Getting emotional with LANY in Singapore
Midway through LANY's first full-length gig in Singapore, frontman Paul Klein looked up as he sang, "Question love and God, and what are we even living for." Eyes fixed to a point high above the crowd in the dark surrounds of *SCAPE The Ground Theatre, it seemed that everything else was at a standstill as he intimated conversation with the big man himself. A track off their self-titled debut album released on 30 June, 'Purple Teeth' echoed the heartbreak, self-doubt, and romance that underscores LANY's upbeat, synth-pop rock sensibilities.
When I met Klein earlier that afternoon in a function room in Hotel Jen, Klein's eyes — a shade of brilliant blue — bore into mine as I asked him what he loved so bad — a jab at their hit song, 'ILYSB', short for "I Love You So Bad" — at that moment. His tousled waves were tucked back into a low ponytail; his center part framing a face that wouldn't look out of place in a Calvin Klein ad.
"I'm actually loving these hotels," he said. "We're normally on a tour bus in America, so when we get to stay in a hotel it's nice. It means you have a bed, and a shower really close to you that's not moving."
"A good night's sleep", added keyboardist and guitarist Les Priest, one leg propped up on the sofa. Next to him was drummer Jake Goss — who seemed very attached to a cushion — who professed his love for the steam room in hotels. The trio had just flown in after playing shows in the region that included Manila and Hong Kong. Up next is Jakarta at We The Fest, and then Malaysia at the Good Vibes Festival.
March was the last time the LA-based band were in Singapore, where they played to a select industry crowd at the bar Crackerjack amid craft cocktails and small bites. This time, their tickets for the gig presented by Secret Sounds Asia and Live Nation Lushington sold out within a week of their release. A young-ish band, they formed in 2014, after Klein visited Goss and Priest in Nashville — where they first met five to six years back — and started writing songs together. From their first releases — 'Walk Away' and 'Hot Lights' — on SoundCloud, their discography has grown to encompass four EPs and a 16-track album via Polydor Records. They've toured with the likes of Troye Sivan, Ellie Goulding, Halsey and John Mayer; who Klein is a huge fan of.
While LANY's a portmanteau for Los Angeles and New York (tip: It's pronounced "lay-knee"), the trio wrote their songs in Malibu and Nashville, and recorded on a Dell computer. I continued our chat to find out the mechanics and emotions behind their tours and whether it's true that, according to one of their songs, "the more you love, the more it hurts".
I hear different influences when I listen to your first album. There's a bit of pop, R&B, new-wave electronica, all falling into the indie rock category. People have described your sound in different ways each time, too — are you fussed at all with categories or genres?
Paul Klein: It is a cliché to say, but it is 2017 and there seems to be no line and boundaries and we embrace that. When they [journalists] ask us to describe our music or explain, it's one of the hardest things to do, and just kind of frustrating because we never thought that way. We never thought we're a rock band, that's it, or indie pop — we just write what we write, we sound what we sound like. If it's awesome, it's awesome, if it's not, then we just move on.
What are the easiest and hardest parts of writing a song?
Paul: I think the easy parts would be... I can't say, these guys (gestures towards Les and Jake) build most of the beats which is amazing to me as a lyricist or somebody who writes chords. They set the foundation for me to build things around. I wouldn't say what they do is easy because I couldn't do it.
Les Priest: As somebody who's tried to write music on my own, lyrics were always the hardest part.
Jake Goss: It's easiest when things just fall into place. Sometimes I write a song and I have to rework it 40 times for me to feel decent with it. So it's hard when it's not initially clicking.
You guys did more than 100 shows last year, and this is your first time touring Asia proper. Does your setlist ever change for different regions, and who arranges it?
Paul: We just kind of run it by each other. It changes slightly. We have a lot of songs and the way a set ebbs and flows, if you get it really dialed in, you don't want to mess with it because of that energy. We played 13 [songs] for the first time in Hong Kong and I think we'll do it again. In the North America side of the tour, we'll play every song off our debut because we spend a lot of time there and it's our home.
Your songs, while upbeat, are pretty personal and often speak of love and relationships. Do these past feelings resurface each time you perform, and what's it like playing these songs over and over again? Do you ever get yourself back to where you were when you first wrote them?
Paul: Yeah I think it can almost be beneficial sometimes when those feelings and memories resurface a little bit for the sake of the show and kind of translate the message. It's fun to watch the songs mean something different to me as we play them more and more. Those songs are really personal and very honest, so those feelings are bound to pop back every now and then.
Do you ever cry on stage when you're overcome by emotions?
Paul, Les and Jake: Yeah.
How do you think you've grown the most, from having those two very first SoundCloud uploads to selling out a show in Singapore?
Paul: We have a lot of experience now. The first 10 shows, my knees were almost like...
Les: You just shake...
Paul: I think we're better friends now. Closer than ever, which I think translates in our music when we play live. I've learned what to do and what not to do before shows and how to carry myself as a frontman.
It's almost two months since you've released the album. What's been your favourite response so far? Have people started throwing panties?
Paul: A couple of bras maybe (laughs). It's always fun when people call it a masterpiece. "This is art, it should be in a museum". You know, people are over the top, but that always makes you feel good.
Les: Some of our iTunes comments before it was even released were like, "This is my favourite record and I haven't even heard it yet" (laughs).
Paul: I love how dramatic and emotional people are. That feels good when you spent the last 16 months of your life slaving over something.
Do you guys listen to your own music outside of the studio and in your own downtime?
Paul: So much. Right now 'Super Far' is doing really well, so I just listen to it every day and I'm like, "Yeah I can see why this is doing well" (laughs).
Les: I have to sit with our music a lot. When you're mixing you just listen to certain segments of the song thousands of times and it's hard to like, get that separation. I like to go back to listen to things a month later.
Paul: One of our favourite things to do is when we finish a session and the song's not even done, and we just listen to it 400 times.
There's this line I like from 'Hurts', off your album. Is it true that "the more you love, the more it hurts"?
Paul: I think so.
Lastly, are you more L.A., or N.Y.?
Paul: I think New York's the best city in the world. It's my favourite, but I wouldn't want to live there. I would prefer to live in L.A.
Les: More L.A.
LANY performed in Singapore on 10 August. Listen to their self-titled album.