LA-based trio LANY have been racking up fans like few else. It’s been a bit of a surprise, says frontman Paul Klein.
Performing a One Direction cover at the end of a solo support gig was the moment soon-to-be LANY frontman Paul Klein realised going it alone was not what he'd hoped. "I just thought, ‘I don't ever want to do this again. If I'm going to do music I've got to do it with people because this just sucks'," he remembers, having moved to Los Angeles.
Several years later and, having returned to Nashville to make music with friends and now-bandmates Les Priest and Jake Goss, Paul is the vocalist and lyricist of effortlessly cool pop/R&B trio LANY. "I called Jake and asked if I could fly to Nashville to see what we could come up with. And if it was cool then maybe we'd start our own band." It turned out to be one of the most important calls Paul would make.
Within just six days of putting their first tracks online, the three-piece started getting record deal offers from some pretty big names in the industry. "It just took off, almost immediately," Paul recalls, having just been woken from his bunk on the tour bus. "Not that we were reaching millions of people, but we were reaching the right people."
Emails started flooding in from Polydor, Parlophone and Island Records, each showing interest and asking for more music. "I was pretty sure they were spam," Paul laughs. "I didn't think they were real at all. I hadn't even heard of Parlophone or Polydor – that's how unfamiliar I was with record labels." While the interest was there from the start, he still can't compute how everything snowballed so quickly.
"It's really fascinating because we had zero followers on our SoundCloud page. I don't know how people found us. It's a mystery," he considers, adding that their profile photo was originally of American basketball legends Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. "We were so anonymous in the beginning that a lot of people in Europe thought that that was us…"
It only takes a few seconds of listening to LANY to understand why their infectious, luxurious blend of R&B-infused pop – especially woozy breakthrough ‘ILYSB' – has such a mass appeal; so appealing, in fact, that their tracks have been played more than 100 million times on Spotify. At the heart of their stylish sound, though, is one ever-present topic.
"We write love songs – good love or bad love," Paul details. "They're all coming straight from my brain, my life and my experiences. Lyrically, it's like opening up a journal or diary of mine, and me letting you in." Though it's sometimes not so obvious, often masked by their dreamy synth-led exteriors, there's a sense of pain and upset at the heart of LANY's music.
"I guess when you listen to them most of the songs are pretty heartbreaking," Paul reflects. "I think music should make you feel, first of all," he suggests of his aim as a songwriter, adding "there's a lot of music that doesn't make me feel anything." While he knows some people will dance to their songs, he explains there's a deeper side. "Some people will cry to it; the songs don't feel depressing, but they're not like super happy. And I think people connect to that; although what I'm talking about is very universal, I think the way I say it is unique."
Influenced by songwriters like John Mayer - "he was everything to me when I was growing up," Paul gushes - it's no surprise the songs he writes in LANY are so soul-bearing and heartfelt. Frank Ocean, too, is a constant inspiration. "I think the way that Frank pushes boundaries, sonically, that's always in the back of my mind," he considers of his songwriting process. "I want to push boundaries, too, but at the same time stay true to my convictions."
Fast forward to 2017 and LANY are on the cusp of releasing their self-titled debut album, having played 117 shows across 12 countries in the last year alone. Written over 15 months alongside their endless touring schedule – by the end of this year they'll have done another 150 gigs - Paul says "it's a taken a bit, but it's all worked out nicely. Showing up to play sold out shows and seeing thousands of people turn up in the middle of nowhere, it just hits you. There have been a few moments where it's like, ‘We're a band, and this is a real thing'."
Rather than writing and recording on the road, their time away from the stage is mainly spent trying to catch up on sleep, travelling or doing interviews. Instead, the trio waited until they had a break from constant gigs to get back around the computer and flesh out ideas. "The second we would get off the road, we would dedicate all our time to it," Paul recalls, adding that they travelled back to Nashville for 13 days in 2016 to properly focus on the album. "We turned everything off, put our heads down and went for it," he recalls. "That's where we wrote five or six songs that made it on there. It's just been a slow build."
Although it's taken some time, LANY were never willing to rush anything out. "It was important for us that our debut album wasn't just a culmination of our best songs off our EPs surrounded by one or two new tracks, it would just feel so anti-climatic," Paul reveals, deep in thought. "And we believe in the songs, we worked our asses off," he enthuses passionately. "I think it's our best work."
But what is it about LANY that has sent them so stratospheric? "I would hope that it's because the music's good first of all," Paul pauses… "And that it comes across as being pure and honest. I think that's something that people appreciate. And they know that everything they see and hear from LANY is coming from the three of us – no-one else. Hopefully, that's easy to fall in love with."
Taken from the July issue of Dork, out now. LANY's self-titled debut album is out 30th June.