In their short career to date, US trio LANY have built a reputation for prolificacy.The band’s self-titled debut album came out in 2017 and its successor, the heartbreak exploration Malibu Nights, arrived the following year.
The last 12 months has seen LANY collaborate with Julia Michaels on the single ‘Okay’ and appear on the Lauv single ‘Mean It’. And then, in early May, LANY announced that their third album Mama’s Boy would be on its way this year. The record’s first single ‘Good Guys‘ arrived a couple of weeks later.
Singer Paul Klein says ‘Good Guys’ represents LANY’s intention to cast off their bedroom-pop origins on this record. But while they’re holding themselves to a higher standard, they’ve also made a conscious effort to reconnect with their rural backgrounds. The idea is to make something bold and arena ready, but steeped in authenticity.
Don’t Bore Us spoke to Klein from his coronavirus hideout in Los Angeles. He discussed the band’s quest to be perfect on Mama’s Boy, his vision for LANY’s success and his love of John Mayer and Kacey Musgraves.
Check out ‘Good Guys’ by LANY:
Don’t Bore Us: Were you pretty much done with Mama’s Boy before the coronavirus made the world go crazy?
Paul Klein: No and I guess [this is a] little bit of a secret, but we’re still not done. I would say we were somewhere in the 70% or 80% range of being done. I am just pushing songs over the finish line as we can, but what takes me eight hours to do on a computer and over a phone would take me 30 minutes in real life, and it’s just absolutely exhausting.
DBU: A few days after announcing Mama’s Boy, you posted on Instagram about your intention to make the album “as perfect as possible.” What did you mean by “perfect” and how has that goal influenced the production?
PK: Well first of all, I don’t know if anyone has picked up on it or talked about it, but ‘Good Guys’ is the first time you have ever heard an acoustic guitar on a LANY song. That might be the loudest acoustic guitar I have heard on a song ever.
But as far as perfect, obviously nothing is perfect – we will never be perfect, nobody will ever be perfect – but to strive for perfection is what fuels our ambition. I think when I said to make it as perfect as possible, [I just meant] being super honest with our art, like picking it apart completely.
So when I say perfect as possible, I guess what I really would say is critical as possible. Like, Jake [Goss, drums] will be like, “Paul I think you can drop in on this word and sing it better”, and I’m like “I think you are right. Thank you so much.” Or, “Jake, are you sure that’s the right thing? Like are you sure?”
I guess another way to say it is we are kind of approaching this album like it’s our last. Like, if this is the last one, then are you proud of it and is it perfect?
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DBU: Being so blunt and honest with each other, has that caused some difficult tension? Or are you pretty good at telling each other how it is?
PK: No, I think we have always done a really good job at just being super straight-up. I think we have been in like two band fights in our six-year career. Obviously we have had our differences, you know, but what band hasn’t? And we just, at the end of the day, realise that this is a really special thing that we don’t want to mess up.
Check out the Mama’s Boy album trailer:
DBU: It seems like you’re not getting swept up in the commotion that comes with international popularity. This is also reflected in the thematic background of Mama’s Boy, which has been about reconnecting with your roots. Are you conscious about staying grounded?
PK: It’s so nice that you think we are really popular, but we have such a long way to go. We are just not where we want to be. Two nights at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, it’s just not enough. And I think we played Margaret Court in Melbourne – it’s just not big enough.
But all that’s to say, no I have not gotten swept up in anything. I still go down and pump quarters to do my laundry in the basement, so when you are pumping quarters in a basement doing laundry with 14 other people in the building…
DBU: Let’s see if Mama’s Boy can afford you a washing machine. When you say it’s not good enough, the level you’re at, is that about your personal goals, or are you comparing LANY to other artists and thinking, that’s where we should be?
PK: There’s artists that we aspire to be like. Coldplay would be a band that we look up to and admire. They are such a universal band. They can walk into any city in the world and play a stadium. But I’m not competing with Coldplay – that’s ridiculous. I’m actually just like hoping for the day that I get to even meet Chris Martin. I would probably pass out.
I guess we are constantly competing with ourselves. And this is so stupid and Rupert [Lincoln, manager] tells me to chill out, but for instance ‘Good Guys’ is breaking every record of a first-week release and that’s really all I want to do. As a band I want to keep outdoing what we have already done.
Check out ‘Okay’ by LANY and Julia Michaels:
DBU: Back to this idea of perfection, are there any bedrock influences or artists whose work you’re judging yourselves against? Who are some of your all-time references?
PK: There was like a decade of my time where I just listened to almost exclusively John Mayer. That’s my number one guy. I think he is the best songwriter of his generation and what a stunning musician across the board. And he has turned out to be a really nice friend to us.
I would say Continuum has to be top-to-bottom one of the best albums made, ever. My goal isn’t that people would put Mama’s Boy and Continuum on the same [scale] because they’re completely different. But I would love for somebody to say, “you know what, that band LANY man, they make great albums.” Like just no-skip albums; top-to-bottom great songwriting.
Another one that is more recent would be Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves. It’s just a ridiculous album. Like the sounds, they are so simple but they’re so compelling. And the way it’s mixed and her vocal is just right there on your face – it’s like you can smell her breath. I’m going on these big walks because it’s about the only thing you can do during this time and I listened to Golden Hour today – for the 100th time – and it still blows me away.
DBU: They’re both records that inhabit the pop realm, but also have a lot of personality. Is that the sort of thing you want to achieve on Mama’s Boy?
PK: Totally. We dove into more on this album. There’s a little more flavour on this. Like on ‘Good Guys’ I let a little bit of my Southern twang come out, because it made sense and was flavourful for that song.
[It’s also about] not being told what to do. Like we’re just going to do what we do, and some songs are going to have this flavour and this other song is going to have this, and at the end of the day it’s the three of us making it so it’s going to feel cohesive because it’s us.