In 2012, Ryan Winnen, drummer for Nashville's breakout indie-pop sensation COIN, found himself playing at "an arguably intolerable volume" in a dorm room with two of his Belmont University schoolmates. His peers, vocalist Chase Lawrence and guitarist Joe Memmel, had started writing songs together, starting in a music theory class, where a friend of Winnen's overheard them talking about needing a drummer.
Winnen describes this early jam session as "something pure and youthful and 'all right,'" and recalls the bandmates' immediate enthusiasm for their craft. "We just wanted to play one show," Winnen recalls.
After that one show occurred, the trio met Zach Dyke, who shot an early, unreleased music video for the band. Says Winnen, "On the day of the shoot, there were a bunch of instruments set up in [Zach's] living room. It would not be untrue to say Zach picked up the bass guitar and the rest was history." With Dyke on bass, COIN's lineup was officially set, and the band started playing shows around Nashville, quickly accumulating fans.
With a full lineup finalized, COIN set out to bring recorded music to its fans with the release of two EPs called Saturdays and 1992, released in late 2012 and 2013, respectively. Despite the obvious talent on display with these releases, it wasn't until 2015 that the eyes of the national music scene fell upon the still-young quartet with its single "Run," a blistering three-and-a-half-minute pop-rock gem that induces involuntary head-bopping and energetic nostalgia. Swirling synth lines and memorable sing-along choruses supported by tight musicianship became COIN's M.O.
The summer 2015 release of the band's self-titled debut full-length capitalized on this success, drawing positive reviews from national music outlets like Billboard. It was around this time that the band reached a milestone: a Lollapalooza performance. Winnen recalls the festival fondly, mentioning that "for some reason, we always go back to speak of Lollapalooza 2015. Something just felt right. We were still virtually unknown, but played for an exceptionally large crowd. At the time, it was the biggest show we'd ever played."
Since the self-titled release, COIN's success has only grown; the band reached another milestone in April this year when it released its second full-length album, How Will You Know if You Never Try. On this release, the group's sound begins to take a new direction, with a wider inclusion of synthesizer and a slightly more new-wave song structure, as well as more powerful, honest lyrical ideas. The forty-minute opus boasts a mildly retro feel, while still maintaining a fresh, unique and exciting sound. The tracks were written in multiple locations, with Memmel and Lawrence spending some time in L.A. and the band as a whole retreating to a mountain cabin.
Winnen details the writing process: Certain songs "came in a matter of hours," and others "took some surgery," though the band still left things "open to chance for the actual recording process."
In the months since the release, the drummer has had time to reflect on how the album came together and what has changed in COIN's songwriting. "I think that this record shows us as individual writers feeling more confident, using literal phrasing and embracing clearly stated lyrical imagery. In our personal lives, each of us had a lot of change happen all at once while making this album. I think, in turn, it makes playing these songs live feel that much more ‘important’ and personal to us.”
Winnen speaks with intelligent modesty about the band's place in the music scene, noting that more steps are added to the ladder each day in the music industry and that you can't live too literally on that ladder. If you do, he says, it'll drive you crazy.
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Despite the amount of success that COIN has achieved thus far in its short tenure, the drummer says that it's not streams or sales or critical acclaim that encourage the musicians, but the fans.
“Today, we're thrilled to be playing our own shows for the first time in front of people who seemingly really, really care," Winnen says. "I think that is what has changed our perspective about our future.”
Winnen says the thrill shows no sign of subsiding, as he humbly remarks: “To find that anyone feels anything while listening to our music will never settle in with us as 'normal.'"
Be sure to catch COIN at the Westword Music Showcase on June 24. You can purchase tickets for Showcase here.