Brissie’s Last Dinosaurs Tell Us Their Gran Was In A Cult Or Two, No Biggie

We’re at the pub, nursing a cheeky late Wednesday arvo beer, when we kick off our chat with Brissie indie-rockers Last Dinosaurs – to be precise, with the Caskey brothers, frontman Sean and his little brother, lead guitarist Lachlan. The Last Dinosaurs triangle is completed by bassist Michael Sloane.

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Our conversation pitches from their upbringing – their father is white Australian, and their mother Japanese – to their sense of what it means to be ‘original’ and ‘honest’ as songwriters, as well as their need to take responsibility for aspects of the album process they’d previously outsourced. It’s all part of what they learned while making their new record, Yumeno Garden: that a sense of individuality and ownership is important to them as artists.

The boys headed to Japan‘s Arita to work on their third record in relative isolation, completely removed from so-called “external influences“. In Japan they could focus on crafting the songs they had already sketched out at home in Brisbane, and could “look inwards more“.

Although they didn’t ultimately use much from their adventure, the trip was still a kind of a homecoming of sorts. Sean explains: “Our heritage is Japanese, like half of it, and they’re very superstitious. And, still, there’s shrines everywhere and they’re very spiritual still. But we’re not, well, I’m not spiritual, I don’t know about him.

Lachlan picks up the ‘spirituality’ thread: “I think we have that appreciation, that respect, kinda sensitivity for the reverence of spirits and shit, because our grandmother has been in a couple of cults. Like the ESP cult, and she taught our mother certain healing rituals.

Hold up: before anyone jumps to any conclusions, yes the notorious NXIVM cult, featuring Smallville‘s Allison Mack – the ones with the branding and grim af sexual assault claims – did call their early offerings ‘Executive Success Programs‘ or ESPs. No. This is not that.

In a Japanese context, ESP refers to Extra-Sensory-Perception Kagaku Kenkyūjo, a new religious movement, founded in 1975, which reached its peak with a membership of 16,000 in the ’90s.

She hasn’t got the ESP logo or anything on her chest. But mum would do these healing rituals to us when we were sick that were based on the ESP cult. Whether or not that did anything, it was really calming. It was incredibly calming, it was really nice. There was nothing negative associated with the whole cult thing. Our grandma really only wants us to eat healthy, organic food, etcetera, stuff like that.

In the process of putting together Yumeno Garden, Sean found himself influenced in his thinking about music by works as diverse as the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti to the ’70s post-punk of Wire, and of course the figureheads of the ’00s New York indie scene, The Strokes.

Still, as Lachlan says, their influences are “already set in concrete“: “Now we know what we do, it’s more we’re just trying to embrace our own [sound].”

Sean expands, talking so excitedly his passion for his work, and for music generally, is palpable:

We don’t like to do the flavour of the month thing and just smash out an album in a different style. It’s like War on Drugs. War on Drugs is a huge thing, and I’ve seen quite a few bands suddenly flip over into War on Drugs’ style. I just don’t really like that sort of thing. I just wanted to stay original, like how we started, but with a little bit more of course. But always try to stay true to [ourselves].

Sean touches on the problems they had with their second album, 2015’s Wellness, where he tried out a range of styles and genres that didn’t feel right, that weren’t Last Dinosaurs doing Last Dinosaurs. They ended up with a record that didn’t “sound how we wanted it to sound… Maybe people could tell we didn’t have much faith in it“.

I should’ve just stuck to the original guns and just gone more indie-rock. I know especially now, indie-rock is considered to be pretty dead these days, which I understand, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna change my style. Because I believe in sticking to it, and being true to yourself as a band.

But this time around, Last Dinosaurs are establishing a direct line to their audience:

Before this we just never really had much faith in ourselves, I feel like no one really properly understood us. I guess we didn’t either. We were just constantly trying to please other people who weren’t really the fans… [Now] it’s between us and the fans and trying to make that interaction as close as possible, and make this album feel like it’s come directly from our hands to the fans.

Lachlan agrees, saying he reckons they’re having much more fun as a band now, unified in their vision for this record and for the future.

We’ve collaboratively done the art, the music, the everything, Sean does the merch, Sloane does the film clips. Everything is just between the three of us… and we enjoy having that control.

We’re just enjoying the process, and we’re actually delivering something that’s way more authentic and we can’t wait to do it again.

We’re finally all enjoying it together, and enjoying it more than ever before, and that can only mean that we’re going to be doing the fans more of a justice as well… Like now it feels like we’re really like ‘This is our thing,’ and we take responsibility for it, but it’s not a drag.

Yumeno Garden is out through Dew Process on October 5.

Last Dinosaurs’ east coast tour of their single, ‘Eleven‘, kicks off in Brissie tomorrow, Wednesday October 3, before heading to Sydney, Thursday October 4, and Melbourne, Saturday October 6, and is totally sold out. Soz gang.

They’ve got a heap of record in-store signings scheduled in all three cities though if you’re keen – get the deets HERE – and are throwing an album launch do at Sydney’s Gladstone Hotel, Friday October 5, and that’s cheap as free. You just gotta get in by 6.30pm. See ya thurrr.