Stepping out of the spotlight and escaping to the isolated mountains of Arita, Japan to work on their third studio album was probably the best decision Last Dinosaurs could have made. This Brisbane trio have returned with a collection of bright and punchy indie-rock tracks with a experimental psychedelic twist. It was here they re-found themselves as artists and decided to create and produce this record completely independently which was a first for them. With songs that are inspired by the likes of The Strokes, the band have songs that have festival ready hooks as well as mature tracks with a whole lot of heart and vulnerability. Now with the record officially out and the band being back in Australia they are going to be hitting the road in March 2019 for a massive headlining tour with a string of shows already sold out.
I recently chatted to lead singer Sean Caskey about the experience of writing the majority of this album in Japan, the way the band have evolved sonically over the years and found out what Dinosaur they would bring back to life. Check it out;
TB: You created the base of this album in Arita, Japan because you wanted to disconnect from everything around you and really immerse yourself in the music and process again. So how did you find that experience? And is it something you think you would want to do again for future releases?
SC: Isolation is crucial for making music, especially albums because you have to work so hard for so many hours to get the job done. My studio is pretty noisy because it’s a place where a lot of bands hang out and a bit of mechanical work goes on so you can imagine the kind of sounds you’d hear there. That sort of interference makes things pretty difficult. So I normally work from about 11pm onwards because most of the people have left and there is finally complete silence.
Arita was a perfect place to record because the town itself is very slow and quiet. You have mainly sleepy retired people chilling out and a few artists here and there. The studio we were using is owned by a young doctor in Arts from Tokyo Uni. He built it in a big wood storage warehouse just a little bit up the mountains where there are mainly rice paddocks and pine trees.
Tranquil doesn’t describe this place well enough. It was like a breath of fresh air walking in every day. Beautifully built all wooden room with all the instruments you’d need. Art books and magazines piled up everywhere beside some big old pot plants. The view out the big sliding doors were of the distant mountains behind the small town. This is where you go to cut out all that white noise, all the interference and crank up your internal minds’ volume. That’s all we wanted. No external influence and absolute focus on what was already inside us.
I’d go back there in a heartbeat to make more music. My studio in Brisbane was definitely the most important place for the actual creation of this album but Arita played an important role in the journey. It was where you go to do the soul searching. A place where we found the beginning of the path.
TB: What was the biggest thing about Japan that you think inspired the feel of the record or inspired you guys in general?
SC: Geography barely makes an impact on our music. The funny thing was LA was a big focus on a some of the tracks. So, we were in the middle of nowhere in Japan writing about California haha. The cover for the album is a visual representation of this. It goes deeper than that actually. There is a style of Japanese 80’s pop music that is very glossy and smooth called ‘city pop’. The artworks that accompanied this music were often utopian representations of Californian landscapes with stunning colours, bright lights, big palm trees, classic cars. Ultimately it was a Japanese optimistic interpretation of America, a place where the grass was greener. A stark contrast to the bleak grey concrete jungles of urban Japan.
Lach spent a bit of time in the US and came back with a burning desire to tour there. We have a solid fan base but never found the chance to jump on a plane and play some shows. His aspirations bled in to his songs and subsequently fired the rest of us up too. That’s why the album cover for Yumeno Garden has cactus all around. It’s to represent looking out to the future, the American landscape.
Along with that we have a big traditional Japanese house with us chilling on the balcony to represent Arita of course, but by the way we are poised and dressed on the balcony you can detect that we don’t belong there. We felt like aliens in that town, that’s the isolation feeling we were chasing but even when we come home to Brisbane we don’t feel like a ‘Brissie’ band. Our songs aren’t Aussie rock. ‘Yumeno Garden’ doesn’t originate from anywhere in particular. It’s in the middle of imaginary places. Hence why we decided to call it Yumeno as it means “dream” in Japanese. The ‘Garden’ part represents a place for development. A place where you nurture things to grow and bloom. A Japanese garden is a place for meditation and contemplation. A place where engineering and nature are perfectly balanced to create an aesthetically harmonious environment. In conclusion Japan’s influence on this album was not sonic, but more conceptual.
TB: It has been a couple years since your last release, did you find that the way you wrote or recorded as a band had changed in any ways?
SC: ‘Yumeno Garden’ was completely recorded and produced by ourselves which is totally new to us. I was always recording demos to a fairly low standard but never considered my skills to be adequate enough produce an album. But after coming back from Japan we realised the whole thing had to be down to us. Previously we have worked with some great producers to varying degrees of success but this time we wanted to take a big step in our own direction and retain a lot of the qualities in our own production sound. We wanted this one to be about coming from our hands and delivering to the fans directly.
This was sparked from a love of music that were listening to on Soundcloud. There we found so many fantastic songs that were totally untouched and authentic. Sure, they were rough around the edges but I love that aspect. You just know that some kid has spent a bunch of time culminating this song in his room making all these crazy sounds then gone “yep, here you go world, listen to this”. I love that. It is something I admire and envy. The ability to just create and at the click of a button, just share. The way we are set up right now we can’t do that but maybe one day things could change.
TB: What would you say is the albums most vulnerable moment?
SC: Perhaps the song ‘Happy’. That was written in a difficult time for me and the song is pretty self-explanatory. I’m usually a pretty closed off kinda guy but music is my therapy. I realised this years ago when I was quite young, when writing songs in hectic times felt so natural. It is difficult to remain honest in the lyrics without giving too much away but in this case, I felt like I gave a lot away because it just had to be true.
TB: ‘Dominos’ looks at the ups and downs we go through and deciding to make difficult decisions to better ourselves. So looking back at your career as a band what difficult decision do you wish you made that may have had a different effect to how it actually ended up playing out?
SC: So many decisions in retrospect *laughs*. I don’t know what I want to say about this to be honest. It’s a tough question to answer because I like to hide things. I can say perhaps in the artistic side of things, having more faith in myself would’ve been a great start. I still lack self-confidence when it comes to making music but if I had more back in the day things would have been a bit different. Listening to other people who were trying to tell me what was in or out was not a good idea. I’ve learnt that lesson and ‘Yumeno Garden’ is our first step in walking our own line.
TB: The second half of this album hears you guys experimenting with a bit of a psychedelic influenced sound. What inspired that sonical experimentation? Was it done on purpose or did it kinda just happen?
SC: It happened because those songs are Lach’s. For the first time in the history of Last Dinosaurs we have the lead guitarist writing and recording his own songs. He started making songs not that long ago but got pretty good at it quickly. His repertoire was so solid I suggested we go 50/50 on the album and have our songs separated. I wanted to show off the fact that we have two writers now.
We are brothers and have been in the band together for a long time now, so we are on the same page musically. He also sounds a lot like me, so I have a feeling not many people realise those songs aren’t mine. I sing chorus here, or a little bit there but they are his tracks. They are definitely deeper than mine, that’s for sure. I can’t write songs with such intensity because I guess we live in different states of mind.
TB: Being Brisbane boys you must be stoked with how vibrant the local music scene is currently. Who is one of your favourite local acts that you think people need to discover ASAP?
SC: There are too many to be honest. In a good way! They vary in styles too, but I’m always completely perplexed by Pious Faults. They are operating on a level I don’t even understand. Extreme art punk is how I will describe it, sorry if that sounds stupid. Other than that, I like Harmon, they make some great Bris-pop songs. Actually, reminds me a lot of Regurgitator. A lot of bands rehearse in the warehouse where our studios are, so I hear a wide variety of great Brissie bands. They are all legends too, that’s an inherently Brisbane thing.
TB: I’m going to ask you a really lame question now… so prepare haha. If you could have one dinosaur return to the world, what one would you choose and why?
SC: Oh, that’s an easy one! Absolutely no doubt in my mind I’d bring back the Micropachycephalosaurus. Cause this guy is the smallest dinosaur but paradoxically has the longest name which almost sounds like an STI. He could be like a little pet.
TB: Lets play a little game where you answer these questions with the first thing that comes to mind…
TB: If we could form a supergroup with any other band or artist it would be…
SC: The Beach Boys
TB: The messiest member on tour is…
TB: The emoji the best describes the band is…
SC: The devil horns rock hands
TB: The most unexpected thing on our rider is…
TB: If we weren’t called Last Dinosaurs we could be called…
SC: Los Dinos
Yumeno Garden 2019 Australian Tour
Fri 15 Mar – Jack Rabbit Slim’s, Perth
Sat 16 Mar – Jive, Adelaide
Fri 22 Mar – The Zoo, Brisbane *NEW SHOW*
Sat 23 Mar – The Zoo, Brisbane *SOLD OUT*
Fri 29 Mar – Howler, Melbourne *SOLD OUT*
Sat 30 Mar – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney *SOLD OUT*
Sun 31 Mar – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney *NEW SHOW*