“I know it sounds so cliché, but it was literally the worst of times and the best of times,” the box-fresh peroxide-blonde Paul Klein admits. “I was so aware that with all of this fucking stuff, that somewhere deep in my soul I knew that this is maybe also the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” The 30 year old LANY frontman is talking to me as if I’m his closest confidante, rather than a journalist, while recounts his heartbreak from the start of year. But, when a relationship is made up of two chart-storming singers, you have to bid adieu to any element of privacy.
The New Year’s Eve midnight kiss is an anxiety-inducing tradition. The legend goes that whoever you kiss will be the person you’ll then spend the rest of the year with, so when Klein split with his pop star partner, reportedly after a 6am New Year’s Day argument, his coping mechanism was throwing himself into his art. He signed off social media in an effort to be alone and process what had happened and dove into writing what would eventually become the Californian synth-pop trio’s second album, October’s Malibu Nights.
Talking to Klein, it’s evident that he’s gone through some shit, to put it bluntly. As we speak, he often looks away glassy-eyed mid-sentence, seemingly distracted by memories of the self-professed worst months of his life. But this isn’t a sob story, it’s a story about coming out better off on the other side, and ultimately it’s been his resilience and to convert the experience into something positive that’s gotten him through, and his delicate voice glistens with pride as he explains what he’s overcome in the record’s creation.
“Walking out of a session at the end of the day and knowing that you’d written a beautiful fucking song that you’d have for the rest of your life and no one could ever take away from you – it made me feel like I was making the best of my situation,” he smiles. “If I was going to go through this much shit and this much hell, I was going to come out the other side with something to show for it. That was my real motivation the whole time. I was like: ‘I know the only way I’m going to feel OK about any of this is if I have something to show for it at the end.’”
The end result is nine synth-pop gems that document his evolving thoughts about the breakup from 4 January to Valentine’s Day; the exact period in which he wrote Malibu Nights. Musically, it’s an upgrade from the band’s 2017 self-titled debut, exercising more cinematic, emotionally charged melodies at reduced tempos. Lyrically, the record weaves through the whole spectrum of familiar feelings for anyone who’s had their heart suddenly broken. There’s honest confusion in album opener “Thick and Thin” that gives way to sadness, anger and the inevitable, problematic denial in “If You See Her”, where Klein croons, “The night before goodbye she said forever/And made me swear I’d never leave her/She says she doesn’t love me, don’t believe her”. Ultimately we’re presented acceptance and hope for the future in “Thru These Tears”, a ballad and the lead single from the album: “Everyday I let go/Just a little bit more/In the end I'm gonna be alright/But it might take a hundred sleepless nights”.
Within the confines of a studio this level of personal reflection is undoubtedly cathartic, but surely an album must be a daunting platform for Klein to scatter insight on one of the toughest times of his life from. That’s without even factoring in the high profile nature of the breakup. He sighs: “I have these thoughts sometimes, because obviously it is a very vulnerable album, and I feel like I’m taking the most intimate parts of my life, and to a certain degree exposing them for people’s entertainment. I do have those moments where it’s like, ‘Wow, this feels like a joke that I’m going to tell the whole world exactly what I’m thinking and feeling!’ But at the same time, I feel like I have been graced to do it and born to do it. Sometimes people appreciate vulnerability and honesty, but sometimes people mock and reject it. It can go both ways, but I do think, at the end of the day, you can’t really argue with honesty. Showing that naked side of me, that vulnerable side, has been tough but I’m OK to do it.”
Although Malibu Nights tells an autobiographical story, Klein hopes that listeners will be able to relate to his account of overcoming hardship. “I don’t want you to think about me when you listen to our songs, I want you to think about you,” he emphasises. “Growing up, whatever music I identified to was not because I thought ‘oh, poor guy in the band’, it was more like: ‘I feel like this, I know this emotion, I can relate. When I sing it, I feel like I’m singing it.’ That’s the thing. I want our fans to see themselves singing the song, not me,” he smiles. “Really, the goal is just to make people feel something.”
Photography - Jack Bridgland
Fashion - Kamran Rajput
Grooming - Asuka Fukuda
Photography assistant - Theo McInnes
Wonderland Magazine Winter 2018/2019 Issue