Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Interview with Sam from Last Dinosaurs

Bassist of Last Dinosaurs Sam Gethin-Jones with frontman Sean Caskey.

The classic story of the short-lived high school band ends with the group parting ways to find a real job, maybe study some more and packing the guitar away for weekend jams- but LAST DINOSAURS did not stop at school.  Since the start of 2012, they have released their first album, performed with Bloc Party and played a killer set at Splendour. They’re also soon to head over back to tour the UK. Bassist Sam Gethin-Jones spoke about annoying girlfriends, the Brisbane music scene and quoting the English version of The Office, in England.

LAST DINOSAURS are about to embark on their national Satellites tour after the rousing success of March release In A Million Years. Sam wasn’t sure about how the album would be received earlier this year, but with an average 5/5 rating on both Triple J Unearthed (where these guys started out) and iTunes, there don’t seem to be any haters.

When it comes to playing at a festival, Sam says that the band is sometimes anxious about how new fans will receive their music.“Obviously when you go to your own shows, it’s a different sort of anticipation leading up to the show because you know that people are there to see your songs and they appreciate your music,” he says, “so in some ways I probably prefer the build-up to our own shows."

“But then you do something like Splendour and you’ve got, I don’t know, 9000 people out there and it’s such an overwhelming experience just that sheer amount of people watching you.”

LAST DINOSAURS are now taking their tunes over to the UK for a tour. A recording opportunity with an overseas label has materialised for the group - recently signing with Fiction Label, who looks after the likes of Crystal Castles and Kaiser Chiefs and it seems to working well so far. Dan and Sam have found friends in their office: “They really get us, they’re an awesome label. One of the people is a massive fan of Ricky Gervais and The Office and me and Dan both know every word to every episode so he’s been so much fun just to quote The Office to. Everyone there, their heads aren’t up their arses like a lot of people in the music industry.”

DINOS tunes are comparable to sound from The Kooks and The Arctic Monkeys so should fit into the British indie scene. Their single ‘Zoom’ is going to radio as they head over but Sam thinks that this will be a gradual process: “I think it’s going to take a while before we really make an impact, if at all, but we’re definitely keen to put in the hard work.”

With a heavy amount of airplay, DINOS create super catchy choruses, crazy riffs and sentimental melodies. Standout tracks include ‘Honolulu’, last summer’s tune (released previously as a single), or ‘Used To Be Mine’ with Julian Casablancas-style vocals and surging echoed electric guitar. But according to Sam the song that gets every crowd going is ‘Zoom’.

“We release it at the end and that always gets a stupid reaction,” Sam says. “People seem to pick up the lyrics really fast so in the chorus there’s a section where we all stop and Sean’s meant to sing “I don’t want to be just another…” and you can’t usually hear him because the crowd sings it back and that always feels really good.”

The crowd has spread from their hometown in Brisbane, reaching foreign shores, and the band’s excited to be in the scene at the moment: “I think Brisbane right now is providing some of the most exciting music in Australia and I think it’s just awesome to be part of the movement.”

Last Dinosaurs performing at Splendour in the Grass, July 2012.
It’s hard to ignore the recent sensations of Brisbane groups, with bands such as The Cairos, The Jungle Giants and Dune Rats reaching national success in the past year. DINO’s Sam actually went to school with Millions and the ‘awesome two guys’ from Gung Ho, who he played drums with for their early gigs. We’re not quite sure why this has all happened together, what they’re eating, or the sun? “I mean the whole thing is extremely close, we’re all seeing each other more than once a week, just hanging out.”

“There’s definitely a little bit of healthy competition, I think we push each other because you know someone comes out with, Dune Rats have had that song ‘Fuck It’ and I think everyone’s feeling the pressure because that was such an awesome song and whenever bands come out with a great song you’re like that song’s too good, I have to try to write something as good or better.”

The hard work and instrumental skills that Sam told us about have been noticed on the album, with a surprisingly mature element to their work. “We all try and excel as musicians, so we try and challenge ourselves, so we always write quite technical music and for some reason it all kinds of comes out sounding pretty happy, with the exception of a few songs,” he says.  Despite the catchy indie pop sound, some of Sean’s (lead vocalist) writing ventures into darker themes.

“I quite like how it’s combating ideas, the poppy music and the deeper lyrics,” Sam says. “When we’re doing the instruments together, I suppose, we’re usually in a pretty good mood. And then the lyrics align so you’ve got more time to mull things over and be a bit deeper,” he says. 

Sam has always dreamed of music, literally playing with ‘pots and pans’ as a little kid and picking up music at primary school, playing drums and piano. He picked up bass with LAST DINOSAURS, trying it out at their first few gigs and eventually sticking with it (kind of like Paul McCartney). In the alternate universe, if he weren’t in a band, bassist Sam thinks that he would probably end up in something like investment banking. This week he’s back to uni, via correspondence while the band is travelling, to study finance!

“I find myself, I’m really motivated right now, so, I think in terms of the age that we are right now as a band, it’s sort of now’s the time to give everything you’ve got because this is where you decide what you’re going to be doing in your future. In my downtime I just figure I want to get a degree and keep my brain active,” Sam says.

As for his own listening experience, he’s sticking to R&B on the ipod. “I’m listening to the new Rick Ross album recently and there’s a song on there called ‘Sixteen’ and it’s got Andre 3000 from Outkast. It’s the best song I’ve heard this year, it’s like unbelievable.”

 And when’s the ideal time to listen to LAST DINOSAURS? “I think most people would probably say when the sun’s out because it’s ‘summery pop music’ but I don’t really listen to our music at all so I can’t really tell you,” he says. “A girl I was seeing used to play it to annoy me because she knew she’d get a reaction out of me if she danced around my room to my own music.”

There’s no doubt LAST DINOSAURS have been super busy the first half of this year, with national and international touring, releasing A Million Years and even playing with Bloc Party at a gig in Brisbane! Nevertheless, there’s still time for more song writing in downtime which lucky gig attendees will get a taste of. “We’ve got a few new songs kicking around- I think the plan is that we’re going to debut some of them in October around the Australian tour, so it will be really good to gauge fan’s reactions because it sounds quite different.”

And just like the lyrics of ‘Honolulu’, for LAST DINOSAURS, “The story only just, it just began, and surely it should never ever end.” 

Last Dinosaurs: Dan Koyama, Sam Gethin-Jones, Lachlan Caskey, Sean Caskey.

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