Lany and julia michaels tell us how they turned heartbreak into a ‘breezy bop’ with ‘okay’
After five years, four EPs, and two full-length albums, alt-pop trio LANY‘s first-ever collaboration is here. And that’s probably a good thing, considering frontman Paul Jason Klein once had a questionable approach to solo songwriting.
“I normally would just bang my head against the wall in the bedroom until I figured out a song,” Klein told MTV News, reflecting on the period before the band released its 2018 sophomore album, Malibu Nights. “But I came into this season of writing very open-minded and just down to work with anybody who would take a session with me.”
Enter Julia Michaels, who shared some mutual friends — not to mention, a knack for visceral, captivating pop music — with Klein. They met up at L.A.’s Conway Recording Studios last year, and in just two days, they had written a beautifully vulnerable song called “okay,” inspired by recent break-ups they had each experienced.
“I remember we talked for a long time and we went outside and ate a bunch of grapes in the parking lot,” Klein recalled about the genesis of “okay,” which dropped on Tuesday (April 23). “She talked to me about some guy she had a crush on, and I was like, ‘I just can’t even look at girls right now’ because I still loved this girl that totally wrecked me. At the end of my whole two-hour spiel, I think I said to her, ‘I’m gonna be okay. Right?’ And she’s like, ‘write that right now.'”
Michaels added, “I really cherish people that have honest perspectives and want to write from a very conversational standpoint and write something very specific about their lives. When we wrote together for the first time, it was like that right off the bat.”
The way she and Klein repeat the song’s central lyric — “I’m gonna be okay / Right?” — makes it both a declarative statement and a self-conscious query; Michaels describes it as “hopeful with a little doubt.” It’s a sentiment both artists felt in the midst of their respective break-ups, and to hear Klein tell it, it captures the kind of complex emotions that can sometimes only be accessed through total, mutual trust.
“I had a couple co-writes with some dudes, and I just couldn’t get there,” he said about previous writing sessions. “I felt, even at moments, weak, and I felt like I couldn’t be completely honest and transparent — and when I did, I regretted it immediately. I’ll never forget I had this one session where I almost had a panic attack. I ran to the bathroom and was like, ‘I think I just said too much, I don’t know if I trust this guy.’ I found it’s so much easier and safer talking to a woman about it. I don’t know what that is, but I think there’s this love, this wisdom, this understanding that women have. It’s not easy to open up, but with the right people, it definitely is.”
“I think the studio, too, is such a safe space,” Michaels agreed. “Even if you don’t know the person, you walk in knowing that it’s going to be a very intimate thing. And then it’s like talking to your friend. It’s that whole aspect of, would you rather go through it alone or would you rather talk to your friend?”
On “okay,” Klein and Michaels are far from alone; their voices are intertwined throughout, breaking the traditional formula of a collaboration wherein artists take turns trading verses. The LANY frontman admitted that some people at his label were skeptical about the solo-less collab, and there was even a moment when he considered singing the song himself, “because, you know, ‘Album 2, no features’ kind of vibes.”
“But when I sang it alone, I was like, this sucks, it’s not the same without her vocal on it,” he continued. “There was just never a doubt or question in my mind.”
Expect the pair’s innate chemistry to come through onscreen for the track’s upcoming music video, which they shot last week on the beach in Venice and at a roller rink in Glendale. It has a pretty unlikely source of inspiration that only ’90s kids will fully appreciate: “You remember that movie Mighty Ducks 2? There’s this beautiful scene where Coach Bombay, Emilio Estevez, is having this reflective moment, skating on this tennis court in Malibu during the sunset. We’re going to try to capture that vibe,” Klein explained.
“I just love dropping songs in the summer, and I think this is a really nice, summer, breezy bop,” he continued. “So I kind of wanted to throw it back to that summer childhood nostalgia, which to me is rollerblading. We’re going to do the whole thing on blades.”
He and Michaels laughed off any nervousness when talking about their skating skills — the LANY singer said he started to get the swing of things after getting back on some blades just a couple days prior. They’re gonna be okay. Right?