An Interview with Last Dinosaurs: Maturity, woodwork and experimental music
Ahead of their Splendour sideshows with Two Door Cinema Club, and the release of a new album later this year (we can only assume), we had a chat to Sean Caskey (lead vocals & guitar) from Last Dinosaurs about how maturity is affecting their music, making fine wooden furniture and what music they could be drawing inspiration from.
IN: You guys have managed to achieve a fair amount of success in your relatively short career, I can imagine that with this quick success comes a variety of pressures on other parts of your life, would you agree, and if so do these things affect your song writing and how you tackle the “work-life” balance?
LD (Sean Caskey): To be honest when the band is achieving things there are no stresses apart from on the kidneys. Definitely on the writing side of music there is the pressure to deliver what is expected of you, which is normally more than you’ve had before. That can be stressful but it is just the nature of the game.
IN: I understand that you guys formed while you were still in high school, did this happen fairly naturally? And did you find that there was an immediate sense of chemistry between you as a band?
We were just playing covers in other little high school bands and one day we jammed stuff that was way more down our alley. Then we realised we had something because we all connected with the same music. Dinos started after high school though, and we trialled a lot of members. The guy who we toured on keys (Charles Murdoch, electronic music extraordinaire) was the guitarist, then he became the bass player, then he was no more, haha. Lach was the last member to join, he would’ve still been 14 I think.
IN: When you first got together was there any particular direction that you saw yourselves heading in musically and career-wise, at what point did you realise it was taking off for you guys like it has?
We never really thought about it too much. We just loved what we did and we loved making the crowds happy. It’s hard to define a point but definitely the first album was the big kick in to the music scene internationally. Signing to Universal threw us into a higher stratosphere that was totally over-crowded but we managed to connect with some parts of the world. Mainly Asia though, probably because we are 3/8 azn pride 4 lyf.
IN: You were all fairly young when you first begun making music, how do you feel about your earlier work looking back, in particular your debut studio album, ‘In a Million Years’?
I don’t actually listen to it because we have played it enough times I guess, but it shocks me how simple but strangely complicated those songs were. Some of that stuff I probably wouldn’t pump out again in terms of the sounds but it all has one common element and that is the guitar playing style. I learnt guitar by learning Strokes songs so I’ve developed my own method of chords and melodies which hasn’t ever changed.
IN: What bands and artists would you say have made the biggest impact on you, and do you draw any direct inspiration in your own music from these?
The Strokes showed me what cool was. After watching 12:51 my life suddenly had purpose haha. I went on to learn all their songs, then I’d say it was either Phoenix or Foals (particularly Antidotes). They impacted us quite a bit. Phoenix for their pop sensibility and Foals for their technicality. Now I listen to so much different stuff that I’m just taking little chunks of inspiration here and there, waiting for them to get activated when I’m feeling something.
IN: Seeing as you’ve toured pretty extensively in the past is it at the forefront of your minds when writing new material as to how songs will translate live? Would you consider yourselves more so a live band than a studio act?
It’s funny how band life is so black and white with recording and touring. When you’re recording you’re having an awesome time creating but you’re just thinking about all the shows and the people you’ll be playing to. So playing live for me is definitely in the front of my mind when making songs, I think that started a long time ago. When you play some songs the crowd just doesn’t react the way that you’d like sometimes, then other times all you can see is teeth because everyone is smiling. I use that as a barometer for if a song is really working or not.
IN: That being said you guys appear to have been spending a fair amount of time in the studio as of late, is it safe to say that we can expect to hear new material from you soon?
Yes, we are just trying to wrap up this third album now. We went to a small isolated country town in Southern Japan earlier this year with JP who produced our first album (just coz). We had access to a great studio space for a couple of weeks where we tracked and worked on a bunch of songs. Now we are finishing the rest of the tracks in my studio. The method for this one is completely different for various reasons. One thing is you’ll be hearing Lach’s voice a lot since he has now become another song writer.
IN: It’s been close to 2 years since you guys released “Wellness” and went on your last local tour, you’ve obviously toured quite a bit and spent time writing new music, do any of you have any other hobbies or side hustles outside of Last Dinosaurs?
I certainly have too many hobbies. Normally I get really obsessed with my hobbies. Started out with teaching myself electronics and making guitar effects pedals, I still make and sell them off my website. I’ve been restoring some vintage cars by building two engines and crafting the body work, I drive one (from 1925) around every now and then. Now though I love intricate woodwork so I’ve been making various bits of furniture by hand.
IN: In this same vein, if LD hadn’t taken off, what do you think you would’ve been doing instead?
I’d be in jail for sure. Nah I would probably have ended up being an industrial designer if not a civil engineer. Otherwise I would’ve just been in a different band most likely.
IN: A couple of you are creeping into your mid 20’s now, do you feel yourselves naturally moving towards more mature themes and music?
Nowadays before we walk on stage we have a projection with the big MA15+ sign and our tour manager announces that the following set contains mature themes and is not recommended for audiences full stop. We have incorporated more of a satanic GG Allin vibe so we are going to put that to the test on this upcoming tour with Two Door Cinema Club.
IN: What albums have you guys been listening to lately? How does this compare to what you were listening to 5 years ago?
My taste has changed a lot because I listen to a lot of experimental music that probably sounds terrible to most people. I work in a record store so I’m fed lots of interesting new and old music. Some of it is awesome, some of it not so much but that’s the beauty of it. I think my perspective on music totally changed when Jono Ma from Jagwar Ma showed me Panda Bear's Person Pitch years ago. That changed everything for me. I didn’t realise music could be like this. He completely decimated the boundaries of music and showed a lot of ‘indie’ kinda bands how far out of the circle you can go. I’m more a Soundcloud playlist making kinda guy but my most recent and favourite LP purchases would be Plone - For Beginner Piano (super cartoony synth music, one of Warp Records’ first bands), Odd Nosdam - Plan 9 (real weird, almost too weird), Isao Tomita - Snowflakes Are Dancing (beautiful synth renditions of Debussy’s tone paintings), lastly it’s Yussef Kamaal - Black Focus (awesome jazz duo).
Last Dinosaurs are supporting Two Door Cinema Club at Metro City in Perth on Wednesday 19th of July, tickets available here!
If you're reading this from outside Perth, there are also Splendour Sideshows for Two Door Cinema Club w/ Last Dinosaurs at:
- The Horden Pavilion in Sydney on Friday July 21
- Festival Hall in Melbourne on Tuesday July 25