LANY’s last two albums have each been sweeping statements about big themes — intense heartbreak on Malibu Nights and an exploration of the band’s background on 2021’s Mama’s Boy. The band’s fourth album gg bb xx is a change of gear, towards what frontman and principal songwriter Paul Klein calls micro-moments: those flashes we experience that come and go in the blink of an eye. Fleeting moments in love and life that it’d be easy to miss if we didn’t grab hold of them there and then.
gg bb xx accepts that big things in life are always made of small things, and couldn’t exist without them. “There have been times in the past,” Paul recalls, “when I’ve walked into a writing session with a micro-moment idea for a song and the producer’s said: ‘I don’t think there’s enough meat there, maybe it could be a line in another song?’ This time round it was an exciting challenge and a fun endeavour to take what might be considered inconsequential, and to make it magical.”
Which, of course, is what great pop music so often does, but then LANY are no strangers to great pop music. When Paul, Jake Goss and Les Priest established the band in 2014, conjuring a new alt-pop trio from the ashes of their own respective musical projects, their synth-sheened anthems of love, heartbreak and the quest for connection immediately found an audience. Their 2017, self-titled debut album set in motion a chain of events that led to international success, sold-out arenas, festival ubiquity and a massive 3.5 billion streams. And having established themselves on the world stage through music that’s never been less than meticulously crafted LANY are now choosing to complement songs about micro-moments with a new type of spontaneity.
In the past, Paul recognises, he’d obsess over every minute detail of a song, recording some vocal takes a hundred times, admitting that “I was — and there’s no other way to put this — incredibly anal.” Producer Andrew Goldstein, who’s overseen gg bb xx in its entirety, was having none of that. “He said to me: ‘Stop doing that,’” Paul laughs. “He said: ‘We’re not going to do that. When the vocal’s right, I will let you know.’” In time it was Paul who found he could let go of his insecurities and trust the process. In fact, the vocals on Til I Don’t, Dancing In The Kitchen and Roll Over, Baby are the recordings made on the day each of those songs was first written. “There was a real sense of freedom to this album,” Paul acknowledges. “Even freedom from myself. I learned to stop being hung up on everything. To let stuff go. Recording gg bb xx has been the most fun I’ve ever had making music — this new album is LANY at its best, and for all the right reasons.”
gg bb xx comes hot on the (stacked) heels of 2021’s Mama’s Boy, an album whose neon cowboy artwork perfectly encapsulated a collection of songs in which LANY wrestled with the tension between the bright lights of their lives today and their roots growing up in, as the band put it, “the middle of nowhere”. A sonic departure for the band, it also worked as something of a prequel: an opportunity to present the origin story of a group that had apparently arrived fully formed from LA and NY, via Nashville. “We took our fans back home,” Paul says now. “We showed them what we left, and maybe why we left. It was taking people on a journey — spending some time away from LANY to tell the story behind it.” The band figured that on any long journey it’s alright to take a detour or two; ironically, the departure ended up earning LANY their biggest radio hit to date, in the shape of If This Is The Last Time, and a top 10 US album, winning them even more new fans along the way.
Indeed, one line on the new song Up To Me — “have you heard they’re playing LANY on the radio?” — was directly inspired by texts Paul received during 2021 when their music was blowing up in places it had never blown up before. In turn, his mind wandered to a former romance, from back when the band was in its infancy. “I thought of my ambition back then when I was still trying to make it, and the people I was with at the time, and it occurred to me: I wish we were celebrating together.”
Paul’s unselfconscious knack for pensive, reflective lyricism teems through this album, painting miniature vignettes that can’t help but resonate. On Somewhere, for instance, he sings of growing self-esteem and independence. “There comes a point in anyone’s life where it’s important to not need the approval of or affection from others — to love yourself, and be proud of yourself,” he says. “It’s a journey and I might spend the rest of my life trying to get there, but I’m on the way. The song says: I’m not where I want to be. But I’m getting somewhere.” Then there’s the idea of “loving only halfway” expressed in DNA — a song about struggling to establish a meaningful relationship in a town where commitment seems like a dirty word. “In LA you can barely get someone to commit to dinner on a Wednesday night, much less a relationship,” Paul says. “The DNA of this town is: keep your options open. ‘Nah, I’m gonna love you a little bit but you never know who might be better, hotter, younger, more beneficial to my status.’ Dating in LA is all about: ‘I’ll love you, but only halfway.’”
Nailing down a solid relationship in the recording studio can be just as tricky, he adds. “It’s difficult to find producers these days that will commit to an entire body of work, but when I met Andrew Goldstein I expressed an interest that I would love to make this top to bottom with him, and he was on board straight away. He totally understood the dynamic of LANY, and he understood our vision from the get-go.” (At one point the vision was that the album would be entirely electronic, though this was revised slightly as a band couldn’t resist the lure of a twelve-foot grand piano.)
When the album felt done, Paul found himself watching an Ed Sheeran documentary in which Ed, his own album feeling done, played the tracks to his record label who pointed out that it was a bit ballad-heavy. Ed then turned in Shape Of You. “The most streamed song on any platform in the whole fucking world,” Paul reflects. The next day LANY went into the studio and set themselves the challenge of imagining that they hadn’t actually yet written their new album’s biggest song. The result was Never Mind Let’s Break Up. “There’s a 99.99% chance that the song is absolutely not our Shape Of You,” Paul laughs, “but we still walked out with a song that was really cool.” And it’s a song packed with micro-moments — snapshots from all Paul’s previous relationships; the greatest hits of near breakups. Or, as Paul puts it: “All the times I was ready to pull the trigger and say: okay, it’s not working, let’s split up.”
Nowhere is gg bb xx’s sense of spontaneity more in evidence than in the album’s title. (For the record you pronounce it ‘gg’ as in Hadid, ‘bb’ as in Rexha, and ‘xx’ as in, well, The xx.) Fans and internet sleuths could spend years attempting to decode the secret hidden message or significance of this title, so to save everyone time: it doesn’t mean much at all. “I wanted a title that had no pretence, no preconceived notion: a clean slate,” Paul explains. “So whatever the title means to you, that’s what the album title means.”
Whether that’s fact or bluff remains to be seen, but there’s no mistaking the passion and positivity at the heart of LANY’s extraordinary new album. There is, unavoidably, a subtle sense of joy in gg bb xx. “It feels good to feel good,” is Paul’s explanation. “What I think you hear in the album is that I’ve reached a point where I feel secure and safe in the knowledge that whatever happens in life, I can always find a silver lining.”
– Never mind, let’s break up –
The new track is the fourth offering from gg bb xx, following “up to me,” “dna [demo]” and “dancing in the the kitchen”—which Uproxx says “showcases the group’s knack for penning relatable pop tunes, emphasizing the importance of enjoying life’s little moments over a joyous beat.” These new songs follow LANY’s first new music of 2021, “I Quit Drinking,” a duet with country superstar Kelsea Ballerini which debuted with a live performance at this year’s CMT Awards.
It’s not hard to understand why the three-piece are making music with a swagger. In 2020, their third studio album ‘mama’s boy’ debuted in the Top 10 on the US Billboard chart, with the band also scoring a UK Top 25 album placing. To date, LANY have amassed over three billion total streams, 600+ million video views and sold almost half a million tickets. They are no strangers to collaboration, either: preceding their hit with Kelsea Ballerini were stunning team-ups with Lauv (2019’s ‘Mean It’) and Julia Michaels (‘okay’, from the same year).
The band will embark on a UK and Irish tour in September, with stop-offs in Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin, Glasgow and London. Until then, we have ‘dancing in the kitchen’. It’s the sound of a band hitting a thrilling creative peak. LANY are coming into their own.
LANY: GG BB XX UK TOUR 2021
September 23 Birmingham, U.K. O2 Academy Birmingham
September 24 Manchester, U.K. Manchester Academy
September 25 Dublin, Ireland The Helix
September 27 Glasgow, U.K. O2 Academy Glasgow
September 29 London, U.K. Eventim Apollo
– dancing in the kitchen –
The LA-based trio are one of the breakthrough bands of the past decade and the euphoric, hook-laden synth-pop of ‘dancing in the kitchen’ sees Paul Klein, Jake Goss and Les Priest hit new heights. Following ‘I quit drinking’, the group’s collaboration with Kelsea Ballerini that came last month, ‘dancing in the kitchen’ is the first cut from LANY’s next chapter and comes with a new video directed by Matty Peacock.