The popular music world ain't an easy one to conquer in the era of a million bedroom-pop boys mixing beats that go viral overnight and fans being sick of wannabe Coldplay-meets-Tame Impala-inspired indie lads. If you wanna make it, you need to hit the right notes on every track.
For the past six years, that's exactly what LANY have been doing. Since their 2017 self-titled debut LP, the heartfelt 'Malibu Nights', to 'mama's boy', they've mastered their sound and matured enough to dig back into the past.
"Here we are on a Zoom call. I'm sure you'd prefer to do this in real life, so would I, but we're just taking what's been given to us and making the most of it," frontman Paul Klein opens.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. In LANY's case, if you feel a hometown-sized weight on your chest, while playing in front of thousands of fans, you break your ribs open and put your heart into your best album yet. Even if it hurts.
"I was challenging myself: how can I be vulnerable on this album like I was on 'Malibu Nights', but maybe in a broader spectrum that really covers the human experience?" Klein shares on the new record. Though written in Nashville, recorded in Los Angeles and polished over hours of online chats, it's Tulsa that gave it its identity.
"To be honest, in the beginning, we didn't really want anyone to know where we were from. We left our own town for a reason because we wanted something different, but as you go around the world and build this fanbase, it becomes a little clearer that maybe you should let people know where you're from," he admits.
Wanting to be real with fans, he escaped from LA's benchmark 'perfect' realness to reconnect with his roots. At least for a while. "I love Oklahoma, I've learnt to appreciate where I'm from and my upbringing. Do I want to go back? Hell no, I'm never going back. I'm proud that I got out," Paul confesses on something that anyone leaving their small-town sceneries to follow grander dreams would relate to.
Great success requires great sacrifice, especially if you're a touring musician. For a chance to see the world and play on international stages, you get a half a year away from your loved ones. This kind of pain is more challenging to pour into a song than a relationship drama. "I would say that the easiest album in the entire world to write is a heartbreak album, a break-up album. You've got infinite emotions at your dispense. I mean you can write so many songs about getting dumped, but it's not easy to be equally vulnerable about 'Hey mum and dad, you're not gonna be here one day. Like, one day I'm gonna have to put you in the ground'," Paul's voice cracks. "That sounds so crazy. I know that families aren't perfect and everyone's got a different story, but I wanna end on good terms," he finishes.
'Mama's boy' was not only a chance for Paul to reconcile with family but with his past self and deep-down fears. In 'cowboy in la' he retraces his first steps in a city of angels. 'I still talk to jesus' and 'you!' are conceptually worship songs that preach the power of love and feature, for the first time on LANY's songs, acoustic guitar. 'Heart won't let' dwells on the inability to let go. 'Good guys' lets out the frustration of the moment when you realise that the person you're dating values chase more than the connection.
"Obviously, I don't fully believe that because it'd be really a short-sighted depressing life perspective, but I do think that giving somebody too much time, too much affection, or being too available for whatever reason pushes the other person away," Paul comments.
Still, out of 14 tracks, it's 'you!' that's splendid on a larger scale. Both when it comes to poem-like lyrics and video for it, featuring band smashing it out in the middle in of the desert and Paul crying out words while rocking baby blue dress. "I wanted to write something that can be about anyone or anything. It just basically captured the essence of love and finding something that ultimately completes you; that's the sun to the moon," he explains.
LANY's third LP sets the bar higher than anything they've recorded before. "In the past, we kind of let our limitations define our art. We fought really, really hard to be able to afford to make an album that we'd love to make and dreamed of making. The first album was made in the kitchen or the bedroom on the computer," Paul shares.
Remembering cramped rooms they kicked off their careers in, LANY's team wanted to use, now available, studio resources to the maximum. "Everyone came with one goal in mind, and that was to make a modern classic. Make a bulletproof album that existed outside of 2020. We wanted to make something that ultimately gets better with every listen," Paul says, continuing: "We have a bandana as our icon. A sun-faded bandana. It gets better with wearing. It gets better with time. That's really the album that we wanted to make. Music that gets just better and better with each listen."
It's a ballsy plan in pandemic-haunted times. Especially when the music scene is overcrowded with thousands of potential new breakthrough bands, trying to steal your heart and streams.
Perhaps LANY will be able to deliver what we deserve the most right now: a chance to enjoy ourselves and take a break from the mayhem outside. Even if for a while. "We need some life, some hope and some wholesome material and just some shit that feels good. That's what I feel called to do and bring to the table. To entertain and take people's minds off how broken the system is," Paul shares.
No matter if 'mama's boy' will become a classic record or not. Paul is starting to realise that it's the artist who foremostly should be satisfied with his work. "That's one thing I'm learning this year – I can't please everybody. It's impossible to. At the end of the day, I just really have to be proud of my own work and please myself. And if you like it, you like it. If you don't that's fine too," he says.
While perfecting his own art and learning to channel the inside voice outside, it seems like it's not as easy for Paul to tune in to his contemporaries. "It's been weird. I've been searching for some new stuff and looking for new artists to come on the scene to push the boundaries more, not even that. Just deliver. There are just albums made in the past that I consume and I think are great, just full of great songs that I'm trying to fill my mind and my brain with," he says.
Though Paul's willing to make an exception for a few of his favourite artists, like Lauv with whom LANY recorded viral 'Mean It' last year, or Ed Sheeran. "I feel like he's such a talented songwriter. It's unbelievable." Paul shares that he'd love to write a song with the red-headed pop star, but underlining that he's not really looking to ride on the coattails of people's success.
There's no need to do that, anyway. On 'Malibu Nights', the guys from LANY have proved to be well-rounded performers and professionals, and 'mama's boy' only solidifies it. Now, they're ready to rule world stages again, aiming for spring 2021. Whether it'd be an online or real-life tour, LANY's motivated to share new music with fans, and not to spoil the surprise, but the fourth album might be coming sooner than we'd expect. "This will be a first time when we put out an album and have plans to start writing a fourth one, which feels bizarre, but like I said we have to pivot and take the cards that we're dealt. If we can't go on tour, we may as well keep on writing some great songs," Paul reveals.
Many bands being in LANY's position would've taken it as a peak of their career. When you've reached millions of people, saw the world and put out two well-received records, is there more to dream of? According to LANY, yes. It's their faith in what they do and determination to become the best version of themselves that took them this far. Naturally, it's hard to know when to stop.
"In the past, I've been obsessed with trying to be the best band in the world, but if you'd ask a 100 people what the best band in the world was, they'd all have a different answer. Really what I'm becoming more obsessed is becoming the most improved band in the world, and I would say without the doubt that we are the most improved band in the world and on the planet. If you listen to the first EPs to 'mama's boy' you could make an argument that it's not even the same three guys," Paul comments.
Despite coming off as immersed in their own world of sounds and visions, LANY's obsession with mastering their craft comes as a response to their mass of devoted followers. "We're signing tens of thousands of these albums. It really shows how amazing the fans are, how invested. I can't say thank you enough. It brings me so much joy. It sounds dumb, but it brings me so much joy to sit here and just sign so many posters because each one is a person and that person is so important to me, and to this band. We fought hard for every single one of these fans. It means everything to me," Paul says.
Taken from the October issue of Dork. LANY's album 'mama's boy' is out 2nd October.
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