With just one EP to their name and a string of danceable guitar pop singles befriending the airwaves, Brisbane’s Last Dinosaurs are already earning supports with the likes of Foster The People, Foals and We Are Scientists. Tyler Mcloughlan sits down with Sean Caskey and Sam Gethin-Jones to share the anticipation of finally delivering debut album In A Million Years to a waiting audience.
As Last Dinosaurs frontman Sean Caskey busies himself with the coffee machine, bassist Sam Gethin-Jones kicks back on a couch in the boardroom of their record label Dew Process and makes idle chat about what the band has been up to in recent weeks. With their debut album In A Million Years out now, they've been wined and dined by Rolling Stone, among others. With coffee in hand, Caskey plonks himself down and explains why it has taken over four years for their debut record to appear.
“It wasn't on purpose, but it was definitely a good idea,” he admits. “It was just, I dunno, the rate that I write songs is incredibly slow and not all of them are very good, so it was just a matter of waiting until we'd come up and polished enough songs that were worthy of an album. We were meant to record ages ago, and we thought it was a good idea to just wait another year, six months.”
From the isolation of a friend's farm in the Byron Bay hinterland, the four city kids – the band rounded out by Caskey's younger lead guitarist brother Lachlan and high school drummer buddy Dan Koyama – found the right environment to tease out their muse. “Going to a farm is kind of like a big deal for us because we never go to a farm – you never go to a place where there's no [phone] reception. It's like when you're there, all you can do is walk around in the bushland or be inside the house writing music, so it's a good place to work hard,” says the frontman.
It became an ideal setting for road testing material too, particularly the overtly confident riff of album opener Zoom that preceded the album release as a summer season musical highlight. “I remember it was at a stage where we'd been trying to write a lot of songs, and like good songs, which is even harder to do. Every day and night I'd make loops on a loop pedal, just guitar or a kids' keyboard thing… I figured out the riff but I couldn't play it all because it was too complicated for me to play. But I recorded it and when I showed the dudes they all liked it,” Caskey says of the track that ultimately placed just outside of triple j's 2011 Hottest 100 at 125. “We played this party [at the farm], which was the funnest thing – it was in this big bunch of trees in the open field, and they had a massive tent and like a big spit roast. They had a little tent for us to play in, and we played Zoom. And I just remember, 'cause I was pretty stoned at the time, I was vibing so hard – like all of us were vibing really hard,” he laughs. “Everyone was having so much fun!” Caskey continues. “We played [Zoom] and everyone was loving it – there was no lyrics or anything. When we played it, that time was when I knew that it was a good song.”
Caskey is a thoughtful and extremely bright 21-year-old who treats the craft of songwriting as a life-long career, one in which he intends to make his mark. Amongst typical album fodder of relationship insights, the jangle-pop of Time And Place shows his intentions through the conduit of Nikola Tesla, the pioneer of the modern electrical supply system. “I went nuts on YouTube just researching the crap out of Nikola,” he enthuses of the inventor. “In science or physics, you learn about Tesla, and they just touch on it, they never really explore it. I didn't really think much of it [at the time] because I didn't really care much for school, but I went nuts on Nikola 'cause I found out like everything that we have now is basically from him, essentially. And he was just a really, really interesting character. I could go on for ages. The main reason I wanted to write about him was because – you know Thomas Edison? – well, he did basically two percent of what Nikola did, but because he was American and Nikola was Jewish, they discriminated against Nikola to a point where he had multiple breakdowns and then stopped inventing things.
“It's so sad… I obsess about a couple of things to a ridiculous point, and Nikola is one of them. I actually was just very sad and Time And Place is like an indirect apology to him.” Caskey's Tesla bent directly relates to the overall theme of timelessness which is introduced in the first chorus of the album as he states: “I don't want to be just another/Fighter without fire/Nothing to inspire/In a million years when we're older/Finally we can be part of history.”
“I've thought about a lot over the last few years, the idea of immortality, because obviously it's impossible – but the only real immortality is to be remembered and recognised, and I feel like the only way you can do that is to become someone significant, or have a recording of something, like write a book, or have a song or make a video,” he reflects. “That's why I think Zoom is a good opening track and it sums up the whole album because that song is about making an impression on the world, on someone's world – if someone's thinking about me after I'm dead, then technically I think that it's sort of like I'm still living. And Zoom's about wanting to not be someone that's forgotten.”
Beginning pre-production last February, the decision was made to return to Jean-Paul Fung (Birds Of Tokyo, Little Red), a producer and engineer only slightly older than the band members, who had produced Time And Place as a single in late-2010. “We worked with him and he was just like the maddest dude. Like, he's such an interesting character, and we got along with him really, really well,” Caskey says as Gethin-Jones nods emphatically.
“The pre-production was done at JP's mum's farm, which is a really nice farm too and a really, really nice house… I slept where we were jamming and I'd literally wake up, pick up the guitar and we'd just go, and we'd go on until late at night. Sometimes [when] we were feeling uninspired, we'd go outside for a run at like midnight, in the middle of nowhere – just like the stupidest shit cause we were just so bored. So we're running and then we're just like, 'Oi, next time lets run backwards in single file', so cars drive past and there's five dudes in skinny jeans running backwards in the middle of nowhere,” he laughs.
Built with the help of historical ideologies, the Last Dinosaurs' future does indeed look bright, and Caskey is deservedly proud of In A Million Years, and the history the young band has made together. “We knew that this was our chance to create something that could potentially set up the rest of our lives, so we just worked really hard together to make the best possible piece of art that we could, and I definitely think we did that.”
This week's new sets include music from locals Gurrumul, Josh Pyke and West Thebarton Brothel Party plus new tunes from The Maccabees and Albert Hammond Jr.