The music video still reigns thanks to YouTube. With the demise of MTV, (or at least music on MTV), the format was on the ropes for a time until the age of YouTube and other video streaming services made them a viable marketing tool once again. In fact, videos are once again kick starting and resurrecting careers, and LANY (pronounced lay-nee) is showing just how it’s done.
The electronic-pop trio—Paul Jason Klein (lead vocals), Leslie Priest (keys, guitar, and vocals), and Jake Goss (drums)—is experiencing a meteoric rise to fame on the back of music videos, streaming content, and touring. The band’s creepy and stalker-ish video for “ILYSB,” (short for “I love you so bad”), is approaching two million views on YouTube in just six months, while Billboard + Twitter Emerging Artists chart-topper “yea, babe, no way,” has reached well over a million.
The video for “ILYSB” is full of sunny, drop-top imagery of the LANY boys riding in a convertible, that is, until the story takes a severely dark turn, when the band launches a Clockwork Orange-style home invasion. The juxtaposition of the bright and airy scenes with the dark and brutal is quite unnerving. And then there’s Paul Klein in a leopard shawl singing into a red lollipop singing, And you need to know / You're the only one, alright, alright / And you need to know / That you keep me up all night, all night.
Their newest video, “Good Girls,” released just days before their self-titled debut album, finds singer Paul Klein roaming on the streets of L.A. in an unnerved, brooding manner, and singing to a catchy synth-laden backing track with light funky fills that harkens back to the glamor and grime of ‘80s and ‘90s Hollywood. In it, Paul Klein plays the role of teen-movie beleaguered bad boy looking for redemption—unwashed locks, gold hoop earrings, and baggy crop top—equal parts Vine and Valley. By the end, however, Klein’s character happens into a chance encounter, adding nuance to the initially simple premise with a direct narrative reference to the prior “ILYSB.” Of the video, Klein said, “I thought it'd be cool to set up the storyline of this specific song as a potential prequel. Watch ‘til the end.”
The video also provides a good example of the minimalist electronic-pop with live-instrumentation that’s won the band so many fans. Part ‘90s pop band Savage Garden, part current brit-pop sensations The 1975, and all dewy, dream-pop production, LANY’s music is so pronounced and catchy you’ll have these earworms floating around your head all day. Although seemingly simple in structure, LANY continually delights with unexpected drum fills here and surprise synthesizer flourishes there.
The band’s smashing success in the streaming realm has led to highly coveted opening and support spots for artists such as Twin Shadow, Ellie Goulding, Troye Sivan, Halsey, and even their “hero” John Mayer. These initial tours (with no radio support nonetheless) have only led to increased streams and plays and now sold-out headlining tours of their own. LANY even appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers in May for a rendition of “ILYSB.”
The sudden success has been overwhelming on all levels, as Klein revealed to an L.A. audience, at the close of LANY’s 2016 kinda tour. With tears in his eyes, he reminisced about his first days in the city trying, and failing, to make it as a solo artist. “Look, I'm going to be honest with you. I have a college degree, I applied to bag groceries at Trader Joe's, I applied to clean the plates at Whole Foods, I applied to Chase bank, and I got turned down for all of those positions. I just wrote songs in the corner of my one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood.”
If Klein needs to thank anyone for the change in fortune, it’s his two bandmates. After those first difficult few months trying to make it as a solo artist in L.A., he flew to Nashville to sit in on some songs with old friends Goss and Priest, who were working on their own project WRLDS at the time. Four days later they wrote and recorded their first two songs, “Hot Lights” and “Walk Away,” on the same Dell computer they’ve used to record and mix every song they’ve released thus far, and everything just seemed to click.
The guys posted the project anonymously on SoundCloud, and major labels came knocking. Recognizing the opportunity, Klein, Priest, and Goss packed their bags and relocated the newly formed project to Los Angeles, finding inspiration for their name LANY (Los Angeles and New York) along the way. The band signed with Polydor Records, joining a roster that includes James Blake, HAIM, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Lana del Ray.
“I have a college degree, I applied to bag groceries at Trader Joe's, I applied to clean the plates at Whole Foods, I applied to Chase bank, and I got turned down for all of those positions."
In June 2017, LANY released its first full-length album that builds on the work of their four previous EPs (Acronyms, I Loved You., Make Out, and kinda). The self-titled outing retains some of the smooth synth-pop stylings of their previous work with new songs like “13,” “The Break Up,” “Good Girls,” and “It Was Love,” and the older hit “ILYSB” sounding like something straight from the tailored moodiness of ads for Urban Outfitters and Forever 21. In fact, the band’s music would not seem out of place in a mall food court.
Lyrically, it fits, too. With titles like “ILYSB (I Love You So Bad),” “It Was Love,” and “The Break Up,” it’s obvious that Klein’s lyrics focus almost solely on love, both requited and not, but even less obvious titles move in that direction, albeit in a more Millennial-focused bent. Songs like “4ever!,” “BRB,” and “Current Location” conjure images of love in the digital age with their use of acronyms, lowercase obsession, and text lingo. (The song “Good Girls” was even used in a Snapchat filter.)
Paul Klein’s lyrics are alluring because of his approachability. At any moment he could be talking directly to the listener—a bard pouring his heart out in text and emoji. Consider the lyrics from “Hurt.” Klein alludes to the old adage “love is pain” when he croons, But now that you're mine / The more I love, the more it hurts, oh. Between this lyric and the narrative content of videos “ILYSB” and “Good Girls,” perhaps Klein’s thinking pain and love are one in the same.
Stare out into the sea of phone-illuminated faces at a LANY show and you’ll notice an overwhelming similarity among their audience—they’re young, mostly female, and singing along to every lyric louder than the band. The image recalls the heartfelt and intimate scene sing-alongs once held by Dashboard Confessional in the early 2000s. Similarly to Dashboard Confessional’s heart-on-sleeve affectations, LANY’s approach to love songs has been an instant hit with young women and teenage girls. But while early Dashboard Confessional was a guy, a guitar, and room full of emotionally charged teens screaming their hearts out, LANY trades the acoustics for minimalist synthesizers and a cooler approach.
LANY is currently on a headlining world tour that goes the rest of the year, supporting their debut full-length self-titled album out on Polydor Records in June, 2017. Look for them on the summer festival circuit, too, with appearances scheduled at Barn on the Farm, The Forecastle Festival, Bumbershoot, and the Kaaboo Festival.