Notion speaks with global hit synthpop band LANY, who talk about homing in on the little moments that bring joy.
Dreampop band LANY and Taylor Swift would probably not immediately strike listeners as similar, and yet Swift’s the one artist that comes to mind when I hear LANY’s funky new song, “dancing in the kitchen”.
Not because there’s any sort of sonic overlap, but because both the band and Swift clearly hold a deep love and appreciation for the smaller, more intimate moments that characterize relationships. Whoever’s familiar with Swift’s epic “All Too Well” will remember that it’s in this song that she describes “dancing around the kitchen in the refrigerator light” as the pinnacle of romance – understated, yet relatable and incredibly powerful. And while “All Too Well” is a power ballad about lost love, “dancing in the kitchen” is a perfect synthpop summer hit about the exact opposite: a newfound love, instead. Using such a small moment as the core focal point of the song came about by no accident. Frontman and creative mastermind Paul Klein tells me over Zoom that he’s become more and more “obsessed with focusing on the micro-moments in life, the things that we often overlook, like dancing in the kitchen with the person you love”.
He’s quite busy when we speak, what with the new single release at the end of the week that signifies a new era for LANY. “We just announced yesterday that we have a date. The first single from our new album drops this Friday. So it’s very exciting – this is the feeling after you work hard for six months. This is the moment now, so you just try to enjoy it as much as you can.”
The fact that everything’s been on hold for so long due to COVID-19 only adds another layer of joy to the release. “We’re really excited to get back to doing what we do, which is playing music around the world, releasing music, and just kind of being a band fully, you know,” he explains. Though LANY went ahead and released their album ‘mama’s boy’ last year, they didn’t get to tour as they normally would have done. In lieu of this, Klein took some weeks to himself after the album release in October last year. “I went on my first vacation in my entire life,” he starts, before adding that it wasn’t a very long one – he went to Hawaii for about four days, before coming back to start writing again. “Somewhere along the process, I think maybe towards the end of January, or maybe the beginning of February, that’s when I wrote ‘dancing in the kitchen.’”
Funnily enough, the song wasn’t originally what he’d come to the studio for. “I had another concept, called ‘till I don’t’, which was: I’m going to love you as hard as I can and give you absolutely everything. There’s so much unknown, especially after what we just went through. I have no idea what the future holds. I can’t promise you forever, but I’m gonna love you, right up until the moment that I don’t. So we are working on this song and I kind of spit out this lyric, when we were writing the bridge, ‘we fly around the world just to dance in the kitchen’. And everyone was like: yo, that’s crazy. Why don’t you go in there and quickly lay down a demo vocal for the original song? Then let’s try a song called ‘dancing in the kitchen’. I said: okay, that sounds amazing. It was the first and only time I’ve ever written two songs in one day.”
And while that was the line that ended up inspiring the full song, it’s not his favourite lyric from “dancing in the kitchen”. That honor goes to the line “Dom Perignon dripping on our shoes”, Klein tells me, smiling. “I do love that line. It was just fun writing it – we could have done all sorts of brands, like Don Julio, but I just really liked this. I also love the opening line – it’s so visual to me and cinematic.” He quotes the line “like city lights looking like ice underneath the stars,” before continuing: “It just kind of puts you right in the moment. You can see the skyline. Maybe it’s that blue hour – that really dark, deep blue before it gets pitch black and the night is full of suspense. You don’t know where it’s gonna go. But you know you’re glad to be alive. And, I don’t know, that’s just kind of what it feels like to me.”
It reminds me a bit of the La La Land movie poster, which Klein is very happy with, as the video for “dancing in the kitchen” will also feature some choreography. “I guess we’ve done quite a few music videos. It’s kind of crazy, but we’ve never done one where I have a love interest in a video. There’s never been a girl that I’m unapologetically into. We follow that narrative throughout this video. I invite this girl on a date and it’s to a shutdown restaurant. I walk her through the kitchen and we’re dancing on the booths and we’re dancing in the kitchen and dancing outside and behind the bar. We shot the whole thing on film, so it looks really beautiful,” he adds.
Having to learn a dance routine didn’t scare him at all, as he’s actually got some dancing genes. “I don’t think anyone knows this, but my mom was on Dance Fever. She’s a twirler – she used to twirl swords and things on fire. So yeah, I love to dance, even though I’m not amazing at it. I had the time of my life trying and learning. And I mean, it’s very fun. It puts a smile on my face.”
In a way, that certainly fits with his message of living for these micro-moments, instead of going through the motions and taking them for granted. Dance like nobody’s watching, essentially. But it’s also taken Klein some time to write a song like this, he confesses. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked in a room with a song title that was based on a micro-moment. People have been like, ‘it’s really cool. That’s a cool line. Love that. I don’t know if we can write a whole song about that. But like, maybe we could work it into the second verse.’ And I’d be like: sure. I would just let them dismiss that idea. But I started figuring it out. I started realizing how powerful it was instead.”
“dancing in the kitchen” is also a bit of a departure from LANY’s last album, ‘mama’s boy’, both sonically and thematically. Whereas their previous collections of songs took a more conceptual approach, they’ve let go of that for now. “It’s amazing to not be handcuffed to a certain aesthetic or a certain sound and just follow our guts, and do whatever the hell we want, you know?” Klein comments.
The band is very conscious of the artistic identity they’re crafting, and the story they’re telling throughout every phase or chapter of their career. “With ‘mama’s boy’, it was a beautiful opportunity to take the scenic route for a little minute. The metaphor I would draw up is: when you’re dating somebody, and things are going well. You’ve been dating for maybe a year, maybe a couple of years. You’re like: hey, I really like you and want to take this to the next level. That would involve maybe me taking you back home to meet my family. There are going to be things that you like, and there might be some things that you don’t love, but it’s a necessary step. I need you to know where I’m from – my past, and I need to contextualize all of this for you if we can go any further. That was the journey that I took our fans on whether they realize it or not.”
“Now I’m spelling it out for them verbatim because this was all part of the plan. The album was a departure – sonically, thematically, everything was a little bit different. Because we were taking them back home to what we had left, and we wanted to show them where we were from and talk about certain things. That’s why there’s a song called ‘If It’s the Last Time’, which is an ode to your parents. Hey, mom, obviously you’re not perfect, Dad, you’re not perfect, I’m not perfect. None of us are perfect. We all fall short, but I love you to death. God forbid if it’s the last time I see you. Thank you for everything, I fucking love you. Then there’s: I still talk to Jesus, I was raised in the church. Probably I do some things now in my life that I probably grew up thinking I’d go to hell for. You might not believe it, but I still talk to Jesus. These are humongous songs to write – that are not very easy to write. But we did it. So now I think we’re in the post-‘meeting the parents’ phase of this relationship and this band. Everything went well, and now we’re coming home and getting back to it,” Klein explains excitedly.
It’s a beautiful metaphor of how he envisions LANY’s progress throughout their various albums, landing us back at “Dancing in the Kitchen”. Having given the past the attention it deserves, it’s time to focus on the present and future – truly live in the moment, or micro-moments as Klein refers to them. Zooming in on those and being able to transform them into unique songs and stories of their own is something Klein says is relatively new to him but is a process that he enjoys very much.
“The human experience is about changing your mind, evolving and growing. There are songs that I’ve been writing that take me back to 2016. I’m much better equipped now in 2021 as a better songwriter and artist to touch on emotions and experiences and feelings from years ago, but there are also some songs that are very right now in the present moment. It’s as if you’re just flipping through a journal of the last five years of my life. I think that’s nice to give these different moments to people, because how many songs do you really need about the same thing?”
When I ask him if “dancing in the kitchen” is a reflection of how he’s feeling right now, since it’s very happy and upbeat, he smiles and tells me that yes, he’s definitely got a constant smile on his face. There’s a quiet confidence about it, too. Klein is not arrogant or pretentious, but he’s assured in the quality of LANY’s material. And he’s not wrong – there’s an authentic quality to their songs, even as their soundscape continues to evolve. It’s the one thing that binds this song to both the past albums and future ones.
“I’m in an amazing band with two amazing guys that trust me and champion me to lead this and cast the vision. They’ve been so gracious and amazing to say: we’re with you, we’ll run with this because you know exactly where you want to take us and we’re going to go there with you. I think it’s because I simply live, breathe, eat all of it – all of LANY. No matter what instruments we put in the song, if it’s more organic, guitar-led, or funkier and synthpop leaning, it’s gonna feel like us, simply because of how much of my spirit and my soul I pour into everything we do. That’s the real consistency, I think – that kind of thumbprint, fingerprint, or DNA. I’d never ever let somebody else write songs for us, or let them design album art or merch for us. I have too much fun doing it,” he laughs. “So I do it, and people know I do it, and I think that’s really important to what we’re building.”
LANY’s also having fun with the roll-out of this next phase, and while Klein can’t reveal too much, he can share that he’s excited for what’s to come. “I really want to give people a chance to fall in love with the songs and get warmed up for what we’re about to give them. I think we have a beautiful plan set in place, that is very us. I think that’s what I’m so excited about with this new era. I don’t know if it’s the best, or if it’s better than somebody else’s. I don’t really care. It’s just us to the nth degree. It’s uniquely LANY, and I think that’s really all we can be.”