“We’re the antithesis of Nashville” – An interview with LANY

The ‘ILYSB’ trio spills the beans about their debut album, building a fanbase, and what makes London feel like home.

In the space of just one year, American electropop trio LANY has gone from playing a loft above a Camden bar on a night off from support shows to filling venues ten times the size up and down the land and across the world. With fans already assembled outside and around KOKO in the middle of the afternoon, Surge joined Paul Klein, Jake Goss, and Les Priest up in the rafters to find out all about their plans to make 2017 (and 2018) ((and probably every subsequent year)) the year of LANY.

How is it to be back in the UK?

Paul Klein: It feels good. It feels like home, kinda. We’ve been here a lot.

You’ve played London a few times over the past year – the Barfly in Camden [last March] was the first time I saw you guys live. Was that 150 people there? 200? And now tonight is a sold-out show for 1,400. Is it good to be having headline shows around the world now?

PK: Yeah, it’s been really fun. This room, we’ve just got done with soundchecking and it sounds so good and feels so good. I can’t wait until we can just play this kind of room all the time.

What are your favourite kinds of venues to play? It’s an intricate, old venue here but you’ve also had some bigger festival stages and arena tours last year.

PK: I don’t know. This size of room feels pretty nice – that 1,400 to 2,000 kind of room. I don’t really know what 5,000 feels like – we don’t know yet. We’ve played some arenas, but those weren’t our shows so it’s really hard to say.

It was a year ago today that you had that first show with Ellie Goulding in Cardiff and things have come along very quickly since then. You released the kinda EP and now just announced news of the album. How is it to have that news (and the release date and the pre-order) finally out there?

PK: It was stressful because it’s a huge announcement. That’s really valuable information. We just didn’t know how to communicate it, so we just kind of made a video and spilled the beans on everything and said everything. It feels really good to have it out there and that people know what’s up, what’s coming, and what to expect.

As album announcements go, it was quite straightforward and to the point. Do you think that connection you have with the fans really helps in terms of announcing it that way?

PK: Yeah, I just always try and put myself in their shoes. I think it’s so silly when you tease the name of an album or release as if your fans are going to try and figure it out. Like, here are the first letters of every word – it’s just so dumb. People want to know what’s going on, so I was like “OK, this is exactly what we’re going to do. The album’s called LANY, it’s 16 tracks, 15 of them you’ve never heard, we’re going to roll it out over a four month period, here are the four singles.” I feel like they really appreciate that kind of straightforward communication. They’re not going to spend their time trying to decode your next release.

You mentioned 15 brand new tracks on the album. Why no other tracks from other EPs?

PK: I think it’s really indicative of how we feel about these songs and the music that we’ve made. Strongly, we feel it’s our best work – our absolute best. I think it’s a progression, a growth. It’s not a departure at all, but it’s a progression and this is our best stuff, so that’s what made it onto the album.

‘Good Girls,’ the brand new single, came out last Friday. Why that track first?

PK: I think tempo-wise it’s really strong, the vocal falls on the down beat, it’s pretty immediate – like, it grabs you right away – so we decided to lead with that first and it’s proven to be really awesome. We’ve passed over a million plays in five days on that song, which is faster than any song has ever moved for us ever, so it’s fun.

You said you were going to roll the album out over four months – what’s happening between now and June 30th, apart from touring?

PK: ‘It Was Love’ is going to come out in April. We think a lot in terms of Spotify and playlisting and giving a song a chance to have a life and giving it some sort of spotlight. ‘Good Girls’ is very high tempo, has some commercial tendencies – probably the most commercial propensities in that song. I’m not really sure, but ‘It Was Love’ is a power ballad and that’s gonna be a juxtaposition to ‘Good Girls.’ Then it’s gonna be ‘The Breakup,’ which a lot of people – like, the inner team – have really pointed to that song as maybe being the second song that goes to radio after ‘ILYSB.’ That’ll come in May. Then we have a song called ’13’ that’s like a guitar-driven R&B kind of ballad, and that’ll be the last one that comes out before the album drops.

How was the writing process for the album? Over the last year you’ve been touring a lot and it must have been quite difficult to find the time to sit down and focus on writing new material.

PK: All the songs are like a culmination of 15 months of writing. Some of the songs we wrote during the kinda EP that we just didn’t put on there. We went to Nashville for like 13 days and really put our heads down and came up for air hardly ever and wrote six songs there. It’s always just been like whenever we have a second not on tour it’s been about the album.

You mentioned Nashville – all three of you from Nashville originally?

PK: No, none of us are actually from there.

Jake Goss: Just all met there.

It has this reputation as Music City, of course. Does that vibe feed in when you’re there?

PK: No, I think we’re like the antithesis of Nashville. I think it actually was on purpose from the very beginning. They have a very structured way they do things – that’s not bad at all, just they have a formula for sure in how they make music, and we pretty much make it the opposite way. But that’s where we all met, and Les has recently moved back there and he oversees the technical side of recording and engineering. Jake and I still live in LA but we flew back to Nashville where all the gear is and where Les is at.

The name comes from Los Angeles and New York. Why those two cities in particular?

PK: Because they’re the two main cities spanning from coast to coast of the country, but you know what? I don’t really want to say that it’s Los Angeles New York. LANY is, like, LANY now.

Has it just evolved over time?

PK: Yeah, which is what I wanted it to do from the very beginning – and this is the first time of ever saying this – but LANY originally was inspired by Los Angeles New York but LANY now is LANY. Like, it’s its own thing. It’s not Los Angeles, it’s not New York. It’s, it’s LANY, you know? I think, even with this debut album, LANY will be a thing. Nobody will ask us what LANY stands for anymore. It should just be…

JG: It’s just a word.

PK: That’s just a word.

Is that why the album is LANY by LANY?

P: Yeah. This is the year of LANY – and 2018’s going to be the year of LANY too – but 2017 I want to drive home LANY through the school of every person on the planet. I want everyone to have seen it and heard it a million times. We have LANY 11 times down the sleeve of a hoodie that we just made for merch – everything is about LANY.

World domination is on the cards, but London and the UK you seem to love, referencing twice on kinda. Why the UK in particular?

P: Yeah, just personal experiences.

Would you say it’s one of your favourite cities to come to? 

P: Yeah, I like it a lot here. Yeah, it is. Our label base is here – like, we got signed out of London – so it’s always going to be special to us.

You’re off to Europe very soon and then on tour with John Mayer as well around the US. What shows in particular are you looking forward to on that upcoming run?

P: All of them. I mean, pretty much we get to go to seven John Mayer shows. That’s how we’re looking at it. I can’t wait to just be around those guys, even if they don’t say a single word to us. Just to, like, watch how they interact and the way they walk and talk and perform – hopefully that’ll rub off on us.

J: It’s going to be like going to school in a way.

What would you say the difference is between going on a big support tour like that and having your own headline shows?

P: Well, John Mayer’s a different thing because he means so much to us personally, but overall supporting somebody there’s pretty much nothing to lose: it’s not your show, it’s not your production. You go out there and just go absolute balls to the wall, and if you suck you really don’t lose that much but if you do really good then you pick up a bunch of people, so it’s pretty much a win-win situation because people aren’t there for you in the first place. Then, when it’s your headline show, there’s a lot on the line. It’s a total reflection of you as a band, as an artist, and as creatives.

What’s it like coming to a venue like this and seeing people queueing outside for hours just to get in and be the first ones at the front of the stage?

Les Priest: We’re getting used to the queue – that’s how our fans do it.

PK: We love it, man. It would be really concerning if there wasn’t a queue at this point just because it’s what we’ve come to know. If a show’s not sold out, it’s like why isn’t this show sold out? What can we do to sell this show out? How can we be better? This should be sold out. That’s just the mentality.

When you played London [at Heaven] in September, you moved the venue quite quickly because the tickets sold so well. Is that always a rewarding thing to happen?

PK: I think so, yeah. Like, we love playing and we want to play for as many people as possible. Like, I forgot that we moved the venue. I don’t know where we were supposed to play, but then we played Heaven and that was sold out.

I think the move tripled the venue size.

PK: Oh, amazing. Yeah, so it’s just awesome, man. Like, we’re so lucky to have people connecting and buying into what we’re doing. It is obviously the most rewarding feeling ever.

One last question: the album is June 30th and the singles are coming up, so why tour before the album comes out? Most artists do tend to save it for afterwards.

PK: Yeah. I don’t know. Because when we go on tour, things just go through the roof. Like, we are gonna go play a very non-glamourous tour in America that most bands our size would never do. They would never do it. They would never think about doing it. Maybe even bands bigger than us would never do it. We’re gonna go play what’s called a tertiary market tour. We’re going to go hit the cities that everyone skips and everyone passes up because we want to be bigger than what we are now. That’s how you reach more people: you go to places like Tucson, Arizona, and – I don’t know, where else are we going? Albuquerque, New Mexico. Pomona, California. We’re not even playing Los Angeles or New York on our American tour. It’s all about just getting in front of people that haven’t been able to come before.

JG: We all just want to build. We always want to build it.

Author: Xavier Voigt-Hill

I write words. Sometimes say them on the radio too.