Last Dinosaurs: An Interview With Sean Caskey
By Ashleigh Haddock
Last Dinosaurs are an Australian indie-rock band hailing all the way from Brisbane, Queensland. I got to chat with front-man and rhythm guitarist, Sean Caskey about the new album Yumeno Garden, the “Eleven” music video, and a potential US tour.
HEM: The new album Yumeno Garden will be released on October 5th. How is this album different or similar compared to Wellness or even In A Million Years?
I can say this one is very different from the others in various ways but it sounds more like us than ever before. After releasing demos of our previous album, Wellness, on YouTube we realized that there were certain qualities in the demos that we were producing that were unique to us. A lot of people were saying they preferred our production even though it was kind of dodgy. There’s something about trying to recreate songs in an expensive studio on a strict schedule that leads you to lose a bit of the original and unique vibes you create in the conception of the song.
This album is completely produced by Lach and I in our own studios on our own time. Lach wrote the whole second side of the album. So, on the vinyl my songs are the first five then you flip it over to hear Lach’s five tracks. Lach has never had any of his fully formed songs on our albums before so this is a debut for him. In the past, maybe he’d have a solo or a chorus part so this is totally new for us.
HEM: How would you say you’ve grown as a band since your previous album, Wellness? It’s been almost three years since it’s been released!
We grew in ways I never expected, to be honest. We worked our way up to a point with music and felt like we really had to start backing ourselves. I mean we needed to start recording music that was 100% us without letting anyone else in to tell us what we can and can’t do. Being able to create the album from start to finish was a fairly big leap for us, I never really thought it was something we were capable of but I’m so happy with the end result.
Being in a band from the get-go never really felt like being in a business, it was just like sitting in the back of the bus. Nowadays, you’ll find us with all our hands on the wheel and the pedal to the metal. So, we are producing, recording, getting our own photos done, making our videos, etc.
Lach spent some time in the US and Mexico discovering himself while hanging with some skater friends there and came back with a new-found sense of ambition. He was constantly raving about how good it is over there and reminded us how we really have to tour there. This desire to tour the US is so important to us and is reflected in the new album artwork in fact.
HEM: I read that you guys went over to Japan to record & write for Yumeno Garden, what was that like? Did the trip inspire the album cover?
There’s a tiny town in the southern part of Japan called Arita which had its economic boom about 300-400 years ago making porcelain. These days it’s kind of a ghost town, and I say kind of because there are now artists flocking there to snatch the cheap properties in the beautiful town. One artist, Tadasuke, was born and bred there and became a noise musician who studied his doctorate in art at Tokyo University. He owned the studio we used for a couple of weeks. It was a meticulously crafted wooden studio in the mezzanine of a big lumber storage warehouse. Smelt amazing too, Japanese pine.
All our album covers have been of ‘otherworldly’ landscapes and when it came time to do this one I thought of the idea of a Japanese garden (inspired by the accommodation we stayed at in Arita) but having us in the picture to convey a certain message. We never really felt like we belonged in any place geographically, especially not Brisbane, where we live in Australia. It’s a dreary and slow yet friendly city where not much is going on (although there are a lot of great bands here). Our sound was never really that Aussie.
We love our hometown but we dream of other places, in particular America. We have a burning desire to tour USA. That’s the reason why the album art features cacti in the in the garden. A Japanese garden is a place for contemplation and the American fauna is a symbol of us looking to the horizon - the future - which is for us, America.
HEM: What do you want fans to take away from new music or your music in general?
I just want people to enjoy it and make it part of their lives like I do with my favourite music. When I find an album I love I just absolutely smash it over and over until the sounds become part of my fabric. I like to absorb the music to its fullest and then it becomes part of my identity. If people do that with our new music, I couldn’t be happier.
One other thing is maybe if the feel inspired to find more music. I feel like one of my jobs in music is to incite curiosity so our listeners go out there and look for more interesting albums. Music is all about feelings and some people like to go out there and find those feelings, others like to let it come to them. If I can convert more people to be true music lovers then I can say my job here is done.
HEM: Your new single “Eleven” was released in July, what are some of the influences behind it? Also, tell me a little bit about the music video! What spurred the idea behind ‘Punk Juice’?
That whole video was basically three days of improvisation with a Ferrari, Chinese food, a green screen and a bottle of mystery substance, Punk Juice. We made the video ourselves for the first time ever with no crew or production. Sloane directs all of our videos and suggested this time that we just go out with his camera with an old Russian fish-eye lens of his and see what happens. Luckily, we found a Ferrari parked around the corner so I jacked it with my punk juice and went for a two day joy ride.
The idea behind Punk Juice was loosely inspired by the red eye spray from Cowboy Bebop, which is an awesome old anime about a bounty hunter who travels through space in the year 2071. I had the saline spray and we were in front of the green screen just trying to think of what to say to sell the stuff. We didn’t even come up with the name Punk Juice till about 20 minutes in to making that infomercial.
HEM: Both singles “Eleven” and “Dominos” are very upbeat and similar sounding, can we expect more of this kind of “vibe” from Yumeno Garden?
Funny enough actually, I don’t think so. I have been saying those two tracks sound the same and they are first and second on the album but that’s just the beginning of a ten-song course that delves into warm and cold, rock and synth. My songs have stayed relatively guitar driven though. That’s on purpose because I’ve tried to bring the original Dinos guitar vibe back. Lach’s songs feature heavily with 80’s synth sounds and drum machines. It goes off in lots of sonic tangents but it still flows well and sounds like one album.
Lyrically there is quite a variance in tone. I guess like most of our songs it’s all about love and loss, but Lach’s are more mysterious and deeper. I don’t really understand them that well but that’s what I like about them. Mine are a bit more obvious because I like to paint clear pictures.
HEM: Regarding the new tracks, what song(s) are you looking forward for fans to hear the most?
Oh man I dunno! All of them! I had to listen to the test pressing yesterday afternoon and my heart was pumping. I can’t wait to play all of these tracks. One stand out is maybe “Forget About”. We rehearsed that the other day just for shits and it was the best sounding thing as a band. Just the way the song is forced us to use our guitars in ways we haven’t before. Felt really good.
“Everything Relative” is probably my favorite song though. It’s a marching tear jerker. It has such a strong determined rhythm to it, but lyrically is full of desperation.
HEM: If you could say anything to your past selves when you first started out as a band, what would you say?
Have more faith in yourselves and your own abilities.
HEM: You guys have a few tour dates in Australia this coming fall, any chance you’ll be coming to the US for a few dates? You have quite a few fans here!
Absolutely. I have no doubt! We have plans of moving there for a few months actually. When that is, we don’t know but if everyone spreads the word and we get famous then we can be there asap! Haha. We feel very guilty for not getting there earlier but it’s kinda good in a way because we toured Europe twice early in the piece and I don’t know if we will be going back any time soon but now we have way more fans there than we ever did. So, by the time we go to the US, it’ll be well worth it to be able to see everybody’s faces. So for now, the best thing people can do is find us on Instagram because when the time comes to tour we will put the call out on there!
HEM: Lastly, any new music you’ve been listening to lately? I’m always looking for new songs to add to my playlist!
Yeah absolutely I’ll tell you two completely different things. Puzzle from the band, The Garden. He makes some awesome music. Very DIY sound which we really like. My favourite songs of mine are “Dice”, “What She Might Say To Me”, and “Everyone Left”. Those are some of the most anthemic tracks I’ve heard in years. The other artist I have listened to for a while is Dorothy Ashby, but I recently discovered a different album of hers which to me sounds like what Avalanches must have been listening to. Dorothy’s Harp is the album and it sounds like it could’ve come from now. It’s a mix of soul drums and bass with some amazing jazz harp. It really makes you feel good. Turns out Kanye sampled one of her tracks too.
Yumeno Garden is out October 5th!