It works in the Travel sections of newspapers - the one part of the papers that keeps getting bigger, and the ads keep spreading out - so let’s try it here with Sean Caskey frequent flyer, singer/guitarist of Last Dinosaurs, currently on a two-month tour of the USA and Europe which is already looking like it will top the 2018 stretch where they sold out shows in LA, Chicago and 15 other cities.
So, Sean, what’s your travel advice for readers and fans?
“I have a massive toiletries bag and shove everything I would possibly need, medicinally – like Aspro Clear – in. And technique? I do the rollup, it’s the most efficient way of packing clothes.”
Ah, yes, smart. It’s the drugs that will always do you in.
“Especially in Japan, for instance, getting antihistamines,” Caskey says. “I tried to explain but they just looked at me like, no, have no idea what you’re talking about. So now I load up on the antihistamines wherever I go.”
Disappointingly, given Caskey and his brother and fellow guitarist Lachlan are part Japanese, Sean’s mastery of the language is well, not masterful.
“I’ve got the tiniest bit,” he says shamefacedly. “Maybe if I’ve been there for a month I’ll remember a bunch of stuff, because I only spoke Japanese in childhood until preschool. My brother can speak it but I’m not a languages kinda guy. Lachlan can speak Spanish, Italian, Japanese and English quite well; I can barely speak English.
“But I’m a maths kind of guy. I’m the one who makes the guitar pedals for the band, I do all the technical stuff.”
Which, presumably, is why they keep him in the band. That and the singing.
“Together, Lach and I make one person.”
They do like to keep their hands on, or in, as much as possible in Last Dinosaurs. The Caskey brothers write and produce their albums now and bass player Michael Sloane makes the videos. Is there some issue with letting go of control he’d like to share with the class?
“We just got burnt in the beginning,” Caskey explains. “The first video we made there was a budget of $7000 and it was fully a disaster. Absolute embarrassment. It was so bad that the company had to apologise and they had to make an emergency, Plan B, video.
“After that we were like, we can’t trust anyone else now, let’s go to who we know. We just trust each other because we grew up together, we know exactly what we’re thinking.”
Which eventually extended to production for their third album, and operating a label independently.
“It’s hard working with people you don’t know that well, creatively, especially when it comes to producers. We’ve worked with a couple of guys who we kinda know but you really get to know them as you go along, finding pros and cons as you go, and it’s so difficult trying to balance a relationship with someone and work out what you want at the same time. Now we’ve got the skill level to do exactly what we want.”
And bonus: you don’t have to pay your producer anything.
“Exactly,” he laughs. “There’s a lot of money goes into the recording side these days. Even though the industry has changed, with streaming and that sort of stuff, and not much money in record sales, the traditional mentality to the creation of the music is still there: big producer, big studio, big budget. And that was always pretty weird to me.”
This super tight, all mucking in, team philosophy applies even when it comes to finding a replacement drummer for school friend and original skin thwacker Dan Koyama. They didn’t go far from home, drafting in Alistar Richardson, another school friend, from another Brisbane band, The Cairos.
To no surprise at all, both Sean and Dan Koyama were in an early version of The Cairos. To maybe some surprise, Richardson’s commitment is such that as Koyama is a left-handed drummer (like Ringo Starr), Richardson has learnt the drum parts in that style.
Maybe it’s a Brisbane thing. Just like it seemed a very Brisbane thing when Last Dinosaurs were just one of the super impressive outfits in the best pop scene in Australia a decade ago, alongside Ball Park Music, Hungry Kids Of Hungary and Yves Klein Blue, to name but three.
“When we were coming up there was a definite vacuum for a certain type of music to fit an identity, and The Dune Rats and Violent Soho occupied that perfectly. Indie guitar pop, everyone kept reminding us, is dead in Australia and they were basically telling us to try something else. I responded to that by saying fuck that I’m doing straight up indie. I’m not changing for anyone. I don’t know what [people] want but hopefully they want what we are.”
And if they don’t want it here, it looks like the Americans are keen. And the Mexicans super keen.
“Mexico City was probably the best crowd we’ve ever played to,” says Caskey. “It was Beatles style: that were just screaming. That’s our favourite show over.”
Just pack those antihistamines Sean. But no need for gas masks on this trip as there’s no Hong Kong show this time. Which is probably a good thing as it’s unlikely that the central government in Beijing would get much of a kick out of the band’s current single, FMU, which began life as a song about bad relationships and ended up as an imagined conversation between Hong Kong and Beijing.
Yeah, a touch provocative if you’ve got plans for selling into that market. Or just visiting. But it’s not a joke for Caskey who has pondered what repercussions, online or in person, might follow.
“I’ve never been able to make any music lyrically without it having any sort of reality to my feelings, I guess, and because a relationship breakup wasn’t in my life I got to the verse and it wasn’t genuine. I thought there’s a parallel here between China and Hong Kong – we’d seen it on the news so much and had just come back from Hong Kong, had such a good time too – so why not make it a little ode to those guys.
“It’s not a ‘go Hong Kong’ sort of song, more like ‘look what the hell you are doing to me China’. But when I finished the song I said to the guys, are we sure we want to do this? It would be the final nail in the coffin of never playing China, which was one of the things we’d wanted to do for a while. They were like, yeah let’s do it.”
Hmm. Yeah. Maybe pack something stronger than antihistamines.