Interview: Sean Caskey of Last Dinosaurs
Brisbane-band Last Dinosaurs are back on the road to tour their third studio album, Yumeno Garden, around the country. With a US and Asia tour also on the horizon, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Sean Caskey gave up some of his precious time to talk with us about the creation of the album, his experience living abroad and answers the all-important question of what he thinks is the Last Dinosaur.
How you doing Sean? Where are you right now?
I’m at my studio! I just completely gutted one of my guitars and I’m about to hack away at it because I’m going to modify it today. I’ve just marked out where I’m going to do all of the serious cutting and stuff, so it’s going to be tense times in an hour or two. It’s a brand-new guitar as well so it’s always a bit nerve-racking when it’s new.
Exciting – guitar surgery! Are you going to take it on tour?
Yeah, that’s why I’m doing it – making the sound perfect for me for this tour, just because I’m on a constant quest for tone. I get a new guitar and I love it but I’m like, “Oh, it’d just be better if I did this to it,” so I’m in that phase right now.
What a skill! Well straight off the bat, congratulations on Yumeno Garden. It’s such a solidifying sound of Last Dinos from your last two albums. I think it combines the both of them into one. And you produced a lot of it whilst living in an isolated town in Japan I hear! Can you tell me about that experience?
So there’s this beautiful, beautiful studio in that town where it had its economic boom about 300-400 years ago, so these days, it’s pretty ghost-towny. But it’s just stunning and really tranquil, and there’s a small community of artists there.
The guy who owns the studio is actually a doctor in Art at the Tokyo uni and he’s also in a noise band. There’re two types of noise: the noise where it’s literally guys making noises, and then there’s the really cool heavy, really precise type of noise; and he’s the former.
Anyway, he’s created an amazing space for making music and we hit that up. We were seeking some sort of isolation from any sort of external influence and I thought being alienated is a good way to do that so we could just focus in on the influences we already had and the sounds that were sort of already in us so we could dig back to our roots and create an album that was essentially really Dinos sounding. I think it worked.
I’d absolutely agree! As I said, it’s a culmination of your two previous albums, so I think you’ve really created a unique sound but one that draws upon your previous work. And you have Japanese heritage! Can you speak Japanese, or did you learn it while you were over there?
If I’m there for a month, I can get by. I’ve got a few friends there, but it’s not very good. My brother’s better at Japanese. But I’ve gotten into some sticky situations before with my poor language skills, like one time I had to go to my friend’s new apartment that he just got, and I was staying there. He wasn’t there at the time – he was late – and it was really far out of Tokyo, like an hour out. It just goes forever, all the buildings… Anyway, got off the station, looked for the house and the addresses are really weird. They have a weird code sort of system, and he told me the key was in the back of the letterbox.
I went into the building and I was like, “Wow, Shinji’s really stepped it up. He’s got a really nice place now!” I found the letterboxes, opened the letterbox through the front, and I could see through the slot that there was no key and just all these letters, and I was like, “Damn it, you!” I thought he forgot the key! So, I pulled all the letter out through the slot which was really hard and found the key at the back of the letterbox which was quite long. I fashioned one of the letters into a stick, like a pole, and slowly edged the key towards me with my fingers, using the pole.
Got the key, finally, got through the glass doors and found his room. I go to open his door and the doors already open, so I’m like, “Oh, he’s home already,” because the TV was on. I took my shoes off, as you do in Japan, and everything was really messy, so I was like, “Yep, this is definitely Shinji’s house.” I walked down the hallway and said, “Tadaima”, which means “I’m home” in Japanese, and then some 40 to 50-year-old man got up and started screaming at me because I’d just walked into the wrong building entirely, but the same number unit!
And the same number letterbox had a key in it – that is so random!
It was so bad! I couldn’t explain it to him! I was like, “Is this Shinji’s house?” and it clearly wasn’t Shinji’s house. Oh, it was so bad. I couldn’t explain anything to him, and I was 20 per cent laughing, 80 per cent really scared because this guy’s really shoving me around. Then I knew enough to understand that he’d said he was taking me to a police station. I was like, “No, this is the last thing I need right now,” because dealing with Japanese police is really really slow and annoying.
I think you need to run in those situations…
Well I was walking with him to the police station and I was like, my bag’s really heavy but I could run away from him. But, I decided to go, so I went to the police station and he told the guys and they all just laughed at me and then they took me to the correct building. But it was tough times – I wish I could have just told him exactly what was going on. But I had good enough Japanese to not get arrested or something.
Well, that’s better than me. So, talking about the album, your brother Lachie wrote five tracks on it, which is his writing debut. How did he get the tick of approval?
He has all this stuff on a secret Soundcloud – he probably shouldn’t, but he does anyway. A lot of people listen to it and it all sounds pretty cool. I thought, “Why the hell don’t we release this stuff?” So, we chose a few to work on which we thought could go together and worked on it a bit and that was it. Didn’t really do too much work on them either really – just a bit of work on the chorus here and there and shortening things. It was pretty simple stuff!
It sounds really cohesive! When you listen to the album, you’d never know that the first five tracks were you and the second five tracks are Lachie.
Yeah! He’s way more introspective than I am. We’re very different people in real life. I’m all guitar pedals and more mathematical – I do everything very structured and I live like that. Lach is not at all mathematical and he’s one of those language guys so he can speak Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and English. I can barely speak English! So yeah, we’re very different types of dudes but we sound the same musically – or similar musically…
That’s crazy. And it seems like you’re not going to stop travelling any time soon. You’ve got a sold-out headline tour around Australia in March, a sixteen date US tour in April to May with a sprinkle of Asia on the end then back for the Big Pineapple Festival. Where are you most excited to play?
No! There’s just so many! We’ve never played in America so I’m obviously excited for that. I’ve extremely enjoyed playing in Asia and travelling through Asia. There’s Mexico – Mexico is going to be really cool!
Mexico will be wild, and you’ve sold out two shows in Mexico!
I didn’t know that! But yeah! It’s going to be interesting… There’s a lot of people saying, “Come to Mexico!” And you sort of think, “They’re saying it but will they actually come to the show?” Turns out they do!
The tickets are selling! I read that you want to move to the States soon – is that a possible sea-change in the future?
I reckon, yeah. Although, Lach’s starting to talk about Bangkok now, so maybe that. I don’t know, just somewhere different. Not necessarily for the creative aspect but… Bangkok’s really cheap and really cool – they’ve got awesome youth culture there but also the scenes there are really awesome, so authentic. Some of the bars are just so damn cool and a little bit dingy and just really legit. I love that sort of stuff. Otherwise, somewhere in California.
Both very different but both sound like an absolute adventure. I’m a Brissy girl myself, and I know how you feel about Brisbane. It’s a little… not claustrophobic, but you know.
Most people move away and I don’t want to move away for the sake of moving away from Brisbane, per se – even though my brother does – because I’ve got a really good thing going on here. I just want to do some travelling more extensively instead of just… With touring, the only sort of sightseeing you get to do is outside of the van or outside of the hotel window or the plane window. It kind of sucks – you get a little taste of how good somewhere is and then you’re gone and at the next place. So there’s that sort of driven desire to be stationed somewhere for a little bit longer, somewhere foreign. But I think I’ll always come back to Bris because I’ve got heaps of good friends and there’s an awesome scene here and I’ve got a good studio here. There’s too much for me to lose here. It’s a good place to come home to.
Absolutely! Well as a Brisbanite, I’m pretty proud of what you guys have achieved. Brisbane’s such an up-and-coming place with our music scene at the moment – it’s epic! Before I let you go, I do have to ask one question: When you think of The Last Dinosaur to ever roam the Earth, what dinosaur are you picturing?
A chicken! Really?!
Yeah! Apparently they’re closer than crocodiles.
What? That’s hectic – you’ve just schooled me!
Next time you eat KFC, think about Kentucky fried dinosaurs.
That needs to be a re-brand! If you guys released chicken merch, you’d confuse a lot of people, but I’d roll with it. Alright Sean, I’ll leave you to create this epic guitar that we’ll see on tour. I’m very excited to see Yumeno Garden in concert and best of luck touring the world!
You can see Last Dinosaurs on their Australian Yumeno Garden tour over March and April. For tour dates and tickets, head HERE.
March 15 | Perth | Jack Rabbit Slims
March 16 | Adelaide | Jive **Sold Out**
March 22 | Brisbane | The Zoo **Sold Out**
March 23 | Brisbane | The Zoo **Sold Out**
March 28 | Melbourne | Howler **Sold Out**
March 29 | Melbourne | Howler **Sold Out**
March 30 | Sydney | Oxford Art Factory **Sold Out**
March 31 | Sydney | Oxford Art Factory **Sold Out**
April 6 | Melbourne | Howler **Sold Out**
This article was originally published in the AU review.