“I’ve always fallen head first into any relationship,” begins LANY frontman Paul Klein, discussing the emotions that fuel LANY’s passionate, hazy and enthralling debut album. “I only know two speeds: 0 and 100.”
The topic of accelerating from 0 to 100 might just as easily be applied to his band’s extraordinary rise. When Klein and bandmates Les Priest and Jake Goss put their first song online in 2014 they had no social followers, no fans and no photos; within weeks their play counts were leaping up exponentially, and their take on modern alternative-pop was building up a steady following.
By the time LANY formally released the first in a series of EPs the band had established their own lane on music’s crowded highway. Billboard praised the group’s “lush, luxuriant” alternative sound when ‘I Loved You’ dropped; by 2016, and the release of Where The Hell Are My Friends, The Line Of Best Fit were praising LANY’s music for its “swooning melange of gilded vocals, spidery riffs, and dusky synths”. “Apart from sounding amazing overall,” Nylon added, “the trio go the extra mile in everything they do, including curating their website and merchandise to fit their minimalist aesthetic.”
Flashforward to the summer of 2017 and the band have now finished a debut album whose recording — vocals and instruments captured through smartphone apps, songs recorded as they were written then pulled together on antiquated old PC software — reflects the spontaneity and impulsiveness of the love stories bursting out of every song. These stories are relayed in relatable and conversational lyrics and song titles (‘So, Soo Pretty’, ’Dumb Stuff’, ‘ILYSB’) that could have been lifted directly from a lovesick SMS, email subject line or Instagram caption.
Paul, Les and Jake met through (rather than at) Nashville’s Belmont University — they were there at different times — but knew each other as familiar faces on the Nashville music circuit. “When we lived there it was still a relatively small town and you'd see the same faces the whole time,” Paul recalls. “I'd know who played guitar or who played drums — and I knew Jake, for instance, was THE drummer.”
When Paul and Jake became friends, Paul found that Jake lived in a house with four other guys, and one of them Les. At this point Paul was doing what he now describes as “solo singer songwriter stuff”. “It wasn’t great,” he admits, “and neither was my career trajectory. Something deep inside my gut told me to move to Los Angeles.” But relocating to LA didn’t open as many doors as he’d hoped. Most doors, in fact, slammed shut. “I had no plans. I had no job. I had nothing. I applied to work in grocery stores, got turned down. I applied to wash the plates at Whole Foods, got turned down. Applied to be a bank teller, didn’t get it.” The music career wasn’t going much better: the low point came when a friend asked him if he’d be interested in a support slot at the House of Blues in West Hollywood. “I had to find a drummer, rent him a drum pad, pay for his gas,” Paul recalls. “I lost $400 and halfway through the set I thought in my head: I am never doing this again.”
At this point he made a realisation that would become something of a mantra during his time in LANY: “Do what your gut says, and if it sucks get out.” So in March 2014, having followed his gut to LA he called Jake and Les, who were still making music back in Nashville, and asked if he could come visit and write songs with them. Within two days of
being together the trio who’d become LANY had recorded two songs: ‘Hot Lights’ and ‘Walk Away’.
The band thrived within the harsh parameters of their barebones musical setup: a copy of pretty much defunct production software on a knackered old Dell computer, bolstered by drum and synth apps on their iPhones. Much of the music that propelled them to multi- million-stream success was recorded out of aux sockets. “It was very do it yourself,” Klein smiles. “We were led by conviction and instinct — writing and recording simultaneously. We didn't demo anything. We had zero followers on Twitter, SoundCloud or Instagram. We just decided: let's make a band, stick the music online ourselves, and see what happens.”
The band were right to trust their instincts. Six days later they got an email from a record label. “It was so unexpected that I thought it was spam,” Paul laughs. “Then next day other labels emailed. There was only one person I knew who might know if the emails were genuine, and he [Rupert Lincoln] became our manager.” Emails from across the Atlantic took a slightly surreal turn on account of the placeholder image the band had chosen to accompany their SoundCloud: there weren’t any band photos yet, so they just used a photo they quite liked of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. “People in Europe thought the photo was of LANY,” Paul laughs. “They kept asking: who are you, what are you, where are you, what else have you got?”
Many bands in LANY’s position, on the precipice of hugeness with several EP and single releases under their belts, would simply collect those tracks together, chuck in a new song and call it an album. LANY have taken a different route: from early releases it’s only ‘ILYSB’ that makes its way onto an otherwise fresh collection of songs. And while it might feel counterintuitive for a band so rooted in modern music discovery to craft an album when headlines all around us scream about the album format being dead, LANY see this album as a statement. “I understand our fanbase and I know they're starving for a bigger body of work to get lost in,” Paul explains. “We're creating a world of LANY that people exist in, identify with and discover themselves through, and you can't do that exclusively in a four-track EP. The pendulum always settles. Right now it might have swung over to ‘let's release a song a month! Let's never release albums!’ But that pendulum will always find its way back to a centre where an album, for all eternity, will have some sort of value. Maybe even the most value. I mean I could be wrong. Who knows? We're all guessing aren't we?”
For a shot in the dark, LANY’s album is something of a triumph, underpinned by distinctive, wistful lyrics that continue to set LANY apart from their peers. “It wasn't a conscious decision to write such conversational lyrics, but I've definitely noticed most people don't do it,” Klein adds. “I know we're different, because people tell me we're different, but we never tried to be. I never set out to be a conversational songwriter, but why not just sing something like I say it?”
The result is an album packed with truth, and light on ambiguity. “Some writers aren’t even sure what their lyrics mean until after they're written, and only then do they attach meaning,” Paul adds. “I know what I mean, and I'm going to say it. That's the only thing that makes sense to me.”