“Wow, oh my God. Who made your pants? I want those pants,” says LANY lead singer Paul Klein as I walk into Universal Music’s headquarters in Sydney. For the record I was wearing a white pair of wide-leg jeans from Sass & Bide while he donned an oversized purple hoodie – I was open for a trade.
Upon meeting the LA-based singer-songwriter and despite a fan base well into the millions, it was already apparent of how down to earth the 31-year-old was. Hailing from California, indie-pop band LANY – Paul Klein and his band members Charles “Les” Priest and Jake Goss – have made their way to Australia this week to share their latest album, Malibu Nights.
Stemming from the depths of devastating heartbreak after splitting with Dua Lipa back in 2017, Klein turned to music. 48 days later and Malibu Nights was born. Featuring soul moving lyrics supported by signature drum loops and smooth piano melodies, the sophomore album is as easy-listening as it is dance and according to the musician, “we absolutely smashed the second album.” Performing songs from Malibu Nights as well as older hits including ‘Super Far’, the music trio are garnering a strong and passionate following across the world. Having performed 80 shows out of a planned 100, Klein says “Home is a LANY show…” and I’m inclined to agree.
ICON: LANY has been together for five years now. How do you know your fellow band mates? Where did the idea to form a band stem from?
Paul Klein: “We went to school in Nashville but we didn’t event go to school together but we all met in Nashville and were friends. And then when I moved to LA Jake and Les started making music the day I left which was kind of funny … they were starting to put stuff up on the internet – this is when music blogs were really steamy at the time and you could get write ups… So I called Jake and I was like, ‘Yo, I really like what you’re doing. Can I fly back to Nashville for a few days and write some songs with you guys and if it works out then we can start a band?’ “
ICON: Talk to me about your writing process. I believe you wrote the second album in 48 days?
PK: “They’re completely different, we have two albums, a few EP’s. Up until Malibu Nights, every song had a different story a little bit but mainly on the first album every song started with some sort of drum loop that Jake or Les would build and I would write the chords, then the melody around that and throw in the lyrics. But with Malibu Nights it was just different and I basically wrote every song on the piano first. So that was my approach, writing it on the piano and then taking the song to the studio and making it…”
ICON: After such a successful first album, what was the pressure like to back it up and come out with a killer sophomore album?
“I never even thought about it. I was writing those songs out of almost necessity to staying alive, I had my heart completely shattered.”
PK: “I never even thought about it. I was writing those songs out of almost necessity to staying alive, I had my heart completely shattered. Going into the studio everyday kind of saved me and putting out a great sophomore album was literally the last thing on my mind, the least of my concerns which I’m very thankful and lucky for now because we absolutely smashed the second album.”
ICON: Your latest album explores a recent break up. Writing the songs is one thing but performing them to sold out venues is another. What is it like to show that much vulnerability and transparency to the public eye?
PK: “I don’t know any other way to do it. All the artists that I have looked up to and respected and to a certain extent glorified, were people who were able to put their heart on paper and put their feelings into their songs. I don’t get into music where I don’t know what they’re talking about, it just doesn’t really connect to me. Also because we have played so many shows, I know that when I’m writing a song I’m already envisioning what it’s going to be like to play it live. They just kind of go hand in hand. It doesn’t scare me and I feel really thankful because I feel like we live in a society and especially culture in 2019 where it’s OK to talk about what you’re going through and feeling and thinking and people seem to really praise that vulnerability and honesty.”
ICON: What have you learned about yourself since the breakup?
“…that was the first girl I’ve ever loved and so that was my first time dealing with the whole, I dunno it just hit different.”
PK: “I deleted all of social media off my phone for the first six months of 2018 – not saying that everyone should do that or anyone needs to do that – but for me it was exactly what my soul needed. I feel like I have grown so much as a person and as an artist going through… that was the first girl I’ve ever loved and so that was my first time dealing with the whole, I dunno it just hit different. I don’t know, I think I went through that pain really well if I can say that. I could’ve turned to a lot of different things, substances or sex or things to distract myself but I let myself really feel it and then just put myself in the studio and tried to literally make zero mistakes and I did pretty good.”
ICON: Your combined following across social media is well into the millions. Did you ever think you’d gain this sort of fame?
PK: “No, I never thought of it like that. Obviously, it’s cool to see the fanbase grow but it’s not why we started this thing. We did it because we just liked writing songs and making music and then of course you want people to like it and to enjoy it and to come on the journey with you. So now, it’s amazing that we have millions, but I wish we had like a billion. I want to reach everybody, I want everyone on our team and I want everyone to be a part of our family.”
ICON: Talk to me about your collaborative track with Julia Michaels. Who reached out to who? How did the song come about?
PK: “So even before 2018, it was at the end of 2017, I expressed to Rupert (Paul’s manager) that I wanted to try some new things. I hadn’t really done the ‘write with other people’ thing before. I had written most of the songs off the first album just up in a bedroom somewhere. So there was songwriters I was really keen on writing with and working with and she was one of them so she agreed to a couple of days… It was in January when I was writing Malibu Nights, we just came into a room like this, just me and her, no one else and the first day we wrote ‘okay’ and the next day we wrote another song together. It was just really natural and really effortless and she’s an incredible songwriter for sure.”
ICON: Your fans stretch from Russia to Indonesia. How does the crowd in Australia differ from other countries?
“It’s amazing, you can basically go anywhere in the world and you go to a LANY show anywhere in the world and it feels like home…”
PK: “It’s so funny that, the crowds are really universal. It’s amazing, you can basically go anywhere in the world and you go to a LANY show anywhere in the world and it feels like home which is something that has kind of dawned on me as of recent because we are playing 100 shows this year. Tonight is our 79th show on the world tour… Home is a LANY show.”
ICON: As a band, what has been your biggest career highlight to date?
PK: “We played main stage Coachella which being a Californian band and getting that placement and look was amazing. But you know what, to play 100 shows this year is really iconic and to finish it the way that we’re finishing it – it’s just a huge accomplishment – so once we’re done with this, we’ll give ourselves a pat on the back.”
ICON: In a recent interview you mentioned that LANY is still not widely played on the radio. Why do you think radio is still an important platform for music, despite the growth of streaming?
PK: “That’s interesting because we just read an article, radio listenership is up … so people are listening to the radio more then ever. Radio is important. It’s just getting you in front of hella’ people so we’ll take that any day. We want to reach people…”
ICON: The music scene particularly in LA is quite saturated with a constant stream of up-and-coming artists. As a band how do you make sure you stand out?
“I mean everyone is making music right now. Do you have a band? You could leave this interview and write a song and put it on Spotify and probably get on ‘New Music Friday’.”
PK: “I mean everyone is making music right now. Do you have a band? You could leave this interview and write a song and put it on Spotify and probably get on ‘New Music Friday’. So everyone and their mum is now an artist so the most important thing that you can have in 2019/2020 is artistic identity. I think that sounds really cliché and simple but you need to be yourself. You need to know who you are and then you need to be you. If you listen to everything and be like, ‘What is working? What [are] people gravitating towards? Oh my God trap beats is so in fashion right now. Let’s make trap albums.’ No, sorry, there is somebody who’s really good at making trap albums. You need to make the album that you want to make and write the songs that you want to write.”
ICON: How would you describe LANY’s musical identity?
PK: “That’s the thing. It’s hard for me to put into words but I just know that it’s us. If you listen to us, you know a LANY song the second you hear it. I’m not the best singer in the world but I have a very unique timbre to my vocal… We have a sound, that’s Jake’s drums, those are LANY’s senses.”
LANY will wrap up its Australian tour in Perth this Sunday. For more from LANY, visit their website here.