LAST DINOSAURS | A Chat with Sean Caskey, Ahead of ‘Wellness’ Tour
Having played to a packed out tent at Splendour, Brisbane band Last Dinosaurs have decided to take it to the road once more. Accompanying the release of their long-awaited second album, 'Wellness,’ is also the fulfilled promise of a widespread national tour. Kickstarting next week, the four-piece band is set to take on six states and headline at some of the biggest venues of their careers. We had a chat to Sean Caskey, Last Dinosaurs’ frontman and guitarist, about the band’s new album and off-stage endeavours – before they embark on their tour.
How are you feeling about that massive Australian tour coming up? It’s incredible, you’ve just come back from doing your previous national tour.
SEAN: Yeah, I’m pretty excited. Just because the first tour we only ever got to play two new songs – this time we’re going to play the whole album essentially, and we’re going to do it in order.
A lot of thought goes into compiling the order of the album, and this time I think we sort of nailed it, in a way that we can do it live as well. So we’re going to do that, slot in some old songs and even a couple of covers, too. We’re doing Michael Jackson and Jamiroquai. Should be good.
We’re actually all really excited, ‘cause all these new songs are a better representation of who we are as a band. It just feels so much better.
That’s great to hear. How was your ‘Evie’ single tour, back in June and July? Tickets were sold out for every one of those shows, it must’ve been hectic.
SEAN: It was wonderful to see the fans altogether again since we haven’t played in Australia very much, especially in a while. My only regret was that we didn’t get to play more new songs – but that’s what this tour is for. But otherwise, it was good.
Do you happen to have any interesting stories from that last tour?
SEAN: [laughs] Let me think… Hmm, nothing particularly crazy this time. We just had good times though; we made really good friends with I Know Leopard. They’re such a great band. We chose them ‘cause we were once listening to them when we were in the middle of recording, and I just really dug their songs. It was an honour to be able to tour with those guys, and become really good friends with them.
They’re the best sort of memories, when you become best friends with the band. When you tour with them, you all automatically become family. Like, it’s the best as well when you start off touring and you’re like ‘Eugh, I don’t know about these guys.’ – but not like it was like that when we were with I Know Leopard. There’s always the natural awkwardness at the start, then that quickly gets pushed away by the time it’s the second show, and you’re just all best mates.
What do you guys do to in the time that you have off? Are you home in Brisbane or are you usually elsewhere?
SEAN: Well, I live in a warehouse where we have our rehearsal space. I’m here usually just making guitar pedals – ‘cause it’s like my business. That’s what I’m doing now, except now I’m now at that bit where I stamp the holes but it makes a really loud noise, so I can’t do it on the phone. [laughs]
But yeah, I just do that in my downtime. The other guys, they do miscellaneous jobs, like films. Dan has a job at a bag shop, and my brother, Lachlan – I think he learns languages. I’m pretty sure he teaches guitar, I’m not 100% sure though.
That seems like the good life.
SEAN: Yeah! It’s pretty chill.
I understand you’ve come a long way since your debut EP, Back From The Dead. Ever since In A Million Years emerged your success has just grown tenfold. You guys are getting fans by the minute. Do you look back on and wonder what really sparked it all?
SEAN: A little bit. Sometimes I do but I’m always just looking and moving forward as well – you got to think about the future.
As Julia Gillard would say.
SEAN: [laughs] Yeah, I don’t know. I do sometimes, but because it’s such a long, slow process for us, I like to not think about it too much. There’s the culmination of hard work from everyone. The whole team is probably like 30 people, if you really think about it… The core of it is just making sure that we’re a good band, and that we do the best we can.
Is there something that most people wouldn’t know about? Particularly what goes on behind the scenes – with the writing/recording process?
SEAN: Yeah, I guess so. Writing for us has just always been, for me, done at home. Then I’d send the guys the songs to see what they think. Then if they like it, we start playing it. If they don’t, then we don’t start playing it. But I don’t even tell them to learn it – if they learn it, it means that they want to play it.
Also though, having the new bass player, Michael Sloane, adds the element of having another songwriter. He comes up with bits here and there – also, my brother came up with some, too, as well as writing some of the drums, stuff like that. I guess it’s been more collaborative, but the core ideas always mainly come from me. The best analogy I’d give for Last Dinos is, instead of trying to orchestrate four dudes to paint the painting that one has in mind, I’ll do the bulk of the painting, and Dan will add shading and Lachlan will add some colours. You know what I mean? And then to top it off, some embellishments. [laughs] It’s just improving on an idea, whereas if you start altogether and pulling in different directions, the initial idea can be completely lost – and I think the initial idea is probably the most important part.
I’ve seen the album artwork off the band’s Facebook page, along with those Wellness track demos. I have to say, they’re amazing for being so-called rough copies.
SEAN: Haha, yeah well, I don’t know. It’s pretty funny because they are pretty crap.
Aw, don’t say that.
SEAN: But yeah, except for Wellness, the actual demo of Wellness is the recording. One of the greatest things is working with Scott Horscoft. He really respected the band and the songs a lot. For Wellness, we’d be in studio and before every song was over and up he’d listen to it, and be like ‘Okay, let’s do it. This is perfect, there’s nothing I could do to this. I just want you to mix it in a little more.’ It was a huge honour. I’ve always looked up to that guy.
It’s always a pleasure to look up to your idols and actually be able to work with them.
SEAN: Yeah, it was great. It was so good. I’ve known about Scott for years; he just records with so many great bands and done so many great recordings. There’s only a couple of producers you really take notice of – ‘cause I don’t often, otherwise take note of them. I mean I do, in a production sense, but I don’t try to find out their names beforehand or if I should think about what they’ve done.
But yeah, Scott Horscoft was the first person where I’d look at him and be like ‘Hm, I’ve seen that guy before.’ I figured out that he basically recorded nearly all of my favourite Sydney bands.
Yeah, so it was really good to work with him.
How does Wellness, in your eyes, differ from the last album? There’s the same sense of surrealism to it but they’re still quite disparate. I’ve noticed more experimental guitar riffs and dewy vocals. On top of that, some of the nostalgic, washed-out melodies in the album are really just fantastic.
SEAN: Thanks! In A Million Years was really ‘cookie-cutter’ in the sense that we had these songs and we just disassembled them, reassembled them in a pop format. Whereas this time, we had more freedom to stick to our own structures and Scott would just be like ‘Okay, you don’t really need to spin more.’ or ‘You need to double this bit’, instead of being like ‘Nah this is fucked’. You know what I mean? He had faith in what we had and he could understand what we were trying to get across, and he just wanted to take us there.
I think the main difference would be… There’s a bit more maturity in this album than there was in the first album. There were more variants in sound as well, from ‘Apollo’ to ‘Stream’ and ‘Zero’, and so forth. It’s still got the classic old Last Dinos’ rock, but it’s certainly morphed in a way.
More of the stuff that I’ve been listening to have been more ‘dancier’, if you will. But also, we’ve always covered more ‘dancey 90s’ stuff. ‘Apollo’ was meant to take after that, and it was based on songs that we kept hearing in Japan, when we were in the clubs. There was this particular remix, and it just really stuck with me so I wanted to make a song like that.
Now, I’ve seen that music video for ‘Apollo’. Definitely was very charming to see, alongside such a gorgeous track. It was very Matrix-inspired, do correct me if I’m wrong.
SEAN: There’s deeper meaning than that of which I’ve ever explained to anybody – but sometimes you just can’t really say it. It’s too hard to deal with. But yeah, it’s about that scene in The Matrix where Neo gets offered the blue pill and red pill. And it’s that sort of slick chance, of changing your life one moment without even knowing what will follow.
That speaks for itself then. Though there’s no denying, the guy who starred as the security guard is an excellent dancer.
SEAN: Yeah, Sheru Bharadwaja! He’s so cool.
Did you know he would be ‘The One’?
SEAN: Yeah, well, initially we were trying to get a bogan-ish dude on the work site who went really hard all night and he’d just be smashed. Then it’d be daylight, and he’d walk onto the job site and start dancing – but it was just too difficult to secure a job site. It involved loads of planning ahead and accommodation of schedules, so we ended up deciding on a security guard in a shopping centre.
Michael, when he was casting, he showed us Sheru and his pop-and-lock kind of dancing. We thought he really fitted the vibe. Like, it was funky.
What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to playing a live show? Is it the audience dynamic or simply getting in the zone of it all?
SEAN: It would have to be making sure that we put on a good show. You have to connect with the crowd really well. We focus really hard on being the best we can, and only then can you start thinking about incorporating other things.
Thankfully, the crowd is always into it when we get there. They’re always so excited, and in turn, that excitement feeds us. It’s a snowball effect; you just got to get your snowball rolling in the first place.
Are there any of your personal favourites that you’re looking forward to be playing this September/October?
SEAN: Song-wise, not anything specific. I know those Michael Jackson covers will be something. We’re going to play Wurl transitioning into Wellness, so I’m looking forward to doing that.
Any love for some fellow Aussie artists? I know some bands are wrapping up, whilst countless others are releasing heaps. 2015 has been a colossal year for new music, especially in the indie scene.
SEAN: As I’ve said before, I’m just a huge fan of I Know Leopard. They’re just great friends, great musicians, great songs – they’re definitely one of my favourites. Also The Jensens, they’re really good friends of ours. Hearing The Cairos’ new song which has come together, I reckon their new music is going to be really, really great. They’ve been a favourite since they’ve put music out.
I can’t really pinpoint others off the top of my head… I’ve just been so detached from the Australian music scene. When you’re starting out you know every single band, but I sort of lost touch. I’ve been trying to find music elsewhere, anyway. So overall, I’d say I Know Leopard and The Jensens.
Besides that, I’d been listening to heaps and heaps of Twin Sister, and, lots of other chill wave and glo-fi music. I started getting into more dancier, electronic tunes as I was making guitar pedals. Listening to all that electronic music made me really productive, ‘cause it’s all repetitive and upbeat. It’s the background beats that you keep you really concentrated.
Do you have any advice for some of your younger fans – in terms of doing what they love?
SEAN: I’m not really sure about we did, to be honest.
[laughs] You just ended up where you did, hey?
SEAN: We just had a few songs and we got the attention, which lead to us playing shows. We literally just tried to have the most fun we possibly could, and when it came to writing and the surrounding factors, you’d be thinking – really thinking – a lot about what you’re doing.
It’s making sure that you do just what you want to do, and you’re the best at what you love doing. That’s the most important thing. I’ve said this a few times: I have the theory that there’s enough space in the world. If you’re a master at what you do (because you love it and dedicate so much of your life to it), the world will have its place to appreciate you, and your art. If not, someone out there always will.
If you’re on the same wavelength as me and can’t wait to see Last Dinosaurs back in action, be sure to grab your tickets for this October! An album as zealous as Wellness shouldn’t be limited to just being belted out in the shower. You wouldn’t want to be missing out on this big of a national tour.
Tickets to their upcoming local shows: