LANY – Tickets – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC – October 24th, 2016
THE KINDA TOUR
Doors: 7:00 pm9:30 Club
LANY - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
When the LA-based trio LANY first came together in 2014 their only aim was to work on a couple of tracks together, demo them, and have some fun in the process. Living on the West Coast, singer Paul was putting together a scratch band and played a handful of shows. But by the end of 2013, he says, he knew that something had to give. Which is where Les and Jake enter the picture. Paul conceived the idea of enlisting his friends’ help on that brief trip to visit college friends. What none of them knew was that the step they were about to take would turn out to be so significant. In the space of four days, the trio recorded two songs – songs that would lead, in what they say seemed like the blink of an eye, to the formation of LANY and, not long afterwards, to the band signing to Polydor Records. Six days after putting the tracks online the band found themselves fielding emails from major-label suitors. “The first question was always: ‘What else do you have? We want to hear more’,” says Paul. “And we went off and wrote ILYSB, and said: ‘This.’”
ILYSB marked the moment where LANY reached over the heads of the A&R community and started connecting directly with fans. Put simply, the song exploded online. You can see why. Encapsulating the band’s “Let it breathe” philosophy, ILYSB wafts over you like a summer breeze, the yearning in its lyrics contrasting with the euphoria conjured up by the characteristically minimalist soundscape. A similar alchemy occurs repeatedly in the songs LANY put online – a succession of singles, and the EPs I Loved You and Make Out – over the course of 2015. Again and again – on songs such as BRB, Made in Hollywood, Bad, Bad, Bad, Kiss and those earliest tracks, Walk Away and Hot Lights – you are taken back to the circumstances of the band’s formation. How they sensed, without having to say it out loud, that they were born to make music together.
It’s hard to believe, but, until very recently, that magic was being made in a one-bedroom apartment in LA, the three friends sharing the same room, with barely enough space to swing a cat, never mind set up any recording equipment. But that’s also in keeping with LANY’s approach. The music comes first; the band’s domestic circumstances, well, they can keep for another time. Moving to LA was, they all agree, a crucial step. They weren’t abandoning their roots, they stress; but it was important for them to get out of their comfort zone.
They’re not chin-stroking purists or too-cool-for-school fantasists – on the contrary, they’re proud of the fact that they studied music, and nailed the multiple instruments they all play, at college. In the same spirit, they’re happy to share a room if it means they can pursue their musical dreams, on their own terms. “How we started was, we were friends,” says Jake, “but we were also just fans of each other. I always thought Les was the bomb, and that Paul was the coolest guy ever. So it was like, ‘Ok, we seem to sort of love each other! Let’s do something.’”
And they did. Something called LANY. Making music that aims an arrow at your heart. Writing beautiful songs with swashes of synth, spare percussion, echoes of prime 1980s FM pop, of early-1990s R&B, of new-wave electronica. Combining melody and lyrics to put down roots in your head, and capture your heart. Recorded in a tiny room on an ancient laptop. Creating songs that are devastating and beautiful, in a way that you can’t quite explain. There’s an idea. –Dan Cairns
Transviolet - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
Isn't it funny when you have enough distance to look back and realize there was one accidental meeting, one look exchanged, one conversation shared which set in motion a chain of events that changed your life forever? It's hardly a revelatory sentence—after all, whole films, artworks and albums have crystallized these kinds of coincidences and their knock-on effects. Transviolet's forthcoming full length is not one of those records, but the sequence of events that brought them to the point of a) creating a collection of songs together and b) for those songs to then be released, can be attributed to talent and chemistry, sure, but some divine happenstance too.
For instance, several years ago Transviolet singer Sarah McTaggart's mom was seated next to a celebrity hairdresser on a flight. The pair got talking and being the proud parent, Sarah's mom ended up bending his ear about her daughter's band. When she hopped off the flight she insisted Sarah reach out to him via Twitter. "I was like, stop bothering this poor man, he was nice enough to talk to you on the plane, I don't think he really wants to hear our music!" Sarah laughs. "But she kept asking until I finally sent him some of our stuff." And you can bet he liked what he heard—so much so in fact, that when dining with a record exec friend later that week, said hairdresser mentioned Transviolet. After one listen the exec was hooked, insisting that they speak with Sarah that very night.
"They called me at 10.30 PM and I was in my PJs and I thought someone was pranking me because the guy on the other line was like, 'We want to sign you, we want to do a showcase," she recalls, still somewhat incredulous. "I got off the phone stunned. It was super freaking crazy: they called that night and we were signed and moving to LA a month later." All because someone chose an aisle seat (probably).
But this wasn't the only moment that a twist of chance altered the course their path: their origin story is equally serendipitous. Thanks to her father's job as an entrepreneur, Sarah's family lead a nomadic existence. She spent her childhood bouncing from place to place before settling in Grand Cayman, where her father's family hailed from originally. A Caribbean island surrounded by crystal cerulean water sounds like paradise, but removed from her friends and the "normal" high school existence, Sarah felt isolated. Although she arrived late
￼to artists like The Beatles, Nirvana, Bob Dylan and Radiohead—"those timeless songwriters whose music really seems to transcend time and space"—it was at this point in her life that these artists really resonated.
"I clung to that kind of music because I moved around a lot as a kid and didn't really fit in or I got sick of trying to fit in," she explains. "So I'd escape by listening to songs like 'Across the Universe' or 'Lithium' or 'Creep'—these artists, they get me. I became obsessed with lyrics and songwriting and that's when I knew it was what I wanted to do."
It was around this time that Sarah picked up the guitar. She cut her teeth playing open mic ￼nights on the island, eventually uploading her material to a site designed to bring musicians together. And here's where the other random split second decision triggered a crucial set of events: instead of listing her whereabouts as the Caymans, Sarah wrote San Diego on her profile. She'd set her sights on the SoCal city and it turned out to be something of self- fulfilling prophecy because when multi-instrumentalist Michael Panek logged on to search for a female vocalist, he narrowed his search to his area in—you guessed it—San Diego. A sucker for "90s jams" there was something in Sarah's songs that appealed to this leaning. "Her lyrical style reminded me of Death Cab For Cutie," explains the Rochester, NY native. But more than that it was her innate sense of melody that reeled him in.
"There's a lot of good singers out there who can write crappy lyrics and get by," he explains. "But there was something about her that had substance, it was a real visceral connection." Despite the fact that Sarah immediately admitted she wasn't based in San Diego, the pair quickly forged a musical partnership: Michael would email his music and Sarah would apply her words and melodies. She introduced him to Alt-J; he played her Sigur Ros. This was at the top of 2011 and by the end of it she'd uprooted her life and moved to San Diego. Was it a shock to meet each other in person for the first time after the intimacy of long distance songwriting?
"Luckily in those emails we were both pretty honest about who we were," says Michael. "She ￼was exactly who I thought she was going to be—except she was a lot shorter. I think the first thing I said to her when I hugged her was like, 'Oh you're so small!'"
It wasn't long after the airplane-Twitter-phone call exchange that the duo upped sticks and moved to LA. Once there, Transviolet truly solidified thanks to the addition of Michael's high school buddies and former bandmates, drummer Jonathan Garcia and guitarist Judah McCarthy. What followed was an incredibly fertile period: they signed to Epic and penned ￼some 60-odd songs which were eventually whittled to a svelte debut album scheduled to drop next year.
But it was the quartet's first song, which they popped online in the summer of 2015, that announced Transviolet's arrival and really whet appetites for more. "Girls Your Age" is a bewitching slip of a song with Sarah's voice at once recalling the Lana, Lorde and Imogen Heap: sultry, measured, assured. The song gained instant online traction. People clicked play and clicked play again. Katy Perry praised the lyrics, Harry Styles tweeted his support, Ellie Goulding selected it for a spin on Beats1 and Twin Shadow delivered an exclusive remix. "Girls Your Age" soon became a bonafide viral sensation with over a million plays on Spotify alone. ￼Unflinchingly personal, it was also an apt introduction to the band. "It was my coming of age story, I wanted to put something out there that was raw, it wasn't trying to be anything, it was just a true account of how I felt growing up and the turmoil that surrounded that," states Sarah. "You're trying to figure out who you are and at the same time the world is telling you feel this and be that and want this and you're caught in the crossfire."
Their four song eponymous EP (released this past September) further underscores what's in store. "Bloodstream" is a straight up toxic love tune, while "Night Vision" expresses the flip of this. Elsewhere "New Bohemia" is unabashedly anthemic, but the lyrics are anything but throwaway. "I feel like every individual has the power to change the world, we decide on a daily basis what our world looks like and every decision we make effects our reality," explains Sarah of the song's message. "I wanted to write a song that inspired people to speak up and take action and to take responsibility for our generation and take a stand for something that you believe in."
"For all of us it's more than just the music," Michael concurs. "We think it's important to spread positive messages and have a nice effect on the world around us." While Michael describes Sarah and him as yin and yang—her lyrics and melodies, his beats and arrangements—the addition of John and Judah should also not be underestimated. Sarah credits them as being essential to the development of their sound, which they're now honing ￼live on their first ever tour (they made their stage debut back in September 2015). The foursome are a tight unit and it works. "There are no divas, we all look at each other as equals and there's no such thing as stupid ideas," affirms Sarah. "I think that safety is what allows us to feel so free in the writing process because no matter what, the other three people are always going to back you up. Those stupid ideas are what sometimes lead to the brilliant ideas."
Fate may have leant a helping hand, but Transviolet don't need luck to take this to the next level.
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001