so it was just always there. My dad is a songwriter, and he did it professionally for a while, but then as I grew up it kind of took a backseat, and he just produced stuff occasionally. My family is really musical, so I think it was always a real possibility.
Joe: Chase’s dad bought him pro tools in the 6th grade, and was like “Use this, this is the future son.” My mom’s side of the family, they were really talented musicians but never did it professionally. My father is a huge music lover, followed bands around and all that kind of stuff.
Ryan: Yeah, I went to a lot of shows with my dad, growing up, and he took me to see a lot of music.
So what kind of music did you guys grow up listening to?
Joe: My father listened to straight classic rock, anywhere from The Doors and psychedelic rock, all the way to hair metal in the 80’s. He blasts it all day 24/7, and that’s just… yeah I grew up with that.
Chase: I don’t think I sought music out until I was in 6th grade probably, and then I found singer-songwriters, like really whatever was on the radio at the time. Like, The Goo Goo Dolls or something. Not that I wanted that, but that was just my first exposure, Howie Day, Ryan Cabrera, that was just the era of pop. It could’ve been anything, and of course Outkast too. That was the moment that I realized there was something more than the music in church, or the music at the Christian bookstore. Nothing to do with my parents, I guess I just listened to a lot of Christian music because I just didn’t know there was anything else out there. Actually, when I found “Hey Ya”, by Outkast, and “Sk8r Boi”, by Avril Lavigne, I listened to the radio religiously, just trying to hear those two songs, and I tried to schedule out when the songs would play. I sound so old right now, but that really wasn’t that long ago. It was also during the era of Limewire, so I guess I could have just downloaded the songs, but like maybe I didn’t have the Internet.
Joe: Limewire messed up my computer, and my parents got so mad.
Ryan: I was listening to, like, metal and punk. I grew up going to Vans Warped Tour and skateboarding and stuff like that, so that was my early experience with music. My dad loved U2 and emphatic rock stuff, and my mom liked Seal and Sade, very soft vocal stuff, so they were kind of on opposite sides of the spectrum, which was nice.
When you guys met, what was the process of developing your sound? Was it kind of a compromise among the three of you, or did you all have a similar idea of what you wanted to do?
Chase: There was this common ground where we wanted to play music, that was—for lack of a better word—fun. That was something that was very important to the DNA in the beginning. Just a fun, dumb, carefree attitude, and not to care too much about it and not be too precious with it.
Joe: When we first started the band, that was really our only common ground. I mean, Chase had never even played a show before, so it was clearly just to put this one little thing together and to have fun and play a show.
Chase: So, we all came together, from, you know, classic rock, punk, and then church. We’d all played with different people and have all been the influencers in our previous bands and musical endeavors, so we came together and allowed ourselves to all be the influencer and not to tell each other what to do. We just let each other do it. Maybe because we didn’t know how to communicate with each other, and maybe because we didn’t know the tools of the trade to refine and distill ideas yet, but all three of us were the producers of our own parts. We didn’t micromanage each other, and when we came together, maybe every now and then we tweaked something, but the ideas, that’s what’s uniquely COIN. Those little things that each of us have done have become a part of us, and now we still do those things. Like the way [Ryan] plays drums might be how I program a drum fill on the computer, and the way [Joe] plays guitar is how I learned how to play guitar chords, and the way I write melodies has shaped how they both write.
Joe: I only know, like, four chords on the piano, and it’s every chord that Chase plays.
Ryan: It’s true, we all just so weirdly came together and played those songs without telling each other what to do, mainly because we didn’t know how to tell each other what to do, and that’s just what came out of it. Now, it’s way less noticeable. It’s just a part of the DNA.
Chase: But now we know how to communicate, maybe a little too well!
Have you ever thought about experimenting with your sound, or is there any particular sound you want to experiment with moving forward?
Chase: I think we’ve already shifted quite a bit without even realizing it, but there are still things that are still innately us, for lack of a better term, that come from the origin of the band. I mean “Crash My Car” could have been on the first EP.
Ryan: It’s crazy, but some of our new music sounds more like the first EP that we put out, or like the first time that we came together before we made two albums for a record label. So I guess trusting our instinct has developed our sound on its own.
Chase: I don’t think that we’re ever going to come together and make OK Computer, or anything like that. Not that we’re against concept albums, but I don’t think it’s anything we’re ever going to do, where we’re setting out to intentionally challenge ourselves, or put ourselves in a box. That’s the opposite of what any of us want to do. We want to take all of our influence and have a culmination of everything, but we are always pushing the boundaries.
Ryan: We don’t ever go and say that this record is going to sound like this, or this song is going to sound like this.
Joe: We’re always pushing boundaries. These two just wrote a Christmas song, and it’s almost July!
When I asked the boys how they’d describe their sound, Chase winced, “I hate this question.” From what the band had told me, it seemed like the absolute last thing they wanted to do was take themselves too seriously.
Ryan: I think the easiest way to answer is that the current music sounds more like the first month of us playing together than anything else we’ve done. Obviously you could call it more mature, or more developed, or you know, more smartly constructed, but it feels more genuine to who we are as individual songwriters, and now coming together reflects–I just feel like we’re kids again. We’ve made a lot of music, and a lot of our music didn’t sound like that, and felt maybe contrived, and maybe felt like we were trying to put ourselves in a box.
Chase: We were never adults. I don’t know how I’m ever going to do adult stuff. The more we grow up the less we serious we take all of this.
Ryan: We’ve gone around the world to come back to where we started, and legitimately this music feels like that.
How has touring been?
Chase: Meeting people [is collectively our favorite part of touring]; we try to go out of our way to dismantle the illusion of the stage and really meet people. It doesn’t always work out, and we can’t always make ourselves available to every single person, but often it’s really nice to connect to them on not a weird superficial level. Really, that’s really the only thing that’s changing, the show stays pretty consistent, the venues look pretty much the same at this point. So the only thing that’s changing is the wonderful people in every city.
Ryan: I think that the hardest part is just sharing things with friends and family. A lot of time goes by, you miss things. You miss milestones, you miss weddings, things like that. Some of our friends are getting a little older now, and getting married, and having kids and stuff. You see these people two or three times a year, and so many things have happened. Like, if there’s a new child or something they’re a fully grown adult by the time you get home from tour.
Joe: It’s such an interesting balance because we’re all so absolutely grateful for being able to do this.
How do you guys stay sane?
Ryan: We exercise. We all have our own ways of doing that: Chase has been playing a lot of basketball. I’ll go to the gym. Joe will go to the gym or go on a run. On this tour specifically, we’ve been in a lot of rural, mountainous areas, so just using the terrain around us to go for a walk or whatever has been really nice to keep ourselves sane.
Joe: I bought a charcoal grill.
Chase: This sounds dumb, but buying new socks and a new toothbrush. It’ll keep you feeling not crazy. Little things like that make you feel like you have control and make you feel like you’re living a normal life.
Is there something you try to do in every city?
Ryan: We do coffee, and then we try to go to art museums and vintage stores too.
Joe: Chase got me this shirt the other day. Thanks, Chase.
Chase: It’s just fun to be in smaller towns because we all live in Nashville, LA, and New York, so if you want to go to a vintage store, a t-shirt is like $350. It’s so nice to go to small towns and get Goodwill prices.
Favorite song to play live?
Chase: My favorite song to play live is “Malibu 1992”. We can’t play it on this tour because it’s like six minutes long, and we don’t have the time.
Ryan: We just put out a new song, “Crash My Car”, and it’s my favorite to play because we’re not playing to our native audience [on this tour]. We’re playing to a lot of new fans and new listeners, so looking out and watching even a few people who might have checked out the song is really cool. This tour is really challenging: to win hearts and to have people, for the first time, experience this band. It’s cool to see them find other parts in the song that they know and see a 35-year-old dude like singing every lyric. “Crash My Car”, just came out and it’s really cool to see people taking kindly to it.
Do you feel more pressure headlining a tour, as opposed to opening?
Ryan: No, no. Infinitely less pressure. It’s like a warm blanket. It’s fun to be opening for both of these bands [Fitz and the Tantrums and Young The Giant]. because of their fanbase. They each have really great fanbases, and they’re so loyal, but they’re very different from ours. They’re so diverse. So many new faces, and the age range is completely different from what we’re used to. So this is like, equally more and less pressure. Can we appeal to these other people who we’ve never really played for? When you win them over you’re really happy about it, and if the show goes kind of weird you’re like, “Oh, okay,” you’re not for everyone. That’s what music is all about.
Joe: When you’re headlining there’s more control to be had, and there’s a little less control in these situations.
So you guys have a new album coming out. What has the album writing process been like?
Chase: We noticed that, for the last album we put out, we would make these really perfect demos of songs. They were like perfect. They sounded a little crazy, but they just needed to be finessed. I would get them to a point, and I would be like, “Well there’s no point in finishing them because X producer is going to deconstruct them and then reconstruct them.” We helped a lot, and we used a lot of our own stuff, and that’s when we realized, “Why are we bringing in another person? Another cook in the kitchen? Just to keep our stuff and the things we made. Then, we also realized that we’d have to go back and meticulously recreate these happy accidents to make them perfect, or replay a guitar part that was probably fine to begin with. But we really felt like we could never replicate that energy we made on day one. So we really set out to play for keeps. When we came up with an idea, or came up with a song, we tried to keep as much as we could from the first day we recorded it. It’s a lot of iPhone voice memos, and MacBook recordings. We did use one studio for vocals, and then the vocals ended up being too sterile, so we just deleted them. It was really just a microphone in front of the speakers, full blast the whole thing. There are moments that sound crazy, but that’s the spirit. The energy, the emotion, it can’t be replicated. So what’s the point of having something sound perfect if you’ve lost all the passion in it? So that’s what we set out to do. It became a journal, and it literally just denoted where we’ve been for the past two years. From touring in a van to touring in a bus, to greenrooms at massive places, my bedroom, friend’s houses, friend’s apartments. It really just turned into this patchwork quilt of everywhere we’ve been for the past two years, and it’s so special because of it. No studios. Mostly did it completely ourselves.
Ryan: It’s special. Listening down to it, it’s really special. It’s the first time we haven’t just gone to a studio and hammered it out in a month and then said, I guess it’s an album. It’s taken a really long time to make this one, and it was really difficult.
Joe: It feels like it’s 100% ours. For the first time, like genuinely ours.
What are the inspirations and emotions that you derived for this album, and what do you want fans to take away?
Chase: There’s so much I want to say, but also so little. I feel like the general themes we set out when we first started to write this album were a lot about uncertainty. Whether that was in our romantic endeavors or in our goals as a band, and it’s still shrouded in uncertainty. It’s also a touch on this idea of us being completely removed and our lives being put on complete pause when we’re going on tour. Our friends have kids and are getting married. That’s what this whole album is about. It’s like, what are we even doing? How is life continuing? How do we not even understand how we’re not a part of it?
Ryan: Yeah, it’s almost like there are so many themes that were naturally occurring in our lives that just started coming out into the songs. I think a lot of people could find at least one thing to relate to, and I think a lot of music strives to do that. A lot of artists strive to be that, but this is the first time we weren’t sitting down to write a song and saying, “Here’s the message, and here’s this lyric that we need to put in the song.” It just came out, and it’s because we’re living through it. We’re finally mature enough to just say, “This is what a song can be. Like a song can be about my life, and that’s okay.” Especially for Chase. Chase used to be very poetic, almost narrative-based, and now it’s all of us writing, and it feels very much of the cloth of our lives.
Have you run into any challenges writing the album?
Ryan: There were songs that were challenging.
Chase: The ones that ended up being challenging were ironically the ones who had too many people involved.
Joe: “Crash My Car” went through so many different phases.
Chase: We wrote the song two years ago.
Joe: Yeah, and it went through tons of phases. We went in and out of being like, “We love this song. This is the best song ever!” To, “This song is terrible. We can’t put this out.”
Chase: Ultimately we got it back to a place where it was the first day we wrote it. There’s something irreplaceable about that. There’s this passion, this excitement of what you made day one.
Ryan: Just to make one more comment on that song specifically: That was the first song in the last two albums that we were able to play live before we released it. We saw the response from people during the show before we actually put it out, and we went back in like, this is how this hits live, and it’s nice to have that experience that’s how we were when we first started, and that’s why I think “Crash My Car” sounds so genuine.
Chase: I think there were too many times when there were people telling us what we wanted, or who we were in the process, and we were able to slowly-slowly dismantle that.
When you’re writing a song, like “Talk Too Much”, do you know it’s going to blow up?
Chase: We wrote four songs in the first batch. It was in a very bleak time, similar to “Crash My Car”. Not bleak as in there’s no hope. But the album cycle was ending, and we noticeably felt that we needed to do something. We needed a next thing, and we didn’t know what that would be. That’s when the big ideas come, in that time where you actually know that everything depends on it. We went to L.A. It was our first writing trip ever. On our first day, we wrote “Talk Too Much”. It came out of an idea that wasn’t even special. I brought in this dumb little loop of a guitar and drums, and it didn’t even feel like anything special. But then it came out as something obviously big. The day we wrote it, I knew that it had the ingredients to be a big song, but I’d thought that a million times over. We knew that it was the details that make it go from good to great, and I ended up being scared of it for a long time. We delivered four songs in the batch, and everybody liked all four, but everybody knew that that song was special. It also felt so on-the-nose. It was scary because it felt like we were swinging so hard.
Joe: It was like we were trying to write a One Direction song.
Chase: We felt crazy! Like, going from the music that we listen to: punk bands, like really crazy music in terms of artistic expression. Not that this song wasn’t, but it just felt like a departure and a huge swing for us. Luckily we had our friend Tim Pagnotta, and he helped us finesse it, and really told us not to second guess it. No, there’s no way to know if something’s going to be a big song. I did know that it had the ingredients to be a special song, a song that could connect to a lot of people.
Joe: You’re never going to know.
Chase: I never knew “Malibu” was going to reach people the way it did, on a smaller scale. But it’s such an important song to our fans. When we wrote “Talk Too Much”, Joe and I went to L.A. This was before Ryan was as a part of the music-writing process as much, and he was able to objectively, third-party listen to the song and say, “This is great. It’s not too on-the-nose. We just need to run with it.”
Ryan: When you brought it home, I was like this is a thing. This is a pop song. But it’s something that we can fit into the context of what we already do. It’s in the melody, it’s in the lyric. When you listen to a song, if it’s contrived you know it’s contrived, and it felt to me like it was very cool.
Chase: And that song did not blow up overnight. I mean it’s still growing to this day, and people are still finding out about it.
Joe: When you’re in a room writing a song, it’s the first two times you come up with a chorus and you play it back, and sing it. You cannot deny that feeling. It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s better than any drug, any alcohol. It’s literally it.
Chase: You can hear thousands and thousands of people singing it, but you don’t know how you’re going to get there.
Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
Ryan: If you like it, it’s not a guilty pleasure. I think guilty pleasures are an illusion. If you listen to the song, then you like it. I’ll tell anyone what I listen to, I think we all do.
Chase: I like One Direction, straight up. The album with “Steal My Girl” on it, such a good album. Like objectively such a good pop album. That Carly Rae Jepson album with “Warm Blood” on it, that Justin Bieber album with Blood Pop and Skrillex, honestly changed the way I write pop music. It’s not a guilty pleasure though. There’s no guilt. I love that Justin Bieber album, like, so much.
Ryan: If you love it, you love it.
I had some really specific fan related questions, courtesy of Sophie:
Ryan, will there ever be more “Ok Now You Try”?
Ryan: Oh yeah! Possibly. We love buying vintage clothes, and I had so much stuff that I didn’t wear anymore. It was cool to see kids want to buy it and wear it to shows. There are kids in small towns that don’t have the ability to go to places like that and find cool stuff, so I’ve shipped to some weird places in Kansas. I would definitely do it again.
Joe, you once tweeted that “The Fox and the Hound” is the best movie of all time. Why?
Joe: My father’s parents had “The Fox and the Hound” on VHS, and I would watch it multiple times a day. That movie is so depressing when I see it now. But they’re the best of friends, you know? Favorite movie.
Chase, what does 10:05 mean to you?
Chase: It’s a new song on the album, the last song on the album. It’s meant a lot of things to me. I’ve seen it my entire life, since I was like a little, little kid, always on the oven, change at restaurants. I think it means to take a moment to listen to your heart beating, your blood pumping, and focus on really being something. In the good, the bad, the prosperity, all of it. Maybe it doesn’t have a purpose, but you’re there, so you might as well live it.
Any final thoughts?
Chase: We’re gonna put out an album. That’s literally the only goal I have for the whole year. We’ve been in this limbo, trying to find the best, most effective way to put out this album. It’s the choir, it’s the orchestra, it’s the real album. We did it, and I can’t wait for everyone to feel it.
The anticipation in the pit mounted significantly as COIN walked on stage. It was clear that any hang-ups around opening for a crowd consisting of new listeners and fans of the headliners, completely dissipated. I was surrounded by screaming COIN fans. Their energy on stage was unmatched, and Chase immediately took to removing any semblance of a barrier between him and the crowd. “This set, it’s like the Energizer Bunny,” Joe had said to me during the interview, and he was right. Without a doubt, it was fun. The character, the genuity of each of the band members, and their passion for their music was apparent throughout the entirety of their set.
Keep an eye out for COIN’s upcoming album, and check out their latest single, “Crash My Car”. Available on all streaming services.