Lead singer Chase Lawrence talks tour life, "frontman duties", and what's next for the rising indie-pop band.
Lead singer Chase Lawrence talks tour life, "frontman duties", and what's next for the rising indie-pop band.
Text: Gillian Rivera
When I first connect with COIN lead singer Chase Lawrence, he is chasing after his one and two-year old niece and nephew. Fresh off a sold-out North American run of shows, the singer has headed back to his home state of West Virginia for some R&R before heading to meet his band. The group just toured their sophomore album How Do You Know If You Never Try, which came out last April. The album was a quick follow-up to their self-titled debut album, which dropped in 2015. The quick release was not instinctual, but rather a push from their record label, Columbia.
After a short but cramped three-month run of their debut album, the group was hesitant as to whether they were going to make it. "It was just sad when we realized when we were in the middle of this tour and we realized the song wasn’t on the radio anymore, and we don't really look at statistics like that very much but we got a call from someone at our label, and they were like, 'I think we’re gonna have you guys start writing new music'," says Lawrence.
Nonetheless, COIN swung back hard. "Talk Too Much", which they performed last night on Last Call with Carson Daly, has taken over the airwaves, stealing a spot on Top 10 Alternative Radio. Their latest single, "Growing Pains", is a wavy alt-pop track, and another step into self-discovery for the group's potential sounds. Now, COIN is putting the finishing touches on the third album, basing their work off the simple principle, "If it feels good, it is good." Lawrence lets me play therapist as we chat about the unexpected outcomes of life on the road, self-doubt, and the complexities of feeling stuck.
You just wrapped up a sold-out North American tour. How are you feeling?
I feel, I don’t know, I feel good. I feel like when you’re kinda in the middle of it, it’s hard to understand what’s happening. But now looking back on it, it’s unbelievable to see what actually happened. It's pretty amazing, I’m pretty proud of what we did actually. It’s not often you get to see these thing unfold in real time. You’re working so close to something, like every inch of a mile, but this time we actually get to see it actually happen before our eyes and I think that’s pretty cool.
Is there anything you do to wind down from life on the road?
Yeah, we all read and some of us cook. But honestly, we all make a lot of music. It’s funny because people think you need a hobby outside your job or whatever, but a hobby is just another version of our job. We all write a lot, and honestly it’s funny how you can write something for yourself or not for yourself, and it almost freezes you in a way. So doing the same thing, but maybe no pretense or purpose behind it. But sometimes it might end up being something that you end up using, but it’s special that you can do your job but not do it for a purpose.
How Do You Know If You’ll Never Try is your second full-length LP. How did touring your first album and seeing the success of that propel your decisions and moves for your second album?
It’s funny because there was a time in between the first and second album when we really wanted to quit. I think it almost didn't seem like it was worth it. I mean it’s never easy for anyone, but for us specifically, there was this time that we felt like we couldn’t do this anymore, maybe it was something that happened. And then on that day, we wrote "Talk Too Much", the day we were like, “Maybe we should hang it up.” And then slowly but surely, we started getting our lives back. I’m learning that you hit these moments, these amazing motivational boosts and these little glimpses of what it could be, and you just have to hold those close and they keep you going. There was "Talk Too Much", it was just a song, and now it’s a tour, and it’s like you go in these peaks and have these really long valleys, but the peaks have to sustain you in those valleys if that makes sense.
What made you guys unsure?
I think the cycle for the first album ended in three months, and not that we weren’t grateful for everything that it did for us, but we toured so aggressively, and in those three months, we were gone for three months straight, opening for every band you can imagine. And it was just sad when we realized when we were in the middle of this tour and we realized the song wasn’t on the radio anymore, and we don't really look at statistics like that very much but we got a call from someone at our label, and they were like, “I think we’re gonna have you guys start writing new music.” And we’re like, “Oh my gosh, we just put this album out.” And it felt very defeating, but you have to look on the bright side at that moment. A month later, we were like, “Maybe this is not what we’re supposed to be doing.” I started shifting gears, and we’re like, let’s give it one more try. You’re in your Eleventh Hour. You step up and write something that’s gonna help shift everything.
How has that pressure been, now that you’re signed to a record label and you have all these people in your ear, what has that been like for you?
I used to think that record labels had a magic wand they would wave over artists to give them exposure and success and notoriety, but it’s only as much as you care. All you can do is be a megaphone, an amplifier to what you do. We’ve been so grateful for our experience with Columbia because all they've done is literally be that. They’ve been just like a mouthpiece for us in a way to amplify what we’re already doing. They let us do exactly what we want to do, exactly how we want to do it, they just let us do it on a bigger scale than we ever imagined we could. People have these horror stories of record labels telling them what to wear, who to be, and for us, our experience has been so the anthesis. Not that they don't critique and develop and construct, but they’re not hands-on and micromanagers. They’re like, “We like what you’re doing, we just want to help you get there faster, on a bigger and grander scale.” I think it’s the healthiest relationship we can have with our record label. And the pressure is definitely along with it because it was never safe. Ultimately, they are a company. When you realize that Columbia Records are the same company owned by Sony, that owns Playstation, you realize it really is about the bottom line at the end of the day. But we’re so lucky to have people that never talk to us about money, and they’re just like, “We want to see your vision come through.” We’ve been so lucky for that.
In a lot of your tracks you talk about being stuck, whether it’s in relationships or in a town, like "Time Machine" and "Hannah". Why is that such an anchor for you?
I’m from a very small town in West Virginia, where I grew up. I still go back there a lot, my family’s still there, and I still see people, especially when I was writing this album. I was writing and recording and just demoing and hanging out with my family, and I would see the people that I grew up with constantly. Whether I just go to Starbucks or go to a coffee shop, and I would see people I grew up with and still see them in the exact same space that I left them in four years earlier, which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with it. I don’t really know the story but I kind of write their story in a sense. "Hannah" is about a girl named Hannah that I knew and went to high school with, and I thought she could just do anything, but she’s still in my hometown. There’s nothing wrong with that, happiness is happiness, but the story’s not totally true. I write this whole cautionary tale around Hannah. I think that’s such a thing for me, I feel like everyone deserves to see the world and give their best to it, but if they’re happy where they’re happy, that’s fine. That’s where it comes from, people never get out of our small little town. It’s not even that small, but it’s small enough to keep you in, but I guess big enough also to keep you in.
Has that feeling subsided at all being since being on tour?
In a way, it almost makes you feel more stuck sometimes. You’re repeating the same night from city to city, and as amazing as it is, it can get monotonous, you have to find ways to break it. When I finished the last show on this last tour, I was so excited, but for some reason, the last two shows were some of my favorite shows of the whole tour. But you have every move calculated, and you feel like you're feel stuck in a very different way. A new kind of stuck. I’m just realizing that now, I am stuck in this mindset quite often. I’m finding new ways to be stuck in different mindsets. Thank you, this is like psychotherapy or something.
I'm glad I could be that for you. What is the hardest lesson you had to learn about living on the road, something no one prepared you for?
There’s so many things that people did warn me about, but the one thing that no one ever told me was how lonely it can get. Even when you’re around people that love you endlessly, and you're with your crew, which is your family, and your band, which is also your family, you can get lonely around people. I’m sure everyone can relate to that to some capacity. It’s weird when you have everything you want and basically everyone you love in one place and you still can feel a little alone, and it ends up doing exactly what you want to do. I guess I never pictured that. You picture playing sold-out theaters, on a bus, and you think about these amazing things that can happen, but you don’t ever picture that mental toll that can take on you, which sounds so crazy to think it has a mental toll on you, but it really does.
Another thing is the pressure, I don’t think I ever realized the difference in energy that it takes to play in front of 1,200 to 2,000 people than it does to play in front of 500 people. It literally takes double the amount of energy to play in front of that many people. And the set gets longer, there are so many more factors. There’s much more thought that goes into playing to that many more people because you have to play to the back of the room. If there’s gonna be that many people in the room, there’s gonna be more people that may just know one song, one or two songs, that have just come with their friends maybe or something. You have to really try to win over everyone in the audience. That weighs on me in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever considered anything like that. I was like yeah, we’ll play in front of 2000 people, all 2000 people are going to be there only for us and only to see every single song and sing every word. A lot of people are there because they’re supporting someone else, not a lot of people but you know. Those people are really important to me and I want to win over every single person. Give them the night that they came for. Such a crazy thing to say.
In the "Talk Too Much" visual, there’s a snippet centered around you being the frontman, where we see you performing "Frontman Duties". Do you feel any kind of resentment towards that role?
No. Maybe a long time ago, but I’ve grown into it. I think that video is definitely a parody of what the archetype of a band is. I’ve grown into the role in a way that I don’t think that others have before. The four of us share it in a weird way. Not just like we all run around the stage the whole time and are jumping on the barricade and crowdsurfing, but in a way we all share the attention and are the mouthpiece and the voice to the band. So it never just falls on me to be the visionary and be the Primadonna. We all take turns being that person, I think. And also we have a close relationship with our fans that not one of us is on this pedestal compared to everyone else. We share it. I think that’s what makes us potentially different than other bands.
Going back to the music, what are you guys working on right now?
We’re in the midst of recording it right now. We’re going back and forth between Nashville and LA. I’m recording a lot in my bedroom. "Growing Pains" is all recorded basically in my bedroom. It’s basically all done, it’s just a matter of refining now. We’re just gonna release a lot of songs one at a time, and then that will lead into an album now probably. I don’t want to say when, but I think pretty soon.
What are your next moves, what do you want to do with this next album?
We’re just trying not to think about anything right now. I think in the past I’ve suffered from overthinking a lot. Not so much with How Do You Know If You Never Try. The first album, I really overthought a lot of things and maybe took the special out a couple things because I was scared to fully go somewhere, and I think we’re gonna really try for whatever comes out naturally, not try to mold it too much, and just try to leave it for what it is. And if it feels good, it is good. That’s the mentality that we’ve gone into with this album.