[Photo credit to Julia Weber]
By Sophia Hoffman, Promotions Director
Coastal Club is an indie surf rock band based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Formed in 2017, the group consists of Alex Mobley, Avery Benter, Alex Hirlinger and David McGuire. The self proclaimed “Queen City Quartet” headlined for the 2022 Lobsterfest season. Amidst sound checks, decorating, and running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I had a moment to sit down with the band before their set for an interview.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
Could you introduce yourselves and say what you do in the band?
Alex Mobley: My name is Alex, but most people call me Mobes. I play guitar in the band Coastal Club.
Avery Benter: My name is Avery and I play bass in the band Coastal Club.
Alex Hirlinger: My name is Alex and I play guitar and sing in the band Coastal Club.
David McGuire: And my name is David and I play drums sometimes in the band Coastal Club.
How did you start the band? How did it come to fruition?
Alex Mobley: Alex and I go way back. We were playing at churches for a while and essentially, we wanted to express ourselves musically because we were kind of getting limited in what we could do. We just started hanging out on Saturday nights in Alex’s garage in Indiana, and we just would play music. Someone would have a riff or something and we would slowly do voice memos and start to take it from there and that’s where a lot of early songs came from, but it really started as jamming as the origin.
Alex Hirlinger: Yeah, I would like to add that for the record to permanently be scrubbed that we started playing in churches. Please edit that out of the interview.
Avery Benter: 99% of Ohio musicians want to wipe that from the record.
Alex Hirlinger: I’m joking, though. Leave it in, but take it out.
You guys are a Cincinnati band. So, having Cincinnati as your home base, how has that influenced your sound?
Alex Hirlinger: Yeah, I think being a part of the Cincinnati music scene has been very instrumental to us as a band. I think that there’s a lot of other bands around the city that are doing similar enough things – not the exact same as what we’re doing – but similar things. We can be inspired by other local bands and the direction that they’ve taken and let that influence our music. There’s also a lot of great bands around Cincinnati that we get to play shows with, so we have great turnouts for shows and we have a really great community that builds each other up. I would say that contributes towards just a great overall music scene in Cincinnati.
Your single “Honey” has kind of blown up on Spotify. It has over 3 million streams.
Alex Hirlinger: Wow, that’s crazy. I didn’t know that much.
What was the process of recording that song and did you realize you had such a banger?
Avery Benter: I feel like that was one of those songs that was such a GarageBand-y song at the beginning. … We were still rehearsing in his parent’s garage in Indiana, and just started playing and I think that just came out of the jam originally. It’s kind of fun that it is the one that’s getting a lot of attention because it felt like it started just from us playing music together. Not bringing an idea, as much as it was just organic.
Alex Mobley: I think it gets all of us excited every time we play it live too. There’s an energy that happens. I think we felt that early on when we started recording and we felt it and took on some of that. It’s sort of an aggressive song where it pushes you and motivates you. So I feel like we add some of that into it.
Alex Hirlinger: I think it’s really interesting that the whole process of creating the most recent release that we’ve done, was a very long one. It was a lot of my iteration of trying to figure out why the songs didn’t sound the way that I wanted them to in my head. But I will also say that it’s really interesting because I wouldn’t have pegged that to be the song that got really popular. I think we were planning on like two or three other songs that I thought were gonna be the ones that really hit home for people. But at the end of the day, I think we make music and people connect with whatever they connect with and it’s cool to see what people do connect with.
Yeah, well, my mom really likes it.
Alex Hirlinger: Great! We earned one fan!
Back in February – I know this because this was back when I was searching for all the bands for Lobsterfest – you had 80,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Now you have over 100,000.
Avery Benter: Are you serious? I didn’t know that.
Alex Hirlinger: Wow. Okay, yeah.
What is that growth like? What is it like looking back from where you started to where you are now?
Alex Hirlinger: Yeah, well, you witnessed it in real time because I had no idea that it was that high. I have mixed feelings about measuring our band’s success by streaming numbers, but at the same time, it’s a very valid metric, and it’s just cool. Yeah, that’s really cool. I always hate when it becomes, for lack of a better word, a pissing contest. I don’t even know if that’s the right word. But a comparison of how many monthly listeners one band has versus another. I will say that it is very cool that people have connected with the songs that much. It makes me happy that so many people have heard the songs. It’s really, really cool.
Alex Mobley: I think it’s just really surprising because there were certain things that happened when we released it that didn’t allow us to go on playlists and certain things. We were kind of nervous how it would even receive. But naturally, it feels like for some reason people just listened and shared so we were just surprised, I think.
Avery Benter: Yeah, and the record dropped, mid-pandemic. Obviously we did a little livestream but as far as the ideal music release goes, it wasn’t at all. So, the fact that people still found it in the middle of that time, and listened to any of the songs and took value in them, it’s really cool because you work on something for more than a year and then it’s like, ‘and there goes our steam because we can’t even play a show right now.’
When did you first realize you wanted to write and play music?
David McGuire: I started playing drums when I was in fifth grade, and I was thinking about this the other day – someone asked me – and the reason I wanted to start playing drums was because me and my friends in school would make beats on the table all the time, and that’s kind of the reason. It’s something I haven’t thought about in a really long time. But it’s kind of that it came from people making music. I mean, it’s fifth graders, so, not good, but kind of that community. I mean, that was kind of always my goal. I would play songs with my older brother and playing with people is a totally different experience than sitting in a room by yourself with headphones.
Avery Benter: For me personally, it was when I found out that I had asthma. I couldn’t do the sports thing anymore. Sucking in every sport. That’s not actually my answer, but, yeah, kind of on the same thing. Once you realize that you’re into music, the dream is to go and play music with people that you love and you want to spend time with. So as soon as I realized that was a potential reality and we started playing music together, obviously I want to pursue that, you know? I want to do the thing that I love the most with people that I love the most and why wouldn’t I be stoked to do that?
Alex Mobley: I think we all have a sense of this, but a sense that if I wasn’t creating music, I would have to create something. There’s an outlet that has to happen. Without it, that’s a missing portion of me. I think music has been in all of our lives pretty long. I started playing piano classically really young and did not like that so it was kind of the disdain for those things that kind of pushed me to be able to play with other people and pursue music further, but I think it stems from that expression being all that I need in life. As much as I can do it, as often as I can. It’s that kind of thing.
Alex Hirlinger: I would agree, I would double everything that they’ve said so far. I think that we all probably had good parents that gave us outlets to express ourselves really young. I also learned the piano and how to play classically, really young and then shifted gear. I hated it, and so I shifted gears and went to playing electric guitar. I felt like I was a rock star playing along to old Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco records. And from that stemmed just a deep, intrinsic love for music. Like Avery said, once you get a taste of playing music that you love, with people that you love it’s intoxicating and you want more of it.
I was checking out your guys YouTube channel and I found some old vlogs.
Alex Hirlinger: Oh boy.
Alex Mobley: They’re my favorite. I watched them recently too.
There was one particular one, it was a Chicago vlog, and there was a whole ordeal where the car wouldn’t start.
Avery Benter: Yep.
Alex Hirlinger: Oh, yeah.
I was curious. I’m sure being on the road, you guys probably have some horror stories about traveling and touring. Is there one moment that really stands out to you?
Avery Benter: That was a big one. David and I got stuck on the side of a highway on the way back from Purdue. Our car just completely broke. No, we burst a tire.
David McGuire: Busted a tire and we got almost all the lug nuts off of it and couldn’t get one. I had AAA and he had roadside stuff through his insurance so we both called and then his insurance called back. They were like we can’t get anybody right now and AAA was like, it’s gonna be a long time. We were literally on the side of the road for four hours.
Avery Benter: It was from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and the best part is I just shot a text to my dad because we were going to be passing through their town, we had to drop something off to them or something, and I was like, ‘this is what’s happening to us’ and he left his house at 3 a.m. and beat the first tow truck to us. We were just sitting there, listening to Pete Holmes stand up specials, wanting to die.
David McGuire: It definitely sucked but it’s also fun to be able to tell the story.
Avery Benter: Yeah, we even said, ‘this is gonna be funny. Right now, it’s not funny, but in the future it will be.’ I feel like that’s definitely one of quite a few times that’s happened to all of us, especially with the van. Unfortunately, now we have to drive two different cars because that van went kaput three years ago.
Alex Mobley: My favorite part of the van was that at a certain mile an hour it would shake aggressively. I remember we were driving home from Chicago and it’s raining harder than it’s ever rained, they’re doing road work so the edge of the road is right there – you’re gonna go into a dip way down. I remember Alex sleeping next to me and semis are just whizzing by me. The car is shaking and I’m trying to stay on the road. I would swerve, everyone’s asleep and Alex would wake up from a deep sleep, and then he’d then just be back at it.
So another vlog question, in your vlog “Coastal Club Takes Chicago”, Alex states that “everybody can confidently say that listening to us play music is an emotional high like they’ve never experienced”
Avery Benter: I don’t remember that but I love it. That’s why I brought a camera. I haven’t gotten anything out of him today.
Alex Hirlinger: That’s amazing.
This made me curious as to a performance that you guys had where you just felt like this is amazing, like this is a dream moment?
Alex Mobley: I’ve got one off the top of my head. There was one show in particular at MOTR (Pub) where there were a lot of people there, but people were singing along to the songs. That was the first time I think we all noticed that or it was very recognizable. That was just a big shift. We were like, ‘oh my God, we’re connecting with people and they’re singing along.’ It meant something to them – the songs – and it felt like we were connecting in a more true way.
Alex Hirlinger: One that comes to mind for me is a college show. Do you guys remember where it was?
Avery Benter: With the basement? That was at Valparaiso.
Alex Hirlinger: It was in a frat house basement at Valparaiso. Everyone in the room knew our songs. It was two or three hours away from Cincinnati and they were just going absolutely nuts, like mosh pitting, which is not –
Avery Benter: That’s how you can tell he’s never talked about mosh pits before. Mosh pitting?
Alex Hirlinger: That’s how you can tell I’ve never been in a mosh pit.
Alex Hirlinger: I crowd surfed for the first time at that show. People were just losing their minds and it was a really great experience because that’s not at all what we were expecting. We were like ‘what the heck are we walking into? We’re walking into some dude’s frat house that is so disgusting. I can’t believe they live there.’
Avery Benter: The stage was tables. Like the stage was literally tables. It had a bunch of old beer bottle caps that were epoxied. I was like ‘I don’t think I should be standing on this but I’m gonna also jump on this?’
Alex Hirlinger: Yeah it was crazy. At the end they were all chanting ‘Coastal Club’ and it was just amazing. Such a great show.