– by Michelle Yeong
Fresh from the release of long-awaited album ‘Wellness,’ Sean Caskey of Brisbane outfit Last Dinosaurs had a chat with us about the album, guitar pedals, The Matrix and touring.
M: Firstly I’d like to say thanks for squeezing us into your busy schedule and also congratulations on the release of second album ‘Wellness.’
S: Thanks, thanks very much!
For those who haven’t listened to ‘Wellness’ yet, how would you describe the album?
Um… Uh… [laughs] I don’t know, it’s sort of like a step up from the first album. It’s a better representation of who we are as people and as a band. I think we’ve matured a lot in the last three years coming from songs that we’ve written from 18 to 21 to songs that we’ve written from like 21 to 24. It’s hard to explain cause it’s pretty diverse, sonically. We just tried to go as deep as we can in every single song, as far as we can go.
The new album features a nice collection of pop-heavy tunes, what were your influences when writing the album?
A lot of chill-wave stuff, I’ve listened to lots of chill-wave lo-fi type of bands, particularly when writing I’ve listened to a lot of Twin Sister, an American band from Brooklyn, they’re one of my favourite bands. They inspired me because they’re the classic example of diversity and going to absolute depths of each style as well, just lots of character in every single song. So that’s one thing I really admired about them. But just general chill-wave vibes were probably the biggest inspiration for us.
I feel a lot of old stuff like Panda Bear, particularly just always listening to ‘Person Pitch’ just that one album, not a huge fan of anything else he’s done, but I just really liked ‘Person Pitch.’ But yeah, just a couple of extra things on top of what we’ve always been influenced by I think.
From doing a bit of Facebook stalking, I’ve noticed that since the release of ‘Wellness’ you guys have been uploading the demo versions of your tracks every couple of days.
Yeah, just cause the other guys thought it’d be a good idea, and I was like “oh yeah we can do that.” But yeah, sometimes even though the recordings are great and Scott’s an awesome producer and the studio’s awesome and it’s recorded really well, sometimes you just get attached to the demos.
Yeah, sometimes what you record the first time round is what you always envisioned for that track.
Yeah exactly! But yeah, thought it might be interesting for fans to know what the progression is from demo to recording. I think it was a good idea doing it actually. It’s cool also to show ‘Wellness,’ like the actual recording of it on the album is my demo, it’s also cool cause Mac DeMarco released his demos and solidified an album too, so it’s always cool. I’ve always, ALWAYS wanted to know what Kevin Parker’s demos are like. I’m curious to see those.
I think everyone wants to know about those
Yeah I have a feeling though because of the way he does it, maybe his final recordings are his demos that he just works on constantly, whereas for us my demos are completely separate recordings from the actual album recordings, its like the demos are taken into consideration and then we redo the song. Whereas maybe Kevin Parker just works on his initial idea till it’s nice and polished. But that’s what I wanna know, that’s what I’m curious about.
The demos have definitely given us a good insight into your tracks. What was your approach to writing the new tracks, were a lot of them inspired when you guys were on tour?
Not in the geographical sense, but from the experiences that we’ve had personally whilst touring and stuff, but not particularly from being in Bali or being in Japan, but just experiences I’ve had with friends and stuff like that. It’s always a never ending sort of process, as soon as we finished recording ‘In A Million Years,’ we went home and started writing ‘Evie’ and there are other songs, that I regret didn’t make the album, that are about different things like there’s this drug overdosed dude that I lived next door to when I was house sitting for my uncle and it was fascinating cause he was the most bogan dude in the world, but he wrote the deepest poetry [laughs] like really deep and dark and, fucking hell I couldn’t believe it, that’d it come out of this guy – this toothless boganish dude. And he drew all these rrreallly trippy drawings as well, I wrote a song about him, didn’t make the album unfortunately, it’ll make the next one for sure cause it just wasn’t recorded right.
It was just a lot of different stuff over the last three years, it’s hard to explain cause basically music is just like writing a diary and sometimes people will like the story you wrote in your diary… yeah not that I have a diary, I would never do that…
Do we get to hear the demo of this track in the next few weeks…
No, no, n-no can’t spoil it. There’s also other songs that people are constantly saying “oh is this gonna be on the album” or “why isn’t this on the album?” and yeah they’re all songs that’ll just go onto the next album, I think cause they’re too good to wait, they just weren’t right for this album or they just didn’t sound right this time.
If you had to pick one song off the new album to place into a time capsule that won’t be dug up until the year 3000, which song would you pick and why?
‘Wellness’ I reckon cause to me that one probably was the second closest to being the most real and true to anything that I’ve ever done, it’s probably more timeless than the other songs as well and also because it is mine, like it’s my recording, I feel very attached to it as well. Yeah definitely ‘Wellness.’
I think it’s more relatable too cause it’s just about falling in love again and I think that it’s taken well to everybody, but also trying to play it down I was trying to make it be like an everyday, not mundane, but like a “it happens everyday” but also sort of knowing that like everything nothing lasts forever and it’s like “fuck here we go.”
I recently heard that you make guitar pedals for a living, is that true?
Yeah, that’s what I’m doing today, except I just got a new shipment of parts and unfortunately the first thing I need to do is stamp the holes and that’s a really really loud thing so I can’t do anything yet, so I’ve just been sitting there holding it, holding the thing down and talking [laughs]. I didn’t realize I’d been doing that for an hour, just holding it in my hand, holding the stamping thing and haven’t even stamped once, but yeah I’m doing that today cause The Jensens guys who we’re touring with they asked for some pedals that I’d sold out of so I’ve gotta make two of them.
Do you ever use your own guitar pedals on stage or when recording new tracks?
Yeah actually the thing is my brother uses most of them, he uses almost all of them. I’d say a third of his pedal board, which is a humongous pedal board, is my pedals. I only use two of my own because I just can’t use more because I don’t have a big enough pedal board and also one of the main ones I use is purely my own design from scratch and it’s designed for myself and other people have ended up liking it so they started buying it as well.
Usually I’ll make a pedal and I’ll just give it to Lach straight away and leave it with him for a week and be like “what do you think?” and then often he’ll just end up keeping it and keeping it on his board. He’s like the guinea pig, but he’s a good guinea pig cause [laughs] if he likes it then it’s good and if he uses it then he likes it.
It’s a good sign
Yeah it’s a good gauge and also he’s a proper guitar player so he knows when something really does work and complements a guitar and a guitar sound. Yeah, he’s a good person to ask, he’s the one mainly using my pedals really. But it’s also been such an integral part of our sound for this album too, like all the sounds have incorporated at least one of my pedals.
It’s been fun doing the guitar pedal thing, it’s really cause we’ve been so fanatical about our guitar sound it’s been good to be able to create them from scratch instead of trying to research and pick and buy pedals – I can just select parts from the very beginning and create the pedal. You can sort of predict more of what you can do and what you’ll get sort of thing.
During the ‘Evie’ single tour, you mentioned that ‘Apollo’ is based around the blue pill/red pill scene from The Matrix, hypothetically speaking, if Morpheus gave you the same option, which pill would you chose?
Yeah [laughs] I keep joking like when we’re playing shows, I say it’s about when Neo gets off at the blue pinga and the red pinga but this time Neo double drops [laughs]. I’d go red for sure, easy. It’s just that whole idea of a chance at just completely changing your life even though you don’t know what it’s gonna be, it’s just for something else, that’s always been attracted to me and I’ve rewatched The Matrix for my third or fourth time – that scene in particular has really sort of resonated and that dialogue in that scene in particular is great. Everything about it is just perfect. That idea was just really heavy and I was like “fuck.”
Yeah when I first saw The Matrix I was eight and I actually thought it was real, I was just sitting there thinking “whoa are we in a computer?”
[Laughs] Yeah I know, I was probably about the same age too actually, but it’s great cause it’s awesome at that age but also it’s awesome at this age, such a timeless movie.
You guys have toured extensively over in Asia, done a little South African tour, was recently apart of Splendour in the grass and in a weeks time you’ll be going on a national Australian tour. Are there any crazy tour stories that you’d like to share with us?
Nothing crazy, but one of the great things about touring with the band and other bands is that you become such good friends, like forever, with other bands. And I Know Leopard is just a band we really respect and really love so it’s great to be able to become really really good friends with those guys, I saw them at Big Sound and they stayed with me at Big Sound. Just creating those bonds forever is something I really appreciate. The things that really stick with me the most from touring I think, apart from playing guitar, is just making those strong friendships with other musicians.
What are your plans after the Australian tour?
Probably do a bit of Asia touring, South East Asia and also hopefully a bit of America cause we haven’t had a chance to tour there and we’ve got a solid fan base there. It’s just so expensive to get there so just gotta make sure you do it right the first time.
You can catch Last Dinosaurs on:
17th October at the Rosemount Hotel
18th October at Jimmy’s Den
Photo Credit: Last Dinosaurs