In Conversation with LANY

In short, LANY are your new favourite band. The L.A trio have spent the past year opening for music’s latest-and-greatest, releasing a string of perfectly charming dreampop EPs and one-offs and racking up an unbelievably strong internet following in the process.

The time has now come for LANY (pronounced Lay-Nee) to step into their own light, with their week-previous sell-out London headline show only solidifying this further.

Amidst an arena support tour and the release of their debut singer-proper, Music Editor Bill Baker caught up with the Paul Klein, Jake Goss and Les Priest at their label’s London HQ to chat all things arena shows, fan accounts and the importance of aesthetics.

You’re currently touring on a support slot for Ellie Goulding’s UK arena shows, how’s that going?

Jake: It’s cool, yeah. We’re playing arenas in places we’ve never been before so it’s crazy hearing our songs that big and massive.

Les: Just bouncing off the walls and sounding huge…

All good crowd reactions to the shows so far?

P: It’s a tricky question because I think if we were to play the same shows in America, they’d look exactly the same. Right now with the Ellie shows, we’re playing to people who, 20 seconds before we get onstage, had no idea we even existed so obviously the reactions going to be a little bit different to the American audience’s we’re used to playing.

Your first ever show in the UK was a 250 cap. sized support slot for BØRNS in Nottingham, of all places. How did that go?

P: It was cool because it was such a small room and those are always fun to play. It feels so easy to rope everyone in in that sort of space.

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Going right back to beginning, you remained anonymous with your first few Soundcloud uploads by adding photos of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson instead of yourselves. Any meaningful reasoning for the anonymity or was it just the case of not having any photos?

L: Yeah, we had no photos so there’s no meaning or anything.

P: I remember I found that photo, or I think Jake sent it over to me and I’d saved it on my phone after one of these guys had posted it. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I love that photo,” so I just put LANY over the top of it and that was just what we went with. So no deep meanings, other than that Michael Jordan is awesome and he’s one of our heroes.

So you’ve toured with Halsey and Troye Sivan back home in the States, both of whom have well-renowned dedicated and loyal fan bases, which you seem to have adopted judging by the sheer number of LANY Twitter fan accounts. Is that daunting at all for a band still fairly early on in their career?

P: I guess it could be seen as a bit strange, we just think of it as extremely lucky to have those kind of people in our corner.

L: We have fan accounts from places we’ve never even been.

P: I think there’s a LANY Korea which is hilarious, we love it all so much.

How important is social media for you, considering the online fan following?

P: It’s a big part, but we don’t live and die by our social media but we understand the importance of it and it’s a convenient way to communicate with our fans. I feel like we have a pretty personal and intimate connection with almost every single one of them.

I’m guessing an example of this would be the hashtag you set up for the new single and asking for the name to not be said outright, which I thought was so cool to see since I couldn’t find a tweet that broke that asking.

P: Thanks! That was a chance for us to really establish a trust with the fans. We set up a newsletter, which I thought “I don’t know…” about since a bunch of people have them and I thought those were a little bit old school… But I went ahead and did it because it was a really cool way for me to talk directly to people and so I decided I was going to start giving fans really big information before anyone else, which became the incentive for buying in on ‘Team LANY’ as such. So I told them “Hey, this is what we’re going to do in a week and this is the name of the song but I don’t want you to talk about the name of the song yet, but go ahead and use a hashtag.” And it worked, so thanks guys!

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Paul, you had a short time as a solo artist before the formation of the band, with that material sounding pretty different from the LANY stuff. Did the ‘LANY sound’ come naturally when you formed?

P: Yeah, really naturally, since we only had four days to form our sound, technically. What I was doing before, and I’ve always said this in interviews, wasn’t working out for me and so I was so close to giving up. I’d basically run out of money to record songs and, I’m not an engineer, so you have to pay people to do that all for you. Les and Jake were already making music in their bedroom for a band called WRLDS that they were doing, so I was like, “Can I just fly to Nashville and join or can I come write a song and if we like it, maybe we can come up with a separate band name?” So in those four days we recorded Hot Lights and Walk Away. We didn’t have the time to sit around and discuss what our sound was going to be like, so it was almost instant.

J: It’s crazy because I was talking about this the other day, about how some bands live together or practise and be friends for years whereas we just showed up one day, wrote Hot Lights and then that was the start of LANY. It’s crazy what we came up with just from our instincts.

So the first two that made it online were the only two that had been written? No demos or what not…

P: Absolutely. There might be one song that we have left over called Genes, but I don’t even know if we finished it, so technically every song we’ve finished is on the internet. There’s no demos or anything like that.

L: That’s another thing about our process, we don’t really ‘demo’ as such, we just create, write and record all at the same time.

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In terms of inspiration, are you all on the same wavelength or are each of you very different with what you bring to the sound?

P: It’s so all over the place, which will really come in handy for us because someone could hear a certain artist in our music and I will could never had heard a single song by that person before. That’ll be because Jake or Les grew up listening to them so our backgrounds and inspiration are very different.

Is the songwriting process the same for each song? Is there a specific ‘blueprint’ that is stuck to?

P: It’s a little different for each song I guess… Actually, in all honest, I’m not even sure since we’re only 11 songs in. Normally it starts with a drum idea and then I’ll build some chords around it and start singing a bunch of melodies. Les and Jake will be like, “Yeah yeah!” or “nah.” Once we’ve got the melody and the words it comes together. We’ve been gone from home for more than a month and a half, which is a long time to not write a song, so I’ve been more or less writing poetry in my phone and then outline lyrically the story line. It’d be cool for us to approach a song sonically from already having the lyrics established, then taking the vibe of the song and asking what chords and melody are going to be placed around it. I think that’d be quite interesting.

Do you prefer being in the studio or the live shows? Or is it 50/50?

P: Oh, I think they’re both awesome. I know Les will say studio though, it’s where he thrives. He’s our engineer so he mixes everything so he’s the brains behind what we’re doing.

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I read a quote from you saying LANY was picked as a name because the four letters made it aesthetically pleasing. Combined with the artworks for the EPs, how important are aesthetics for the band?

P: It’s really important to us. I do all the artwork and visuals for us and I have a lot of fun with it, so it’s a direct extension of who we are as a band and our personalities. Albums artworks have always been amazing to me and I look at The Smiths and their vibe back in the day, even The Rolling Stones, and maybe I’m only just realising it but aesthetics are such a big thing right now, maybe more than ever. So when people place that much appreciation towards it, of course we want to take it really seriously. It’s also just fun to put out a visual that represents what you’re saying.

Your recent Barfly show was the first ‘proper’ LANY headline gig in the UK, which I found so strange to see the sheer amount of people chanting lyrics back to a band with only a tiny number of UK dates to their name. Do you feel any pressure to live up to that sort of reaction if you’re receiving it on your first show?

P: Not at all, it’s actually really rewarding. We’ve spent a year playing in rooms to people who had no idea who we were, so to finally, after a hundred shows or so, walk into a room and play WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS after it being on the internet for only four days, that’s the point where it becomes really, really fun to be in a band. Like, a lot of people think that this is the dream, which it is, but to get to this point has been tough. Travelling around, not showering for days, having a double figure amount of dollars in your bank account, it’s tough. So shows like Barfly are when you go, “Wow, this really payed off.”

It’s a huge amount of shows in the space of a year…

P: Halsey, Troye, Ellie, Tove Stryke, Zella Day, Twin Shadow, X Ambassadors, we’ve been everywhere. The headline shows are the most rewarding but, sometimes, it’s so much fun to go out as the support act and just try to rip people’s faces off. That’s what we’ve been doing since the start, just constant, “I’m gonna make sure you remember every single second of this performance.” With the Ellie shows, we’ve had to take in mind that we’ve been playing two hours before she’s on so people are still filing in and there’s a tonne of people just staring right back at you which is what is it.

L: Just a crowd of people trying to figure us out.

P: Just judging us, which is fine because they’ve never met us or seen us before so it is a lot of blank faces but I don’t blame them. You should see a Troye Sivan show, there’ll be a queue two days before to get in.

You released the Make Out EP a few weeks back, which had a mini ‘greatest hits’ feel to it since it compiled most of the individual releases from your back catalogue. Another aesthetics reasoning or more rounding off that part of the band’s history thus far?

J: Aesthetics for sure.

P: We figured that people we really starting to dig in and figure out who we are, and if you’d looked at our Spotify or iTunes profile, it all seemed very daunting because you’d see tonnes of single releases and loads of artworks. So we wanted to make the discovery easy and as fluid as possible. We had to leave Hot Lights off because if it’d been on the EP, it would have been classed as an actual album which we really didn’t want to be our debut record. I don’t think an EP can be more than 7 songs or 30 minutes so we had to leave it. I’m still upset about the hidden track (Kiss) as it was supposed to be a semicolon and it isn’t. So if anyone from Spotify or iTunes is reading this, it’d be so cool if you could let us put our song titles how we wanted them…

So your first ‘proper’ single, WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS, got its first radio play over here last week. What’s next on the agenda?

P: We go home all of April, which I was thinking about earlier. April is going to be the most important month of our lives and then May will be the best time of our lives. So we’ve got to get home and finish the record, so we’re home for the month. I’m going to be locking myself away at home before we go out on our first U.S headline tour which is ten dates around the festivals we’re playing. A tonne of touring, the WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS music video is coming out soon which we shot here in London, content, more touring. Being a proactive, live band.

Any plans to come back to the UK in the near future?

P: I think we’re back in the fall, so we can hopefully play Birmingham, Manchester, London, maybe Glasgow. I think we may be doing Reading and Leeds festival too, we’re just trying to figure it all out right now.

If LANY could be summed up in one word, what would it be?

P: Vogue

L: Inspiring

J: Memorable

And finally, any artists or bands that you love and everyone else should know about?

J: Gallant and Nao. I actually heard about her after our manager sent us over the Radio 1 link where we’d been played so I went back and listened to the whole catalogue. She’s all good.

WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS is out now. Our review of the trio’s Barfly headline show can be found here.

Words by Bill Baker