“We did it ourselves because we could do it ourselves” — LANY on their songwriting, touring

lany interview photo
Alessio Boni

When you first hear a LANY song, it’s hard to listen to it only once. The trio of Paul Klein, Jake Goss, and Les Priest know how to craft a song that you’ll find yourself humming for days on end. With a headlining tour under their belts, a music video that came out in April, and a brand new single, “yea, babe, no way,” off an equally brand new EP, kinda, it’s safe to say the band is riding high right now. We caught up with LANY as they travel the country for a number of festival performances to talk about their touring history, their music, and what they’ve got lined up in the near future.

Substream: I know that you guys just did your first headlining tour in May, and you’ve been doing all these festival appearances, and it sounds like it’s been going spectacularly.
Paul Klein: Yeah, it’s been awesome.

And even before that you’ve toured pretty extensively as a supporting and opening act. How does the headlining tour differ from touring in more of a support role?
PK: I think the first year going out and supporting people was the best thing we could have ever done, but you’re definitely playing to rooms full of people that have no idea who you are; which is great, but they’re definitely real-time figuring out whether they’re into it or not, and to switch over a year after to a headline tour and see a lot of people who first saw us in a room when we were support acts and now they know every word to every song, it was really cool to see this conversion rate and to play to rooms full of people that are there for you and to hear your songs. That’s really nice, it’s really rewarding.

You guys are getting ready to announce the fall tour dates, so what did this first headlining tour teach you that you’re going to take into the fall tour?
PK: I think it showed us that we can play bigger rooms. Our first tour was completely sold out, and we kinda hit the major cities of America. This time we’ll go into a few—I don’t know—minor markets. I’m pretty sure the fall tour is like 35 to 40 dates. On our headline tour, we incorporated live production and lighting and that was extremely fun and added a huge element to our show, and we’ll do the same in the fall.

With touring so much, you play these songs over and over. Have any of your guys’ songs grown or changed? There are bands such as MGMT that will play a three-minute jam session in the middle of a song just because. Are you guys more “play it the same way every night” or are you more like “let’s see what we can do with our music”?
PK: Well in rehearsals we’ll decide what songs we’re going to alter or embellish, and then we kinda stick to the same thing once we’ve got it figured out. So yeah, I mean, we do play the same songs every night, but in rehearsal before going out on tour we’ll try to change things a little bit.

Jake Goss: One thing I love in the beauty of touring with these songs is that we kinda surprise each other some nights. Like we’ll play the same form of the song, but sometimes Paul will do a different embellishment on the vocals, and I’ll be like, “Okay, I hear you,” and I’ll just bring like six cowbells out and just do a cowbell solo for no reason. So you never know what’s going to happen, but we stick to the form.

Who doesn’t want a cowbell solo?
JG: I knew I liked you [laughs].

You guys have performed over in Europe with Ellie Goulding. Is there any sort of difference between touring and performing here in America as opposed to over in Europe?
PK: Not really, no. I mean it just depends on the situation and who you’re opening for and what rooms you’re playing are the main factors that change the experience. While we were over there we did a little headline show at The Barfly in Camden, and there was just 250 people packed in there and it felt very much like a LANY show would feel in America.

I see that with your music, and even with the formation of the band, it’s always been a very DIY vibe. Is that something that you guys aimed to do from the beginning or was it just a natural extension based on your guys’ relationship with each other?
PK: I just think we have this amazing luxury; Les is kinda our engineer and he mixes everything and he understands the whole technical side of it. That’s an enormous luxury to have as a band, and we did it ourselves I guess because we could do it ourselves, and also in the beginning that was the only option that we had. It just seemed to work and it’s kept working. It’s not a pride thing whatsoever—it’s just like we’re a band, and well, Les knows how to do this and we don’t really need to rent out a studio. We like the sounds that we get in our kitchen, in our bedroom in our little house, so we’re good.

So, Les, Paul said you do a lot of the technical stuff?
Les Priest: Yeah, as much as I can [laughs]. I went to school for production, so yeah. I mean it’s easy to make songs in your bedroom these days, you know? You just got a little computer or whatever; it’s so easy. So that’s what we did. It’s what I like to do, so we keep doing it.

Within that, is there any particular writing process you guys have? Like Paul writes lyrics, then music comes after that, and then Les puts it all together? Or is it just a case of it differs song by song?
PK: It normally starts out [with] the three of us around a computer, pulling up sounds, and kinda getting an idea, and then we’ve got a tempo established. We build this sort of bed of instrumentation, and then I’ll usually take a little bit of time on the lyrics and figure out what I want to say, and then that’s that. We never really demo any songs—we kinda write and record simultaneously.

I think that shows in your music where a lot of the subjects you cover are very universal ideas that you express in unique ways. So like with “WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS,” obviously we’ve all felt isolated and alone sometimes. Can you walk me through how that song came into being?
PK: Sure, I mean it literally came in… I was at home on a Friday night eating Chef Boyardee ravioli and drinking $6 wine thinking, “Where are my friends?” And I just kinda very honestly and simply wrote the lyrics to that song, and… [laughs] so straightforward and cut-and-dried, but that’s exactly how it happened.

Then you guys did the music video for it, and that’s your first music video, right?
PK: Yes it is, yup.

[Photosensitive Seizure Warning: The video contains a few instances of strobe light effects]

That must have been a surreal experience, getting to film a music video. Tell me about making the video.
PK: It was kinda hectic. We shot it on an off day when we were on tour with Ellie, so we shot it on the west side of London, and I worked with this director—her name is Nadia [Marquard Otzen]—and we just needed to come up with an idea where I was in a group of people but felt very disconnected, and that’s where the lighting kinda came into play. So we decided that everybody would move under a certain color of lighting, but I would be frozen, and then vice versa. It worked out really well, we had a cool cast, and the crew was amazing. I mean music videos, they’re hard work, you know? We shot it all day—probably 14, 15 hours—and then clear to Copenhagen to edit the video with the video editor, but I guess it’s worth it.

It’s definitely a super-cool music video. When I first saw it I was definitely blown away; like that’s such a cool, simple idea that conveys that song so well.
PK: Thank you.

Yeah, you’re welcome. So “WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS” debuted on Beats 1 with Zane Lowe. How much have you guys talked to him? I know you got a little support from Annie Mac [and Phil Taggert] over at BBC Radio 1, so how much have you guys kept in touch or talked with them at all?
PK: I think Jake ran into Zane, right? But I’ve never met him. I think it’s amazing that he played it, but Jake ran into him.

LP: Yeah.

JG: Yeah I saw him at a Clippers game in LA. I just saw him sitting over there with his son so I just walked up and I was like, “Hey man, I’m Jake from LANY.” He was like, “Ohhhh, what’s up?!” And he was super, super sweet and he really loved the song and was really looking forward to more and we just kinda chatted for a second. I loved it. I thought I was gonna just stutter and fall over because he’s Zane Lowe, but he was just so approachable and nice.

That’s so awesome. You guys just released the new single, “yea, babe, no way.” Is that kinda the same deal with “WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS”? Like a very straightforward inspiration where it’s the end of a relationship and you feel like calling but then you’re like “I should probably not do this”?
PK: [laughs] That’s exactly it. I just have a tendency to write very straightforward and it’s not too hard to kinda dive into our songs and figure out at least the initial inspiration behind something. This is actually the first song we wrote. We kinda went into a writing season for this—working towards writing for an album—and this is the first thing we ever wrote and came up with, so it feels good to finally put it out.

Can we expect a music video for that one as well?
PK: I think so, yeah.

Cool. So you guys put out the Make Out Tour Pre-show Playlist and I like it because it’s super eclectic. You have all these great artists. You have Childish Gambino, Halsey, Kanye, the 1975, Frank Ocean on it. When you were picking out that playlist were you going for a certain vibe or was it more just artists that you’re into?
PK: Well we kinda wanted to give a little bit of a nod to people who have let us support them on tour for the year before. So that’s like Twin Shadow, Halsey—so those people are included on that list, and then I just kinda went with the things I thought had good energy or good vibes; what I liked a lot.

Was that mostly you on the playlist or did everyone get a little bit of input?
PK: Honestly, I just kinda built it on my phone really quick.

You said that you were recording for an album. Is there any sort of timeframe for a release for that?
PK: Probably like the top of next year.

Check out LANY’s fall tour dates below. The new EP ‘kinda’ is now available on iTunes.

LANY kinda tour graphic