COIN welcomes us to Uncanny Valley where we seek to find what it is that makes us human.
What does it mean to be human you ask? Nashville’s own three-piece indie pop outfit COIN attempt to answer that or at least seek to dig deeper with the release of their latest studio album ‘Uncanny Valley’, a body of work that was born out of the group’s intense fascination of what it means to be a human in a world where technology’s advancement is quickly blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. A sonically diverse project, COIN certainly have a knack for crafting sonically rich indie-leaning backdrops led by frontman Chase Lawrence’s charismatic and infectious vocals.
1883 Magazine caught up with Chase, Joe & Ryan after their performance at Wembley Arena. Currently on a UK arena tour supporting Aussie pop-rock band 5SOS, they discussed everything from how experiences and environments influence their writing and pre-show rituals to sharing their views on being an artist in 2022 and the importance of listening to your inner voice. They even share their favourite Brad Pitt film. But shh…we shouldn’t be talking about it!
Hey guys! Firstly congratulations on playing Wembley Arena last night. That must have been insane. How does a show like that compare with performing at a more intimate venue like your recent headline at Omeara?
Chase: That connection when you play in a small space, it’s confined and tight and sweaty it’s just beautiful! There’s just no other experience like that. But at the same time there’s no other experience like playing to a void of thousands of people. I think both are beautiful in their own right and each has something that the other doesn’t have. The Omeara show was special for us but last night’s show was just as special.
Ryan: It’s a challenge to garner the same type of intimacy with 15,000 people for us. It’s hard to see it and feel it but as soon as you hear their voices it’s very special. We haven’t been here since the pandemic and we’ve released so much music since then so songs that we think are deep cuts so to speak ended up being songs that these people knew, which was really beautiful.
Speaking of performing, do you guys have any pre-show rituals before stepping on stage?
Chase: Yes. They kind of vary though. Ryan jump ropes!
How long are you doing that for?
Ryan: Just enough to break a sweat.
Joe: Yeah you don’t want the first time you sweat all day to be in front of 10,000 people.
Chase: And then just singing a lot really beforehand.
What about drinking before performing as a way to cool your nerves?
Joe: I have never drunk before a show ever in my life. I just want my head to be clear because when you’re on stage it’s just a different kind of high. You want to be really present.
Ryan: Also if this is our job and we work for an hour to an hour and a half a day, you shouldn’t be drinking before [laughs].
What about after? Do you sit and talk about the show and how the performance went?
Chase: We try not to talk about it right after.
Joe: We try…And then eventually it comes out.
Chase: We have a rule called the ‘Monday Rule’ which is a thing in sport where you don’t talk about what the problems were till the next day at practice.
I guess it’s similar to a fighter not looking back at the fight straight after…
Chase: Yes, so true.
Joe: It’s funny now is probably the perfect time to tell you guys. Last night for the whole entire set there was this spider just hanging from my microphone and he would climb up and crawl around my mic and then just descend down and hang. It was freaking me out. I thought I was going to eat this thing [laughs].
Chase: Saying that my pants were unzipped the entire show last night [laughs]. But luckily I was wearing a really long sweater so you couldn’t really tell.
Ryan: Joe broke a string, I unplugged the bass guitar. There was just like a litany of problems last night but those are the shows you truly remember.
Joe: Classic COIN.
Being on an arena tour of such magnitude, what have you guys learnt so far in supporting 5SOS?
Chase: We’ve done something similar to this with a couple of bands in the US and Canada and back then I don’t think I was ready both mentally and emotionally. It almost scared me. But these shows so far on the tour have inspired me. Less of like the band and more about the community of people that are gathering around this music and the movement around it. It’s inspiring to want to continue to build on that way.
Joe: It’s also when you’re the opening or support band and you’re playing 30 minutes a night it feels like you’re not doing anything all day long but really you’re prepping yourself for the only 30 minutes that you get to…to prove yourself. You have to put your whole life’s work into like 30 minutes and you’re just prepping your mind to do so. It’s that push and pull feeling.
Ryan: We’ve grown substantially in the US. I mentioned yesterday that this is some of the most fun I’ve had playing shows because there’s this inexplicable fire. And yes whether its proving yourself or not it’s the sense that we’re here, weave got so few songs to play so what are the right songs to play, what are the impacts moments of the set and then when you see people clapping, laughing, crying and singing you’re like okay cool we did a job and that’s great!
Are you guys sticking with the same setlist throughout this tour?
Ryan: We have been for the first 3 shows but we might change it up.
I’ve recently read David Byrne’s How Music Works and found the chapter about the creation of music and how certain genres and arrangements work in particular environments. Have you guys ever found yourself writing a song for a particular crowd or venue? Also do you think this arena tour will inspire you guys when you get back into the studio?
Chase: Absolutely. I think life experiences definitely inform what decisions you make ex-creatively. One of the greatest experiences that we’ve ever had was at this formative show in Atlanta, this massive festival, and people knew the lyrics and it was super inspiring and life giving and the next day we wrote a song called ‘Crash My Car’. We were like let’s make a song that’s even louder and one that reflects that moment. Even while watching 5SOS last night there were some songs I wasn’t familiar with but people were connecting with them so deeply and singing back so passionately. I can totally see how this experience will influence me to want to write songs that fill up stadiums. The arrangements and the music have to change as the venues get larger. And the voices get louder.
It’s easy as an artist to stay in your lane and repeat a formula or sound that’s working. What makes COIN is that you guys seem to enjoy experimenting with sounds and don’t shy away from this. Is this a conscious decision? When in the studio do you make it a point to try out different recording techniques and use varied instrumentations?
Chase: I don’t think we’ve ever found a formula and I don’t think we ever will. Maybe that’s good or maybe that’s bad…I don’t know. At the beginning of this album circle our producer Julian Bunetta told me that a successful creative expression is when “Who your audience thinks you are meets who you actually are.” I think it freed me to allow that I can’t deny that I wrote Talk Too Much or writing our first album but also I can’t deny myself where I need to go next creatively. You have to just exist in that middle ground. I think we’re figuring it out.
Joe: You can call us mad scientists!
Ryan: We had a segue project during the pandemic called Rainbow Mixtape, which was a genre bomb for us that allowed us to try all the things we were afraid to coin previously. So to answer your question earlier Rainbow Mixtape helped us with Uncanny Valley to be more fearless with some of those genre shifts. I think that’s why it sounds more colourful so to speak..no pun intended.
Several artists have recently come out talking about how exhausting it is as a musician to make music and tour whilst keeping up with social media and the ‘algorithm’. How have you guys managed this so far and what are your thoughts as an artist in 2022?
Chase: I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about how content and content are like opposites of each other but content is a depreciating asset. The moment you put it out it’s worth less every second it’s out. That said I never want to make excuses and I never want to live in modernity. So I don’t want to be delusional and deny the reality in front of us of what’s clearly working for so many people and complain but at the same time we grew up listening to albums and full bodies of work. I guess what I’m saying is that there’s no right or wrong way of doing it, it’s whatever you feel most comfortable with. I never want to be the one telling someone they’re doing something wrong.
Ryan: I really thought it was a poignant expression, but I do think we can choose whether or not to be slaves to comparison. You know don’t live a delusional self expression of narcissism but also don’t live a delusional expression of oh I need to be as good as fill in the blank. As a band we’re just really excited to show up everyday and make what we make. We aren’t very good at social media and we never have been. So the show and seeing people sing the songs is what pushed the needle for us I suppose. It could sound very cliche to say ‘just come to the show,’ but that’s what we’ve always known. I think you choose to submit yourself to those devices. And we’re choosing not to in a way that tethers us to the comparison, which is what I think creates the insecurity for artists.
Chase: And that works for us. It’s the pencil saying I wish I was more colourful to the crayon and the crayon saying I wish I was sharper.
Joe: If the pants fit…Whatever works for you.
Let’s do a quick fire round. Favourite Brad Pitt Film?
Joe: Fight Club!
Ryan: Fight Club.
Chase: Yeah, Fight Club.
Favourite lyric from the album that never made the cut?
Chase: Mine was a pre-chorus that I cut “I’m going to lose you / I’m going to lose my mind.” So simple and profound…or at least for me [laughs]. It had to do with myself actually.
Joe: “You’re one in a million and you don’t know your worth.”
Favourite song off the album?
Chase: Loving. It’s the last song on the album. After playing that song last night I just can’t wait to come back and play Wembley and end the show with that song.
Ryan: Loving as well. We write a lot of big brother songs where we finish a song and release it and then write a similar song later down the line. And that song is similar to a song we have called ‘You Are The Traffic’. We wrote that song for the UK after listening to all these brit-pop bands after the Reading & Leeds festival.
A song you wish was a COIN track?
Joe: “Maria he, Maria ah”. I’m just kidding [laughs].
Chase: Oh there’s a lot. Days by The Drums or Between Me & You by Brandon Flowers
Dream venue to headline?
Ryan: Wembley Stadium. We’re here now! [laughs]
What is the meaning behind the artwork for Uncanny Valley?
Chase: There’s this phenomenon called pareidolia where you see data and patterns in normal objects. We had this idea called Uncanny Valley, which is an idea in technology where we’re okay with things doing a human task until it begins to look too human. And that’s the Uncanny Valley. So we were like what does it look like to live and be a human in Uncanny Valley. One day I was walking around the house and this lug just stared at me and it was just this face. I knew at that moment. It felt like it encapsulates what we’re trying to say with the least amount of effort.
Best piece of advice that you’ve received on your musical journey so far?
Ryan: It wasn’t from a singular person but I feel the resounding thing that has been imparted to us is that if you look inside yourself there’s a voice that tells you what your true nature is and what your truest expression is for making the music. So you’re going to tour and your music is going to be on Spotify but before it’s written there’s a voice inside that you have to connect with. Neglecting that, and this goes back to comparing yourself to others, just listen to that. If you don’t you’ll always wish you did or you will have grown to some trend that his hot for 5 years. We’re okay with a slower pass and thank God our career has grown exponentially since we started but that voice is what we alway go back to.
Joe: It’s what always serves us.
Ryan: Yes. And if any of us resist it we then check in on each other.
Chase: Speaking on that, I wish that also someone told me that I’m not going to always like that voice. But I need to do it anyway because it’s what makes me unique.
Joe: Sometimes not liking that voice for me means that I’m just trying too hard to be cool.
Ryan: Transparency. We were never good at this enigmatic like in the shadows cool guy thing, and why would we want to be that if our goal and mission is to reach as many people as possible who speak a universal language when they listen to our music then why would we hide in the shadows.
Chase: We’re goofballs! [laughs].
Interview by Dean Benzaken
Photography by Joseph Morrison
COIN’s UK November 2022 tour is on sale Friday April 22nd.