A Northeast Ohio Native Found His Musical Calling with Nashville's COIN

click to enlarge A Northeast Ohio Native Found His Musical Calling with Nashville's COIN
Columbia Records
A Northeast Ohio native, COIN drummer Ryan Winnen says he played in “a ton of metal” bands before he graduated high school and then moved to Nashville in 2011 in search of a band.

A woman he dated introduced him to singer Chase Lawrence, guitarist Joe Memmel and bassist Zach Dyke, all of whom were students at Belmont University at the time, and the foursome formed the indie pop band COIN.

“We were all the same age,” says Winnen in a recent phone interview from Nashville, where he and his bandmates were working on the light show for the upcoming tour that comes to House of Blues on Sunday, Feb. 18. “We had all moved to Nashville to continue playing, but we didn’t know what for exactly. Chase wanted to be a songwriter. Joe wanted to eventually be in a band, but how can you arrange for that to happen? It was serendipitous when we met at the time. We were all looking for something.”

Initially, the band found a handful of other indie pop bands that could help it develop that part of the Music City’s music scene.

“To this day, people ask how we survive here in Nashville,” says Winnen. “The rock and alternative scene has grown immensely. At the time, we were one of five bands that had that sort of [indie pop] sound. We congregated with the other bands that sounded like us, but we were the new kids on the block. We would be the first band on the bill when there were only 30 to 50 people at the club. We did that for consecutive weekends while the guys were in college, and I was working part time jobs. The guys did the word-of-mouth thing at school, and I was heckling people at the coffeeshop where I worked to come and see us. We started playing our own shows after that.”

The band self-released two EPs before signing to Columbia Records a few years ago after a successful showcase at the College Music Journal Conference.

“We played on a Thursday night and we sat down with [A&R rep] Isaac [Green] the next day and we loved his roster,” says Winnen. “He signed bands like Passion Pit that inspired us at the time. We knew that was our guy. They were bands that wrote pop songs but served them up in a cool way.”

For the band’s full-length debut, 2015's COIN, it teamed up with producer Jay Joyce, a former Cleveland with a long track record of producing major artists.

“We had never worked with a producer,” says Winnen. “It was amazing. [Joyce] grandfathered the whole thing. He has years of wisdom and he had made every type of record in every genre — Emmylou Harris and Cage the Elephant. We wanted a sonic identity. We worked all the songs the guys had ever written. It wasn’t conceptual at all. One day Jay said, ‘Invite your friends over. I need you to wake up.’ He has this big church he uses as a studio in East Nashville. We just played like it was a big party. We kept the drum and bass parts for one of the songs. I don’t know if the album came out like we wanted, but we didn’t know what we wanted. We would write things on the wall like ‘fun’ or ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ and channel that emotion for the day.”

Winnen says the band become more “self-aware” for its second album, last year’s How Will You Know if You Never Try.

“We produced half of it ourselves,” says Winnen. “Our bassist is an incredible engineer. We sat in a room and rented a studio here in town for a few weeks. We did five or six songs that way. We did the rest with two producers we really like. One was in New York, and one was in L.A. It was a different process because we weren’t locked in a church for a month.”

The snappy “Talk Too Much” features an ’80s pop feel with its retro synths that sound like they could’ve come from a Flock of Seagulls song. It become a hit on commercial radio.

“Chase and Joe wrote that song in L.A. on one of the writing trips they took there,” says Winnen when asked about the track. “They were listening to INXS and that kind of music with that bright jazzy guitar. That was what initially inspired the song, I think. They said it was done in five or six hours. They listened to the finished track then when they were walking around the grocery store and couldn’t believe it.”

While the group hasn’t yet announced a release date for How Will You Know If Never Try’s follow-up, will first release a new single, “Growing Pains.” With its rattling percussion and trippy synths, “Growing Pains” possesses a greater degree of sonic density than previous COIN tunes. Winnen says the band began working on the track about a year ago.

“We even recorded it once, and it didn’t feel right,” he says. “We just revisited it only two months ago. Now, our team is excited about it, and we’re excited about it. That will be the first single of this year. We’re making a joke that it sounds like the more mature and kind of aggressive and wiser brother of ‘Talk Too Much.’ It feels like we’re growing up.”

Winnen says rest of the album will be written and recorded intermittently throughout the year.

“We’ll release music as we see fit,” says Winnen. “That will create what becomes the album. It’s less focused and less locked in the studio. We like to work when we’re moving.”