Why Are LANY Releasing Their Most Live-Sounding Album Yet, When They Can’t Play Live? [A Chat With PJK]

When LANY’s synth-drenched last album Malibu Nights came out, the face of the band – Paul Jason Klein – only wanted one person to hear it. The girl he wrote all the songs about.

With this one, there’s not a single person on Earth he doesn’t want wrapping their ears around it. mama’s boy is, as Paul will explain in a second, fourteen very singular songs that have fourteen very singular messages under the banner of American life in 2020, with a hint of nostalgia.

Nic Kelly’s in Bold, Paul Jason Klein is in not-bold.

I think last time I saw you was like, pretty much a year ago, the last time you were here.

A hell of a lot’s changed!

What’s the most standout change in the world at the moment for you? What do you feel has shifted the most?

Well, I mean, I guess because I’m in a band and our livelihoods are kind of contingent upon how many people we can cram into a venue on any given night, I would say the old COVID thing is right at home the most!

What has the last few months been for you? Has it been a case of bringing this album home, has it been a case of bunkering down and sort of looking after yourself, what has the last few months been for you?

I’m actually think we’re working harder than ever, just in different ways I guess. The album was about 70-75% done and then we got thrown into quarantine. And we tried to do the best we could via email. But, you know, if you’re in the studio with people you can just say “can you turn that up?” That takes like 10 seconds in person… via email it takes like four hours. So, you know, that was pretty inconvenient. But once things started to kind of open up a little bit, we were able to get back in the studio and finish everything.

It’s an important part right? That feeling of being in the studio and that feeling of tangibly being around the songs.

100%. And it’s just so much more efficient. What took us maybe four to eight hours in the studio, would have actually probably taken a month over email.

mama’s boy is the name. And it refers to the feeling of home, that sweeping sense of Americana and nostalgia, and I suppose the spirit of being a young person in America right now. Have you got words for what that spirit is in 2020?

Well, clearly this year for America, in particular, has been tough for everybody. But we have a few extra problems and things that we need to sort out clearly. One is a race issue. And another one is a police issue. And that’s kind of discouraging that those are problems, but it is an amazing and encouraging thing to be a part of a generation and even the generation underneath us, that is rising up and trying to rewrite the narrative and right the wrongs. It sucks, because we have problems, but it is amazing to watch people rise up and really take matters into their own hands and do what they can on a very personal level to change the story of this nation.

Not just with young people in general, but with your fanbase in particular, do you feel they’re particularly tapped into these issues and the want for change?

I think so. I mean, I’m not having personal conversations with everyone and also we have a pretty global fanbase, it’s really spread out. But I would hope so. We try to lead by example, in everything that we do and look, I can only be responsible for those in my circle, but I’m hoping that everyone kind of takes that responsibility individually as well.

I read a really interesting quote in the press release before I jumped on this call, which was that with Malibu Nights, there was only wanted one person to hear that album. But now, there’s not one person you don’t want to hear mama’s boy. That’s a pretty special place to be, isn’t it?

Yeah. I mean, Malibu Nights was so singular in it’s kind of temperature and mood. It was unapologetically a breakup album. It was kind of one-track-minded. If you’ve been broken up with, it was your favourite album. And if you hadn’t been broken up with, you kind of didn’t understand it. But we’re like, it was a great step forward for us in our careers. I feel so strongly about mama’s boy and the fact that there’s a lot of flavour on it. It’s 14 songs that talk about 14 completely different nuances and emotions and things in life. I feel very confident that there’s at least one song for everybody.

I feel like there’s almost this thing of going in on one very particular subject, finding an audience that connects to that, and then bringing them along the journey of talking about broader issues. Do you kind of feel like that’s the sense you’re giving your fanbase?

That’s exactly what I want to. I can’t just keep getting dumped over and over for everyone’s entertainment! I’d like to think that I’m moving and progressing and evolving as a human being, you know? I was incredibly honest and vulnerable and transparent on Malibu Nights. And that was advantageous, and people really appreciated that. So my challenge was, how can I be even more transparent and vulnerable, but outside of the realm of heartbreak and relationship?

That’s really cool, man, that’s a really cool thing to be able to do for fans. What do you think’s changed sonically between the last record and this? In my eyes, it feels a lot more live. And it feels like a broader spectrum of sounds. Do you feel like that’s kind of the way you’ve gone with it.

Definitely. I mean, Jake’s really playing the drums on this album, which is going to give you that feel. Look, in pop music, especially in 2020, everything does really unfortunately sound the same. Everyone’s kind of using the same drum sounds and the same arpeggiated basslines. We were trying to bring something fresh to the table, but something that felt timeless… like a modern classic. One element that we had never worked into a LANY song ever – which is hilarious – is the acoustic guitar! Like, the most fundamental instrument on the planet! So, there’s a lot of acoustic guitar on this album. There’s also cello and string quartets and ensembles and choirs and gospel choirs and flugel horn and slide guitar. These are all just elements that have never been heard before on a LANY song, so it was cool to really go for it.

Particularly the flugel horn. That hasn’t been on a LANY song yet.

No, sir. The closest thing would be the fake saxophone we had in Hot Lights, I guess.

What do you reckon’s led to you guys being a little bit more live with the sound? Is it a case of wanting to soundtrack these much more broad stories with a much more broad soundscape? Or is it not that deep?

That’s interesting that you say “or it’s not that deep.” I think there’s so many decisions that are made creatively that come from the subconscious, that potentially you weren’t super intentional about, but you had been intentional about everything you were feeding yourself with that it just, like, naturally came out. You know, we listen to bands that we want to be like or emulate and they have this sort of broader sound, like Coldplay and Oasis. We did the synth thing. And we still stay true to it. There’s a lot of really beautiful warm synths and pads and some really beautiful electronic drum moments, especially on i still talk to jesus. We definitely stay true to who we are. But we were just like, “let’s go ahead and embrace these other elements that we’ve maybe in the past been scared or apprehensive about.”

I think there’s still such a definitively LANY through-line to this. They’re such obvious LANY songs, but they have different instruments to kind of bring them forward. In lieu of being able to tour this record all over the world, which has so far been the LANY approach, how are you looking forward to connecting with people on an IRL basis without the existence of live touring?

I mean, I don’t know if we can! Which is interesting. Did you notice when we first went into quarantine, everyone & their Mom was doing like, a live living room performance. It was cute, for like, a week. But have you noticed nobody’s doing that now? Because there’s not an appetite, right? Which I thought was really encouraging because the more we progress and become more digital, you would think that potentially this live streaming thing would be what people crave, but it’s not! In fact, the more digital we get, the more bulletproof live experiences become, the more sought after and desired they become. So to me, that’s encouraging. While we might go an entire year not playing a show because of COVID, I do feel this sense of confidence that live shows and live experiences are just never going to go out of style, which is encouraging.

How are you going to celebrate release day, then?

So like in the past, Rupert and Steve, who are on the team, and the boys, would normally come over… like when we release a single we always have dinner together, we make sure we’ve got a few computers open to get all the posts up and everything like that. So I imagine it will be the same thing. But I did have a buddy ask me last night, like “what are we actually going to do to celebrate?” and that’s one thing I just have never been good at with this band, we’ve never really celebrated things, and it’s something that I definitely want to get better at, to carve out time, to really enjoy it. Just the fact that, dude, it’s not easy to write songs. It’s not easy to make an album. So we should take some time and really celebrate it and go “that was awesome. Good job, boys. Good job team.” So I’m figuring that out right now!

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