PAUL KLEIN FROM LANY
The first thing you notice while chatting with Paul Klein, lead singer of LANY, is the fact that he is clearly in the music business for the right reasons. And by that, I mean that he truly and deeply cares for the fans that the band has accumulated since its creation in 2014.
—By Marie-Ève Venne
Continuing their rising trajectory, LANY is back with what just might be their best album yet. The alt-pop trio’s latest album Mama’s Boy takes on a new life following the heartache and pain from its successful predecessor Malibu Nights. Mama’s Boy showcases 14 tracks, all exuding that familiar LANY sound, while simultaneously bringing something fresh to the table.
I caught up with LANY’s Paul Klein via Zoom about the inspiration behind the album and how vulnerability and doubts can sometimes keep you on the right track.
First of all, congratulations, your album Mama’s Boy is officially out. How does it feel to finally be able to share it with your fans? The album’s been done for a few months now, but of course, you have to have a release plan. But it’s always exciting to give it to the world and, and see the reaction, hopefully, they fall in love with it.
But at the same time, it’s not like, you can just jump on the road to promote it and feed yourself from the energy of the crowd. How do you and the guys cope with this situation? You know, we’re known for our live shows, we play 120 on average, every single year. And that’s the most rewarding part of this job for me. To see how the music translates live and also how much the music means to people in real life. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve been to a LANY’s show, but I basically don’t even have to show up or sing because everyone just sings every single word for me. And that’s so special and so unique and rare. I miss this feeling a lot.
At least you can interact a little bit with your fans on social media. I think that, no matter how much you want to believe that social media makes you feel connected, it’s just all a little bit fake. You know, you can’t have a conversation in the comment section.
At the same time, I always try come up with very heartfelt, meaningful newsletters that go out to our fans that actually care. The ones that care enough to sign up to get a newsletter. I think the best thing that I can do is keep giving our people content, whether it’s music videos, or stripped-down versions of our songs or one of a kind mech. That’s my way to really try to connect with our people.
The visual aspect of your music seems really important to you. I specifically think about the visual for the Heart Won’t Let Me videoclip. You mentioned on your Instagram that you had this precise vision of yourself, holding a giant red balloon. I don’t know, the idea kind of just appeared in my head. I’d written a horrible levy in October of 2019. Here we have a balloon heart that is three times my size. And it’s basically manhandling me and, you know, fighting me and every time I try to get away from it, it’s pulling me back and which is just symbolic of the whole idea that you need to leave this toxic relationship that you’re in in. I think that video is magical. I’m really proud of it and it was incredibly difficult to pull off. It took six months to figure out how to do that video and that balloon was handmade in France and had led lights in it that can change to any color that we want but then it had to be strung up and hung up by a crane and then I had to be harnessed in through the sleeve of my sweater. We did it all in one take.
You said in one of your newsletters announcing the album that it was a perfect as it could be. And when you listen to it, you can’t help but noticing that it covers such a wide range of emotions regarding the lyrics and some melodies are even more stripped down than usual, creating some sense of intimacy. What was your mindset while working on the album? Well, first of all, we’ve never had an acoustic guitar, so it is a first on this album. We talked about it quite a lot, especially since we don’t ever want to make the same album twice. And so, when you’re incorporating new elements that no one’s ever heard from us, it’s pretty easy not to make the same album twice. We’ve got an acoustic guitar, we have a string ensemble, gospel choir and kids’ choir, a flute, one slide guitar. That’s six things that we’ve never had before ever on an album.
I guess like the bridge of Good Guys is stripped down. But for the most part, this album is very big sonically. I feel like, on this album, just every single second of every song feels nice and full. And nothing feels empty whatsoever, in my opinion.
Many of LANY’s songs are about heartbreaks, but on this album, it seems like there are no limit to what you are willing to share with your fans. It makes the whole album very real and powerful. Thank you so much. Yeah. I mean, on Malibu Nights, I was like unprecedentedly vulnerable, you know, I’ve never really been that transparent before. And it paid off really well, for us. People really received that well. I remember my friends and I listening to it and being like, Oh, my God, we can relate to the lyrics. And I just knew that I needed to do that all over again, but outside of the category of heartbreak, right.
And so that’s when I started to really look into like, the details of my life and my experiences. Writing a song, like I still talk to Jesus was so fun and meaningful for me, but it was also really scary, because religion or whatever can be a polarizing topic. Some people will hate it just because the song title, but that’s fine. But I feel like people can feel when it comes from an authentic place, and that it is not just like a gimmick of someone trying to sell something.
“THIS IS AS GOOD AS IT’S GOING TO GET. THIS IS THE BEST WE’VE EVER SOUNDED. THIS IS THE BEST WE’VE EVER PLAYED AND IT IS AS PERFECT AS IT’S GOING TO GET. WE LEFT IT ALL IN THE FIELD. HERE YOU GO”
I’ve been following LANY for a while, and interview you did, I can’t help but noticing that you seem like such a perfectionist. Are you ever able to let go and tell yourself, ok this is the best I can do for now? I feel exhausted, but also satisfied at the moment. Like, you know, the whole idea is that you just leave it on the field, right? That’s a phrase in sports. For those 90 minutes that you’re playing soccer, you know, whatever it is, just leave everything on the field, and that’s the feeling I had with Mama’s Boy. This is as good as it’s going to get. This is the best we’ve ever sounded. This is the best we’ve ever played and it is as perfect as it’s going to get. We left it all in the field. Here you go.
I usually hate asking this question right after a band just released an album, but I can feel that might already be working on a new album. Or are you actually just like enjoying the moment? We do need to move forward and keep working. One thing that is very important, especially during these times, it’s to keep on being interesting. We’ve been a band now for like six years. And many people that used to be in the same industry as us aren’t even making music anymore. They took too much time off and put too much time between albums.
Right now, people need to be fed now more than ever. So, what I’m going to do is that I’m going to keep talking about our album, keep making merchandise, keep trying to do like, low budget videos. And we’re going to do a deluxe album with a couple strips songs. And we’re going to do. Then, once December comes around, is when I’m going to shift mentally, and start like thinking about where we’re going with album four and start writing.
It almost feels like you have a Google Sheet in your head. Okay, so I have to ask you, because you’re from Tulsa, which is by the way, one of the coolest musical cities now according to Rolling Stone magazine. Did you take pride in the idea of coming from there when you were younger or, on the contrary, did you try to distance yourself from it as much as possible? Yeah, I was definitely trying to move from there as fast as possible. Growing up, you know, Tulsa wasn’t very cool and I wasn’t very proud to be from there. I was also really different and I never felt like I fit in. I was the first kid to walk into my school with skinny jeans. And that was like a big problem. No matter what I did, I always got criticized intensely. I was also bullied a lot. Like, I’m not trying to like give you a sob story. But I just did not fit in Oklahoma. And everyone knew that and everyone kind of made it their job to let me know how much I didn’t fit in.
And for a while I didn’t want to talk about where I was from, because it kind of hurt, you know. I didn’t even want to play in Tulsa like when it came to like coming up tours and stuff. I didn’t really want to go back and see the people I’ve grown up with. Because no one cared before and I didn’t want to be embarrassed, you know, like, go home and play your hometown and nobody show up. But the reception has been unbelievable. And now Oklahoma…they love us. And they are proud of us, which feels really good, you know? And it feels good to go back home now.
So, you are finally at peace with this part of your life? My career is going well. I have like some fans that are buying our music. I am happy. I was afraid at some point in my life that people wouldn’t even come to my show in my home city. But we’ve worked too hard. And everything cost us too much for us to be cocky assholes. We don’t take anything for granted. And you know, every fan and every listener and every buyer and every person mean the world to us. And also, any day we could lose it all. I don’t take any of it for granted.
I also think that I have like a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, which really helps me, like, you know, still think about the people who told me I could never make it. And I still think about the people who used to put me down. And I carry that with me a little bit. Not in bitterness, but everybody needs a competitive edge, whether you’re an athlete, or a businessman or businesswoman or an artist. Like I said, it’s not a thing of bitterness, it’s more just like, a fuel. I use it as, like, motivation.
I read this very sweet letter that you wrote for your fans surrounding the release of your album. You chose to end it with “until next time… or if this is the last time”. Is it because you’re so aware that everything can stop at any moment? I think so. But we also have a song called If This Is the Last Time which is an emotional song, but also, we’re all going to die. And some of us are going to die before other people die. And, you know, if this is the last time I’m with you, then like, I love you, and thank you for everything. And any of our differences, I want to set them aside because you’re more important to me than that. I mean, there were multiple reasons for me to end that letter that way, but the truth is, I don’t know what 2021 is going to be like. As much as I hope we can go back and play shows, I can’t tell you for certain that we ever will. Let’s just hope for the best.