& Pains, the new EP from Lakyn, debuts a bold new sound that is distinctly his own; showcasing his incredible knack to meld R’n’B, electronica and indie-rock into elegant, emotive pop. The EP explores the duality of Lakyn’s personality, the curious, creative persona with colourful visuals and his comical Instagram presence is juxtaposed against the story of inner turmoil and emotional growth. At the heart of & Pains is a great sense of triumph, a feeling of emerging through flames unscathed. With it’s immersive sleek production, visceral songwriting and Lakyn’s dexterous vocals & Pains marks the emergence of a singular, unique Australian artist.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Lakyn grew up in a musical household. His father played guitar in a classic rock band, spurring Lakyn’s interest in bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan. But it wasn’t until Lakyn was sixteen and his family had moved to Australia that he started investing himself totally in music. Before then, Lakyn had spent most of his early life as a dedicated skateboarder hoping to make it professionally. But after a broken ankle halted his skateboarding career, he picked up the guitar. He’s been obsessed with writing and performing music ever since.
Lakyn released a few records that were heavy on cover songs and acoustic guitar, but it wasn’t really where he wanted to be, so he took a step back from music. He returned, focusing away from the acoustic guitar sound that had dominated his early work and instead toiled away in bedroom crafting and producing beats. & Pains was recorded in 2017, and is his first release in four years. It’s also the first record of his which is exclusively full of original music he wrote himself. “This is always what I wanted to do” he says of the EP.
On & Pains, Lakyn fuses his rock-music upbringing with sounds inspired by hip-hop titans Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and the eclectic, game-changing R’n’B of Frank Ocean. There’s crunchy guitar paired with honeyed, R’n’B vocals (“View Looks So Good”), near-perfect falsettos (“Slumdog”) and infectious pop melodies (“First Impressions” and “Sweet Days”).
The first singles off the EP – the dreamy, soulful “View Looks So Good” and the stirring, lush “West” – debuted to a mountain of praise from the likes of Triple J, The Music and Beat Magazine. The AU Review called him “the country’s most popular artist on the go at the moment”, and Happy wrote that the singles showed an artist that was at the top of his game.
Lakyn is primarily concerned with reflecting on his past, grappling with inner turmoil, and discussing how he overcame adversity. “Slumdog” is about “coming to terms with the past” and making peace with a past-self that you don’t relate to anymore. “West” deals with “realising your worth no matter how low you are, and the importance of making necessary steps to get to where you want to be. And knowing that it’s okay to ask for help along the way.” “Sweet Days” is all about nostalgia, and the problem in indulging in the past “there’s nothing as real as the present” says Lakyn. “It’s kind of the bittersweet relationship between living in it and knowing that one day you’ll be looking back reminiscing but until then time will continue to blur the memories.” Lakyn says he peppers each of his songs with little nuggets of advice, to try and help listeners who can relate to his experience.
The EP ends with the ballad “Soldier”, written after Lakyn’s grandfather suffered a heart attack and was written, produced and engineered entirely by Lakyn himself. “When I was little he would tell me war stories and I always thought he was so brave and strong to go to war. When he had the heart attack I wanted to remind him how strong he really is” says Lakyn. “He made it through heart surgery and is now living in Australia with my family, and I still have to tell him about the song. I wrote this song to inspire people to be strong and not give up, especially if they have a loved one going through a rough time”.
While Lakyn tackles some difficult issues in his music, he’s also has a bright, bubbly, mischievous streak. He’s often seen around Melbourne with his bleached blonde hair, faux fur coat, bulbous sunglasses, sometimes alongside his pet bird, affectionately named Biggie Smalls. “Over the past few years I’ve realized that it’s important to just be me, no matter what” he says.
The EP is notable for its lush production, where Lakyn collaborated with producers like Dann Hume (Matt Corby, Amy Shark) who worked on “Sweet Days”, Grammy-award nominated, ARIA award winning producer Nic Martin (Jay Sean, Bliss N Eso, Illy), who produced “Slumdog” and “West”; and triple j Unearthed electronic artist KUREN who co-wrote “Views Look So Good”. The entire EP was also mixed by Simon Lam of Kllo. Electronic superstar Alice Ivy remixed “West” into what Purple Sneakers dubbed a “groove-filled dream”. The singles and remixes all contribute to the 6 million streams that Lakyn has received on streaming platforms.
Lakyn has toured with Vera Blue on her national Perennial tour, Vancouver Sleep Clinic and Jack River. Now out of solo, acoustic-guitar mode, his set-up includes a live drummer and a stage adorned with plastic palm trees. “It’s so exciting to be able to play super loud now!” he says.