LANY Talks New Album 'Malibu Nights,' Taking Chances and Staying True to Their Identity

Emman Montalvan
LANY

The band's highly-anticipated sophomore album arrives today, Oct. 5.

With L.A.-based alt-pop trio LANY, there's no such thing as a sophomore slump. Instead of taking a break after their massive world tour in 2017, the band decided to immediately hop back into the studio to work on recording their highly-anticipated second studio album, Malibu Nights, out today (Oct. 5). Written in a whopping 45 days, Malibu Nights arrives just a year and a half after their self-titled debut LANY, and is their most vulnerable work to date.  

Malibu Nights sees members Paul Jason Klein (lead vocals/keyboard), Jake Goss (drums/sampling pad) and Les Priest (synthesizers/backing vocals/guitar) working in harmony to deliver a tight set of nine lush pop songs (after a 17-track debut LP) brimming with lyrics about love, longing and loss in the wake of heartbreak. Known best for their dreamy synth-pop melodies and layered vocals, LANY incorporate more guitar, piano and drums into their instrumentals on Malibu Nights -- new elements that shine brightest on songs like "Let Me Know," "Taking Me Back," and the intimate, piano-driven title track that closes the album. 

Because of their extreme dedication to their craft, LANY is now stronger than ever, and have successfully managed to stay true to what fans have come to love about them since their formation four years ago. "I think it's important no matter how big we get to stay true to how we've done it in the past," says Klein. "I always want to stay the same as 2014 even though I want to progress, evolve and get better. I want us to stay true to who we really are."

Ahead of the release of Malibu Nights, LANY touched base with Billboard to discuss how this album differs from their self-titled debut, why this project is their bravest work yet and what their hopes and expectations are for the album. 

What prompted such a quick turnaround for Malibu Nights? It comes less than two years after your debut album, LANY.

Paul Klein: It wasn't really on purpose. We played 135 shows last year, so the schedule was to chill, relax, try a few things if we wanted to and then go into the studio late July or August and work on album two. I just didn't really feel like chilling and I needed to go into the studio everyday. I was writing every single day and at the end of every day, I would send them what I would call skeletons of songs. It was a piano, vocal or a GarageBand demo of a song. Some were good and some weren't as good, then we realized this is an album.

Describe the recording process for Malibu Nights. How did it come together? What was your state of mind during writing and recording?

PK: I can divide songs into two sections: You have the skeleton of the song and then you have the backbone, the meat and the muscle. I would send these guys the skeletons and then we spent four times as much time packing on the muscle. We worked with Mike Crossey (The 1975, Arctic Monkeys, Twenty One Pilots), who helped us elevate what we're good at and improve on what we're not good at. In the past, we would go on tour, then we'd have a couple of weeks off, and making everything at home whereas with this, we were going on tour but we had more time at home and more time to be in the studio. We showed up at noon and went home at 7 or 8 p.m., but it was every single day and it was really fun.

Jake Goss: It was fun too because it was a lot different than what we've done in the past. Usually in our earlier stuff, we'd have a groove and we build a song around it and lyrics will go last. It was fun this time around because we wanted to try new things and see where it would go. A lot of times Paul would have a piano and a vocal done that day, and then he'd send it over and I would throw it into Logic. It was a new way of exploring stuff.

How similar was the rough version of the album to the final?

PK: Some songs stayed pretty similar. "Run" stayed pretty similar. But then for instance, Jake's drums on "Taking Me Back" really elevated that song. He accentuated parts of that song, and on "Thick and Thin," too. They all start with a pretty clear vision. "Thru These Tears" lacked the most vision, that's why it took us a while to piece it out exactly.

There’s a real raw vulnerability in this project compared to others that LANY has done. What inspired you to be this transparent?

PK: It's just the only way I know how to write. I feel like a lot of times in my whole life to really process or communicate something, I feel like I can do it better in music, and I think that's part of what we do as LANY. It's not all that we do, but I think when people come to know and learn LANY that they know they're going to get real, relatable, universal, believable, realistic lyrics. Fans know what we’re talking and singing about, and they can find themselves in those stories. We also pushed ourselves musically and tried things that we were uncomfortable with by putting guitar and drums in a lot of the songs. The album from top to bottom lyrically and sonically is us really pushing ourselves and being brave.

How does Malibu Nights differ from your first album?

PK: I think it's different in all the right ways, and it's the same in all the right ways. I don't think we sound like a different band. I think we still sound like LANY and ultimately we just made the best LANY album. I think its different in introducing those elements that we haven't really discovered or tapped into in the past. On some songs, technically speaking, there's only one of my vocals on "Malibu Nights." The only time we've ever done something like that is with "ILYSB (Stripped)." We tend to stack vocals, and that's been a sonic identity that we've had in the past, but just trying new things like that is how it's different. Working with older and wiser guys that know more than us with an outside perspective, it was cool to have a sounding board like that.

Was it an intentional move to have fewer songs on Malibu Nights? Did you aim or plan to have a more succinct album, or was everything that you needed to say said within those nine songs?

PK: I definitely think that everything I needed to say, I said in those nine songs. There's nothing left for me to say whatsoever. Coincidentally, it was nine songs. It wasn't on purpose even though I have a 9 tattoo on my arm, but we believe you can't be anybody's favorite band without an album. It's important to give people a body of work because it's content and diversity. It's 2018 and people's attention spans are shrinking. It's important to make a concise, digestible body of work and I think that's what we did.

What is the meaning of the crescent moon on the Malibu Nights cover art? How does it play a part into the overall theme of the project?

PK: We decided on Malibu Nights as the title of the album and I wanted to get something kind of symbolic of the night time. There's a jewelry shop down the street from our studio that we worked out of. It’s where I bought my hoop earring that I always wear. I went in there and I saw a moon charm and they custom made the hoop with the charm on it.

We never set out to make the rose [on the cover of our first album] famous, but the rose became kind of famous and very symbolic of our first era -- it was the rose era. I was thinking of what was the next thing, and I kept coming back to the crescent moon and Malibu Nights. It just felt so cohesive. I was up really late drawing and I took my earring out and I traced it, and then I had my friend draw out the earring on illustrator. The crescent moon that we use in all of our graphics is this exact moon on my hoop earring. I've had the jewelry shop where I got this make us earrings for our fans because a lot of our fans want to wear the earring.

Can explain the fascination with sad songs and bright colors? What do you find so appealing about that juxtaposition?

PK: I think we're constantly becoming more aware of who we are and what we do. We're informed of this by people who listen to our music, it never dawned on us that we had sad songs with an uptempo. It's not something that we sat out in 2014 and said "Alright guys, this is gonna be our mantra." I do think in art, juxtaposition is an amazing approach to things. You have one thing that clearly has this mood, why not pair it something that's a complete opposite? It actually works in color theory -- you take one color and then opposite color on the other end of the spectrum is the one that compliments the best. We try to do that with our visuals. We either match it perfectly, or we just go the opposite.

You decided how you were going to announce Malibu Nights less than an hour before you announced the album. Was that an attempt to be spontaneous and go with the flow?

PK: I think it's just the byproduct of living and breathing what we do. This is all our blood, sweat and tears. It's what we're so passionate about. It's not contrived, it's not corporate. I think it's important no matter how big we get to stay true to how we've done it in the past. I always want to stay the same as 2014 even though I want to progress, evolve and get better. I want us to stay true to who we really are.

What do you want listeners to take away form Malibu Nights?

PK: Great songs. I just want to give people a great album with great songs that they want to keep listening to over and over again.

How would you want your long-term fans from the beginning to receive the album?

PK: I hope that they always think we're getting better and better. I never want to disappoint fans. Without saying names, there are some artists that I just loved, and then they dropped an album and I was like, "Wow, I'm going to love you through this hard time." I hope that that's never the case with our fans, that they're always like, "Hell yeah. You just outdid yourselves. You just one-upped yourselves and you get better and better." Hopefully that's how they feel.

JG: And that they always know that we're going to come in with authenticity and being honest, because the younger generation of millennials can see right through authenticity. If something's fake, then they're out. But our fans are going to be with us forever because we're always going to give them the truth.