[MUSIC: Interview] Last Dinosaurs
There’s nothing quite like a triple j Unearthed win to help a band set sail – but even then, sustained success isn’t certain. Brisbane’s indie-pop four-piece Last Dinosaurs have managed to ensure some semblance of longevity through the old-fashioned word of mouth that comes simply from playing damn good music. The band’s latest tour is quietly selling out across the country, and will follow their second tour of Europe and the US – and their debut album, In A Million Years, entered the charts in the Top 10 earlier this year.
Singer and guitarist Sean Caskey is getting excited for their upcoming European tour, reminiscing on some of the pivotal moments of their last trip. “When we played in Paris, there was this stereotypical Parisian attitude,” he begins. “They enjoyed us and they would clap a lot after the songs, but during the songs I was looking at girls rolling their eyes and I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ …but then they’d clap heaps. I was genuinely confused. Amsterdam was nuts though, we had no idea what to expect. We played at this day festival in this building, and everyone was off their faces and it was just the best. I really wanna go back there again this time, for obvious reasons.”
Coming from the enthusiastic and dedicated – yet extremely cliquey – Brisbane scene, Europe was a sort of reassurance to the band that they were on the right track. “It’s interesting,” Caskey says. “In Brisbane, and even throughout Australia, [playing] is extremely fun, we just try to make it as fun as possible, whereas in Europe we’re trying to win over a crowd. They don’t know the songs at all. It’s refreshing to play to an unknown crowd and win them over. When we play in another country and people come to see just us, it makes us realise we’re actually doing something right.”
When triple j hit Last Dinosaurs with the news of their Unearthed win, Caskey had been concentrating his efforts in another successful Brisbane band, The Cairos, and using Dinos as a side project. The win came as a complete surprise – and, more importantly, the support from the youth network has continued. “They don’t have to do what they’re doing, but they are,” he says, with genuine gratitude. “When they called us up for the Unearthed feature, Dinos was [just] the band I practiced in once a month. There was no reason they needed to call us up for that, and it was just crazy, it started so many things for us. They’ve really kicked us off and they keep us going. It feels like they’re our parents or something. Just in the way they’ve done so many, well, not favours, but they have the power to guide you and it’s an honour that they picked us.”
The support that the band has enjoyed now stretches far beyond the triple j network; festival spots, rave reviews and opening slots for Foals, Matt & Kim and Foster The People all add to the industry enthusiasm. “It’s awesome. Like, Russell [Lissack] from Bloc Party saying nice things about us – that’s insane, it’s weird,” he says, referring to Lissack’s infamous Tweet earlier this year: ‘Can’t stop listening to
@lastdinosaurs album’. “There are all these things that we can’t believe. It’s hard to explain.”
Still, it took the band a long time to release their debut album, and Caskey is brutally honest about why. “I was just fucking lazy for, like, a whole year,” he admits. “I just didn’t do anything. We’d written hardly any songs that year and we realised we needed to put our heads down. 80% of the album was written in the last six months before recording, which is strange considering we used to write songs once every three months, if that. We had the option to record the album earlier, overseas as well, and there’s no reason why it would’ve been worse – but I’m glad we made the decision to hold off and write some more bangers, so to speak. The album was gonna be [produced by] Eliot James [Bloc Party, The Rakes] – well, that was the idea, but we just didn’t have the songs back then.”
Writing doesn’t stream out like an emotional tap for Caskey, but while he finds it difficult sometimes, he’s starting to approach any writer’s block with the simple notion of Just Do Something. “I write most of the music for Dinos, but when I write a song I’ll send it to the guys and if they like it, we’ll start playing it,” he says. “Quite often, they don’t like the songs – usually I can tell because no one responds to the email,” he jokes. “Nah, it’s not totally like that, but because I find it really hard to write in the first place, if I do have something in my head I’ll just record it regardless. Like the last song I wrote was a country song, which I’ve never, ever done before; I don’t even listen to country music. It was swung [swing rhythm], with a slide guitar using a perfume bottle. I just went with it because if I wasn’t doing that I’d just be doing nothing. The other guys actually really like that one, but we can’t play it, obviously – it’s country. But I’m just gonna keep doing whatever feels right, so that at least when it comes to the next album we’ll have a heap of ideas.”
In A Million Years ended up being a local recording, co-produced with an engineer Last Dinosaurs love in a space that they adore: BJB Studios in Surry Hills. The process was calmer as a result, and the band could use all the equipment they were accustomed to – an option that wouldn’t have been available had they recorded overseas. “It was comfortable, we had amazing accommodation, and JP [Jean-Paul Fung] is a kick arse producer,” he says. “We had the mentality that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It was such a good thing, it was the best experience, and because it was in Sydney we could take all of our gear and were able to be at home, in a way.”
The process was also a lot more structured than the band expected. “We broke down the songs completely and then built them back up again, which was a painstaking process,” Caskey admits. “Effectively, we’d recorded the entire album [as demos] before we wrote the album, and JP definitely co-produced it, working on a lot of the structures with us. We wrote a song a day, and by the end of the day we’d have it recorded. When we went into the studio, we knew exactly what everyone was doing and we’d have a schedule that was crazily precise. From even just an engineering perspective, JP is one of the best engineers. He is so technically proficient, I can’t say enough good things about him.
“We are all extreme perfectionists, so we work well together,” Caskey continues. “But the four of us can almost never come to an agreement on things, so he was there to help us come to a point where we were happy with every song.”
What: In A Million Years is out now through Dew Process
With: The Jungle Giants and special guests
Where: The Metro Theatre
When: Saturday October 20 (sold out) / Friday November 9 (all-ages)
More: Also playing Homebake festival, alongside Blondie, Kimbra, Hilltop Hoods, Tim Minchin, Something For Kate, Sonicanimation, DZ Deathrays, Tame Impala and more, on Saturday December 8 at The Domain
Posted: October 15th, 2012 under Album Reviews, Brag 484, Music, New.
Tags: Dew Process, Homebake Festival, In A Million Years, Krissi Weiss, Last Dinosaurs, The Jungle Giants, The Metro Theatre, Triple J Unearthed