Ahead of their third album mama’s boy dropping in October, we caught up with 1/3 of indie-pop group LANY to find out what we can expect. From his home all the way in L.A., Paul Jason Klein chats to us about the experimentation on the new album, their brand new single ‘you!’, and what exactly makes LANY, LANY.
First off, I just wanna start by saying ’you!’ is such a massive tune. Hands down one of the best you’ve ever done. I get major 2000s alt-rock, U2 kind of vibes. Was that the vision?
Oh, thank you! Yeah, it was. For sure.
I love the fact that it’s this huge love ballad, but it feels like it transcends all relationships. Like, it’s not just romantic. It feels like it could be a love song written for the fans.
Amazing! I wanted it to be whatever it felt like to the listener. We have a lot of songs that dive really deep into very specific details, ‘pink skies’ for instance. It kind of puts you right in the setting, you know? Whereas, with ‘you!’ it feels like it can kind of mean anything to anyone. But the overall arching theme is love.
There’s always been a real feeling of nostalgia and longing when listening to LANY that’s indescribable. Is that a feeling you strive for?
I mean, not necessarily. I’m not sure where the nostalgic factor comes in. It might be the sense and stuff like that that might feel nostalgic to people, I’m really not sure. But I know we tried a lot of different stuff for mama’s boy and the idea of ‘sense’ kind of took a backseat on it. Ultimately, what I think we tried to accomplish with this album was … we just kind of wanted to make a modern classic. Something that felt fresh and new and progressive but didn’t live within the confines and the boundaries of ‘trend.’ So, we used a lot of really classic and familiar elements; like acoustic guitar and real drums and a lot of electric guitar, piano, strings … there’s even flugelhorn on track 14. Just a lot of classic elements and classic instrumentation, but with a really fresh vocal approach.
Following on from that, one thing I admire the most about LANY is the aesthetic that you so carefully try and create. Each album has its own story and its own vision, and you always go so hard in devoting yourself completely to each aesthetic. And I see your mood board behind you! Can you talk a bit about the aesthetic for mama’s boy?
I started sort of building this world out probably around October last year. I’m from the middle of nowhere, like the middle of America right in the heartland, and I kind of wanted to spotlight that. mama’s boy is not a country album by any means, but I think that with every great band they have a geographical identity. Like U2 are from Ireland, The Beatles are Liverpool, Oasis are Manchester. And I feel like LANY was this quasi-Californian indie-pop band, but no one seemed to recognise the fact that all 3 of us are from the middle of nowhere. And so I wanted to just spotlight and highlight that and pay respect to it. So, I started diving in, and this would also piggy-back off the idea of being a modern classic, to what are some clothing pieces that never go out of style? You know, denim, the way that a leather belt wears in, boots … even cowboy hats have stood the test of time. So, I wanted to work in that element. A lot of Malibu Nights was about the moon, and so I really wanted to work with the sun and sunlight. And you can hear that on the first track of mama’s boy (‘you!’) you know, “you’re the sun to the moon …” The only reason we can see the moon is because of the sun, so that’s why there’s a beautiful sunset behind the neon mama’s boy sign (on the cover). I’m just really proud of that album cover. We worked incredibly hard, there were so many different versions and so many different options, but we went with that one.
Interestingly, I do see a picture of Kurt Cobain behind you and when I first watched the video for ‘you!’ and saw you in your dress and combat boots, it reminded me of Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder and all those rock greats. Was that the vibe you were going for? That authenticity?
Yeah, 100%. That outfit was really close to what Kurt is wearing on that 1993 magazine cover, and also I’ve just always really loved that photoshoot that Brad Pitt did in the ‘90s where he’s wearing a dress and it was this total controversy. But it wasn’t even a big thing to me, I wasn’t like I’m gonna make such a big statement here, I’m so bold! I mean, everyone wears dresses now. I just thought it was really cool. And I wanted the styling to all be light blue, because I knew the setting that we were going to be in would complement the sunset colours, and we’re on the Salt Flats which are all white, so I wanted everything to just be this pastel blue. And it worked out perfectly.
You’ve said that LANY won’t ever have the same album twice. How different is mama’s boy going to be to the others?
Malibu Nights was unapologetically a break-up album. So, if you had been broken up with, which is I guess statistically half the people in the world … you either break up with somebody or you get broken up with, that’s your album, right? Like, “I’m gonna get through this s**t with this album.” But that other half of the world is kind of like “can’t really relate!” So, with mama’s boy, it’s 14 songs that are all incredibly different and all have such different flavours. And I really believe that there’s something on this album for everyone on the planet.
It feels like this album is going to be your most personal yet.
Definitely. It’s a very introspective album. I think after finishing Malibu Nights I knew how vulnerable and transparent I’d been, and it paid dividends clearly, but I was like how am I going to do this again? I can’t keep getting broken up with! But on these 14 songs that have nothing to do with getting broken up with at all, most of them are just really pretty love songs, I feel like I was equally, if not more, vulnerable.
In my head, you make music for cars. You know, driving late at night, going through a tunnel, sitting in the car with someone you like. It’s all a specific feeling and vibe. Is that going to come through with this album as well?
Love that! I think so. I mean, I’ve listened to mama’s boy driving back and forth in L.A. and we just spend so much time in our cars. Even dating back to when I was in high school, you wanted to drive but the reason you wanted to drive was so you could have your own car and listen to your own music as loud as you want. I feel like that’s why every 16-year-old wants to drive, and that doesn’t really change for me. Every day I get in the car and can’t wait to listen to music, so I feel incredibly honoured that that’s how my band feels to you. That’s amazing.
You started up around 2014 – 2015, right when indie-pop was essentially taking over the world. I mean, the iconic Arctic Monkey’s album AM, Lana Del Rey, Halsey … it was all such a movement with teens on Tumblr at the time. Was it just a factor of right place, right time, or were you influenced by what was already happening?
I definitely loved Tumblr, and still love Tumblr. I used to have this rule for myself back in those years where I’d save 5 images or pieces of art from Tumblr to my camera roll every night before I went to sleep, because I just thought that was like my artistic duty or responsibility or something. I actually think that Tumblr is incredibly progressive when it comes to art and visuals and stuff like that. But, you know, we just wrote a couple songs and put them up on the internet to literally 0 followers, and within a week we were getting emails from record labels. Before that I had put up some songs as just a solo artist that I’m almost sure no more than four people listened to. It was probably literally just my mum, my dad, my sister and some other person. I was just so used to being completely forgotten and ignored, so I had zero expectations when we started LANY. So, I wasn’t making it for Tumblr, but I guess what you feed yourself visually comes out. All that information and inspiration I was consuming eventually came out in my artwork, I guess.
And I think that’s why your fans do connect so much with your music. They can see the visuals and they all started from the Tumblr age. It’s just a whole thing.
So just lastly; if you can, sum up LANY in just three words.
Oh, gosh. You know, I will say that I think we’re the Most Improved Band. For the last few years I’ve been so obsessed with just trying to be the biggest and the best band in the world. But that’s such a subjective thing. Like, who is the best band in the world? No one agrees on that. But being the most improved band on the planet, I think you can kind of be objective about that. I mean, not to roast myself, but if you listen to our earlier stuff like ‘like you lots’ up against ‘you!,’ I wouldn’t believe you if you told me that was the same band. And I’m just incredibly proud of us for that. I would say, without a doubt, we’re the most improved band. I mean, coming into our third album and it being our best, most of the time a band’s first album is their best. Jake and Les and I have worked really hard to just keep getting better. And we grow at such a slow and steady pace, it’s like one new listener a day, but hopefully the slower you build, the slower you fade. But I really do believe with all my heart that we’re the best we’ve ever been, and we’re just the most improved band on the planet.
LANY’s third album ‘mama’s boy’ is out now!