In a million years, how will our ancestors view us? How will history write our time and place? Last Dinosaurs are all about making first and lasting impressions, and their debut album, In A Million Years captures this in more ways than one.
You might have hummed along to their summer anthem ‘Honolulu’ on radio, or seen them rock stages with names like Ash, We Are Scientists, and Foals, at festivals around Australia. Or maybe they’ve stuck in your mind as those four dashing Brisbane lads with a musical finesse beyond their years.
To band members Sean Caskey (21, lead vocals and guitar), Lachlan Caskey (18, lead guitar), Sam Gethin-Jones (22, bass) and Dan Koyama (21, drums), life is all about the interactions you have with the people around you, and the impressions you make on public and private worlds. In A Million Years picks apart our age-old questions about human nature (How do our actions affect others? What are the best ways to be remembered? What value does loss have in helping us grow?), and pulls them back together with soaring guitar lines and toe-tapping drum beats.
Last Dinosaurs banded together in high school in 2007 with a vision to bring musicality back to live music. “There was the whole lo-fi movement, which I very much like,” says Sean. “But there were too many bands where the quirkiness of not being able to play instruments was cool.” Sean wanted to write songs that accentuated each member’s instrumental skills, and strove to create music that felt timeless, meaningful, and catchy as hell. In A Million Years is a direct result of this ambition.
Taken at surface value, In A Million Years may play like a break up album, with some of the songs pointing directly to Sean’s relationships with family, friends and girlfriends. ‘Honolulu’ captures the grandeur of a new romance (‘My love will forever grow / The story only just, it just began / And surely it should never ever end”), while ‘Weekend’ touches on the intensity of first loves (‘With her voice she says / I’d die for you any day’).
But the overarching theme of the album is the transience of relationships, of youth, and of time. In A Million Years documents Sean’s ideas of mortality, immortality, and the tenuousness of those things that are most important to us. Having lost his grandfather during the album’s production, Sean believes the best way to keep his grandfather’s memory alive is to think about him on a regular basis. “It’s a form of immortality,” says Sean. “I’d like that to happen to me when I die, being remembered in the most further possible future.”
Having a positive impact on the lives of those you care about is the prevailing binder for the album. “ ‘Zoom’ [the single] is the best song for summing up the lyrical content of the album,” says Sean. “It looks at the impressions you make on others and vice versa, and being significant or influential in some way on someone’s life.” Sean feels nostalgia for the present and writes from a future perspective to analyse his actions more objectively and learn how to create better outcomes for difficult situations.
Each of the tracks addresses universal struggles. ‘Zoom’ was inspired by Sean’s recurring thoughts about firefighters who start fires and their desire for meaning (‘I don’t want to be just another / Fighter without fire / Nothing to inspire’), ‘Time and Place’ praises inventor Nikola Tesla for his revolutionary creations (‘Nikola, we’re going to make a difference’), while ‘Sunday Night’ reflects on the value of experiences—whether they be good or bad—as channels for growth (‘Can you imagine a world where there is no depth / Absence of colour and nothing to test our heads’).
While the songwriting process comes from a place of quiet introspection, it’s collaborating with friends that’s the most fulfilling part for Sean. “Sam, Dan and Lach are all really good at their instruments and they just go mental and start doing ridiculous stuff when we jam!” laughs Sean. It’s a friendship that’s grown and solidified with their music over the past four years. In 2007, Sean and Dan banded together during high school after developing a strong interest in music. Sean’s younger brother Lachlan soon joined ranks as lead guitarist, while Sam—a talented drummer on the Brisbane scene—tried his hand at bass and proved to be the missing ingredient Last Dinosaurs had been searching for. They’ve since gigged, toured, and travelled together nationally and internationally. In Tokyo (Sean, Lachlan, and Dan are half Japanese), they played shows, cycled through narrow alleyways, and fell in love with the city. While back at home, their friendship only strengthened during the recording process.
Pre production for In A Million Years started just after the Brisbane floods. With some of the band members’ houses affected, it was a relief to step away and recuperate at producer Jean-Paul Fung’s farm on the central coast of NSW. Sean is nostalgic about the fortnight spent recording on the farm, describing their space as a big, rustic house set amongst acreage and rolling hills. “It allowed us to focus completely on making music with no disruptions,” says Sean. “There was barely any phone reception—it was just us and Jean-Paul, who’s the most brilliant engineer.” When asked about the band dynamic and shenanigans on the farm, Sean struggles to remember any conflict that arose between the Dinos. “We all got along so extremely fine! I thought we’d fight and kill each other by the end of it but we didn’t,” he laughs.
The album was recorded at the late and legendary BJB Studios in Sydney, where Last Dinosaurs spent a quick month in the studio laying down and polishing tracks. “It was probably the best experience of my life,” says Sean. “Dan and I would ride our bikes across the Harbour Bridge, into the city and into the studio, and then we’d get straight into recording.” He pauses before cracking up. “Then we’d buy expensive ingredients to make a really nice dinner.” From BJB, the album was shipped to the UK for mixing by Eliot James (Two Door Cinema Club; Kaiser Chiefs), who was eager to collaborate with Last Dinosaurs off the back of their EP, Back From The Dead (2010).
It was a mutual respect for each other’s work, Eliot’s intuitiveness for the songs, and a shared vision for In A Million Years that made collaborating all the more exciting. “Eliot mixed everything like we imagined,” says Sean. “It sounded perfect.” What Eliot manages to capture so well is the band’s sense of camaraderie, again casting a strong focus on the significance the Dinos place on their relationships. “If you listen really closely to ‘Satellites’ you can hear us out in Fortitude Valley,” says Sean. “Lach is skating, and I’m talking to my friend from Finland. It was a special moment to me and I wanted to record it.”
In A Million Years takes life’s big questions about love, loss, and preservation, and pairs them with irresistibly danceable melodies. With this debut album, Last Dinosaurs are leaps and bounds closer to their goal as musicians. “My hope for the album is for listeners to have a reaction, in whatever way,” says Sean. “They might connect with what the band has expressed, or just enjoy a melody or beat… but if it makes a lasting impression on someone then I’m more than happy.”