Paul Klein’s first shot at making it in LA fell woefully short. “I had no promises, no opportunities, really no friends,” says the singer/guitarist, who rented a small Hollywood apartment and drove a U-Haul there from his native Oklahoma.
“It was kind of tough—I have a college degree and I applied to bag groceries at Trader Joe’s and got turned down,” says Klein, 29, who endured similar results at a bank and Whole Foods. “I wound up getting picked up off the street to do some modeling. That fell right into my lap and really helped pay my bills for a while.”
His music career, however, wasn’t paying off. After six months, he called his drummer friend Jake Goss who he’d met in Nashville and like Klein attended Belmont University. Klein wanted to head to Nashville and write with Goss and Les Priest, another friend and Belmont alum who studied audio engineering. The band LANY (its name echoing the coastal hubs of LA and NY and pronounced lay-nee) was born.
“It really came together naturally,” Klein says. “We had limited equipment to use and we still do it the same way. We make all our stuff on Les’ Dell computer. At the time, we had a microKORG, which is a really small synthesizer. We had a bass synth and we had a drum machine. That was literally it. We took what we had and made it work. That kind of defined our sound. Our limitations defined our craft.”
LANY plays House of Blues on Oct. 11.
The trio’s dreamy, minimalist electro-pop yields cleanly shaped melodies, perky rhythms (often recalling finger-snaps) and Klein’s plaintive, conversational lyrics, shared on a series of EPs and now a full-length eponymous debut that came out this summer.
“We value the sonic space that lives in our songs,” Klein says from his new LA digs. “You can start layering things, and it becomes pretty unnecessary and sounds like everything else in the world.”
Not that he doesn’t appreciate the commonplace in the language of lyrics. The singer says that he long worshipped John Mayer for speaking directly to conflicted feelings in a relationship. “You always know what the guy’s talking about, and that’s why I write the way that I write, ’cause I speak pretty plainly,” Klein says. “My mom always taught me to say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Klein wrote lyrics for the album during a relationship that was both satisfying and frustrating, he says. “I fall in love really quick and hard, and when I’m out, I’m out. I’ve never lingered on a breakup. And for the most part, I never talk to the person again after we’ve broken up. I’m pretty all or nothing. I’m zero to a hundred.”
If that sounds like the speed of LANY’s ascent, it wasn’t quite that sudden. Sure, the group began fielding record label offers within weeks of posting its first music on Soundcloud in 2014. But LANY slowly built its millennial following, becoming one of Spotify’s most streamed discoveries, and is currently on a tour that hits House of Blues on Oct. 11 and features tracks off its new album (graced by the smooth single “Super Far”).
“The songs that we put out were commercial in the beginning, but we had very strong indie cred, and I find it so fascinating that the bigger you get, people start taking that away from you,” Klein says, noting they didn’t even post a photo of the band online for a year, instead using a picture of NBA icons Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. “People in Europe unfamiliar with American basketball thought that was us, making music.”
Sports took a back seat to a strict focus on music at a young age, with Klein’s mother insisting on piano lessons. “My mom went through a lot of trauma,” he says, noting her father left when she was 3, inspiring the lyric in “Hericane”: “I know your heart hurts the most at 3 a.m., I know he left before you could even know him.”
“She pushed me so hard,” Klein says. “Being a mother was like her highest calling. She just wanted me to be the absolute best, and I can’t fault her for that.” ◆
LANY plays House of Blues on Oct. 11.
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