INTERVIEW: Getting To Know Trippy Indie Duo, LEAN

The formation of indie-rock duo, LEAN – comprised of session musicians/writers and producers Stephen Johnson and Kyle McCammon – was destined to happen. After meeting as hired guns on a recording session, their partnership only grew, leading them to what we now know as LEAN.

Specializing in trippy, indie vibes reminiscent of Foster The People, LEAN is gearing up for the release of their first full-length, YEARS, in the coming months. We caught up with the duo to discuss new artist jitters, new single & video, “Come Back,” and when we can expect to hear that debut!

Describe the dynamic between the both of you upon meeting. Did you know you’d want to make music together right away or was it more of a gradual discovery?

STEPHEN: We met a few years ago at a NIGHTMARE of a session fueled by Adderall-laced margaritas where we were supposed to play guitar/bass on some tracks we had never heard until the producer hit record. Pretty sure we both wanted to run and hide and never come out. I guess it’s been all roses since then in comparison.

You guys only have two tracks out at the moment but they’re garnering quite the buzz! Give us a rundown of the past six months. Were your expectations met after releasing “Lucid Dreams” or do you feel there’s still more to work on?

STEPHEN: “Lucid Dreams” was used in a scene in the show Search Party, so we released the song under the radar just to have something out in the ether. In the months since, we opened our studio (lean-to), wrote/recorded more than an album’s worth of material for LEAN, made a music video, and produced more than a few handfuls of songs for other artists.

KYLE: We’re blown away! All of this has been coming about organically since we’ve released “Come Back” and now we’re getting a lot of streams on Spotify through their Fresh Finds playlist. It’s exciting that people are connecting with the song and we can’t wait to get more of it out into the world. An artist we’ve been producing, Jessica Rotter, is releasing a single called “Other Side of the Sun” next month. We’re looking forward to seeing the reaction to that as well as some of the other material we’re developing.

Between the two of you, you’ve performed with the likes of Banks (love her!), Sam Dew and Ofelia K. How has working with all these artists shaped who you are as musicians? Has it influenced your sound with LEAN at all?

KYLE: I feel like anytime I get deep into a collection of songs it somehow shapes how I look at music. When I’m playing live with artists like this I’m usually getting deep into the production and pulling things out that you wouldn’t normally hear. It’s similar to when I produce an EP or an album for another artist: you develop a musical language almost. Figuring out how to play an album live is, in a sense, decoding or translating that language to show it to other people. Going in that far is always going to have an impact on me and it will always inform what comes next.

The “Come Back” video’s theme is a reflection of the vacuity of Los Angeles party culture. What originally inspired this idea and what was it like turning the song to life through a visual?

STEPHEN: We were pretty adamant about being hands off with as much of the video as possible. As far as we were concerned, our job was to make the song, and then let it serve as someone else’s creative inspiration. So Clara Moutone (director) and Kyra Sophie (producer) were the ones who came up with the concept and the visual direction and we think they nailed it. Hopefully the video inspires someone else to make something else.

Give us the scoop on the upcoming album, YEARS. What can listeners look forward to and when can we hear it?

STEPHEN: We’ll do another single before the end of summer, with the rest of the album not far behind. Listeners can look forward to feel-good songs about schizophrenia, happily hanging on to grudges, and the grandeur of evolutionary timescale.

KYLE: We made an album that we like and are really proud of it. I personally spend a lot of energy helping other people achieve their vision and this was an outlet for me to be just as creative. There was a lot of thought put into creating a statement and having the songs make you go to a deeper place without being hard to listen to. For me, the process of making this album was very cathartic and I hope it takes even one person on a journey like I went on while making it.

What are your top 5 favorite songs at the moment?

On repeat for Stephen:

Froth – “Shut The Windows”

Big Thief – “Pretty Things”

Conor Oberst – “Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out”

Alvvays – “In Undertow”

The National – “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness”

For Kyle:

Dirty Projectors – “Cool Your Heart”

Ella Vos – “Little Brother”

Mondo Cosmo – “Plastic Soul”

Party Nails – “Blow Me Away”

Battle Tapes – “Last Resort & Spa”

Anything else you’d like to add?

We’re going to be kicking off a monthly dance party in LA, starting with Party Nails at Gold Diggers on August 9th. It’s called ‘Night Candy’ and we’ll be DJ’ing along with Party Nails and Battle Tapes. We’re really excited about it!