The first time I met LANY lead singer, Paul Klein, was in the headquarters of Universal Music in Sydney. Just over a year ago, the band were touring their sophomore album and breakup banger, Malibu Nights. The Los Angeles-based band played to a sold out crowd later that day. In 2020 for the release of the hotly-anticipated third album, mama’s boy – a far more lighthearted collection songs “for everyone” – I sit in my makeshift home office, while Klein loops in from LA for a Zoom call.
Following on from our first deep-and-meaningful on heartbreak, we continue the conversation 12 months later on what it means to come from a small town. In early May, the band posted to Instagram, explaining that their latest album would return to their country roots, but according to the front man, it is much more about their transformative years. From sharing a small one-bedroom apartment to touring around the globe, owning homes and building families, Klein is now chasing perfectionism through music. What is that exactly?
As mama’s boy drops around the globe, ICON speaks to the lead on growing up in a small country town, inspirations and the notion of perfectionism.
ICON: It is so great to be speaking with you since your last trip Down Under – the world has changed so much since that gig in Sydney. How transformative have these past 12 to 15 months been for you?
Paul Klein: “It’s been crazy. I don’t know how much it’s permanently changed for my take on everything, we’re talking about COVID here. I have tried to make it sure it doesn’t permanently change my attitude and my outlook on life. I’m trying to stay positive and optimistic and hopeful that this will pass as well. But it sucks, it sucks for everyone. We love to play shows, our livelihood is completely contingent on upon how many people we can cram into a room on any given night, and we can’t do that anymore. On top of that, we work so hard and dig so deep and try to make the best music possible and you really only feel that validation when you play live and see how much it means to people personally and individually so it’s tough because there’s no real payoff for me.
“You just make music and hope people like it, you put it on the internet.”
Congratulations on mama’s boy. In our last chat, you told me how you were writing the songs of your last album as a necessity to staying alive after having your heart broken. What has inspired this latest album?
PK: “I think Malibu Nights, I was incredibly honest and vulnerable, and people really connected with that and I appreciated doing that as well. So, my challenge was how do I go even deeper and be even more honest and transparent but outside of the realms of the container of heart break and being disappointed.
I made myself acutely aware of every nuance and emotion when we were on tour and thoughts that would go through my head. I was incredibly diligent in keeping notes and ideas in my phone as we went around the world on tour and so when we went to Nashville just to start writing, we weren’t planning to write it in two weeks, we were just going for two weeks and would focus on writing songs. The first day and the first song we wrote was, ‘if this is the last time’ and that just came straight from my phone.
I want to reach a broader audience and people, I think Malibu Nights was amazing, if you had been broken up with, that was your album. But if you hadn’t been broken up with, you wouldn’t necessarily get it. With this album, there are 14 songs, all 14 different songs that are completely independent of each other. I feel confident there is a song for everyone.”
This album is still quite emotional like your past work but has a light hearted, rejoiceful feel to it. What do you hope listeners take from it?
PK: “Just that I don’t have an agenda. At the end of the day we just want to be listenable. When I look back at the impact music has had on my life, that was the importance that it played, it enhanced my life experience. It made my time in the car or on the train or walking around better. It made the moments with my friends better, the moments with my loved ones better. That’s really what it is about.”
When you announced, ‘mama’s boy’ on Instagram, you said you wanted to make it “as perfect as possible”. What is perfection to you?
PK: “Well it’s unachievable, it’s perfectionism. There’s no such thing as being perfect but I do think when we turned in our first album I was like, ‘This is not perfect’. Our debut album had a lot of room for improvement and growth and I held on to those emotions. I don’t ever want to feel that again. So, when we went into the studio to make Malibu Nights, we worked on it until it was “perfect”, to when we all felt it was complete and we did the exact same thing for mama’s boy. We chased every idea down and tried everything we could. You know when it’s done, and you throw your hands up because it’s definitely done.”
How many songs did it take until you landed the final set list?
PK: “I’m not like that, with Malibu Nights there was probably like two or three or four songs that didn’t make it onto the album. Here I think there’s probably like 10-15 that didn’t make it onto the album.”
You also spoke about returning to your roots. As someone who is also from a small country town, I believe that is a beautiful notion. What was the catalyst moment to steer the album that way?
PK: “The whole roots narrative and the whole family narrative had kind of taken off more than I would have liked for it too. There’s only one song on the album about our parents and I do talk about Oklahoma and cowboy in LA and things like that but to answer your question, it is a thing right? You’re from a small town, you probably moved to a bigger city and often times you don’t really love where you’re from. When I moved to California, I never felt proud to say I was from Oklahoma, I don’t know why. I guess I felt insecure about it, I didn’t think it was that impressive or important. Then there was a moment when our band had a stop and I was like ‘Wow, all three of us are from the middle of nowhere, none of our parents are rich or famous. We all lived in a one-bedroom apartment sleeping on the floor on top of each other and now two of the guys in the band are married, life is flourishing, and they have their own homes.’
We’re travelling around the world and we have a really beautiful fan base and I was like, ‘Oh my god, and I’m from Oklahoma’. So, there’s this point when someone in LA would ask me where I am from and it shifted and I would say I’m from Oklahoma. It felt really encouraging and inspiring that if I can do it, you can definitely do it.”
How do you think coming from the middle of nowhere assisted your success in a bigger city?
PK: “Well look, I like to psychoanalyse things, but I don’t have the answers. I don’t know why here in LA all my favourite people who live in LA, aren’t from LA. I don’t know why that is, why most the people I know who are successful in LA are from small towns. I don’t know if it’s that work ethic that’s instilled into you at a very young age, I don’t know if it’s the respect for people in authority. That often times opens doors and I did reference that in my letter announcing the album. But I don’t know, but I would assume it has a lot to do with that and like the common courtesy and common sense seems to get lost in bigger cities.”
Your past albums have had a special motif intertwined with special meaning – the rose and the moon. Have you involved a motif into this album and what does it represent?
PK: “I’m so glad you asked because I felt pressured to and ultimately it felt really good to not, because to narrow down these 14 songs, which are like my 14 favourite songs we’ve ever made, down to an emoji, almost felt cheap and instead of choosing one, I decided to not pigeon hole ourselves and cramp our style.”
Talk to me about your track ‘I Still Talk To Jesus’. I think that is one of the most beautiful tracks from the album. What were you going through or feeling that inspired the track?
PK: “I could give you a very detailed answer, in January of 2019 I was watching Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon. I just loved that documentary, I watched it so many times. There is a point where the lead singer is being interviewed for the documentary and you can tell he’s had maybe one too many and he’s sitting there in the chair and he very flippantly said, “I still talk to Jesus”, and it hit me like a ton of bricks because I was raised in the church, I learnt how to play music in a band at youth group… many bands and musicians and artists started playing music in church.
I do things in my life that don’t reflect how I was raised. I talk about it as well and that is a great example of me being way more vulnerable than I have ever been on Malibu Nights. I’m giving it to you, I’m telling you what I’ve done and what goes through my head and despite all that, I do still talk to Jesus. Some people will love that song and others will hate it. It is what it is, but it was so important for me to write that song and I think it turned out fucking perfect.”
Once restrictions ease, international travel reopens and we return to a new normal, what are the goals for LANY in the future?
PK: “The goal from the very beginning was always to play to as many people as possible, to reach as many people as possible. It’s time to reach more people and open our arms and spread our wings and try something new and make something for everyone. That’s really always the goal. We’re sitting here today, at sub million followers on Instagram. But every one of those people, we’ve worked our asses off for. If you like this band, if you love this band it’s because you found it yourself and you sought it out. It wasn’t spoon fed to you on radio, we’ve never had a viral moment. If you love this band, it’s because you decided to love this band and I think that’s really beautiful and I would rather that then have a bunch of causal listeners who aren’t invested. I just want to keep building a fan base, one person at a time. I think it’s really cool and encouraging to see so many people and kids become friends through this band. It really does become this community and family.”
LANY’s third studio album ‘mama’s boy’ is out now. For more from the band, visit here.