In their build up to the release of their first album ‘First Contact’ I had the chance to sit down, over the internet and talk to Josh & Amy Dowdle about everything from almost seeing Jamie XX in the Gym to creating a conceptual album trailer and their love for Sci-fi.
First off, how are you guys? What have you been up to lately, anything interesting or just preparing for the album?
Josh: We’ve actually been getting ready for their live shows. We’re lucky we can do some live shows at the moment in Australia. We’re doing our first one on Saturday (November 21st). So, we’ve been practicing, I’ve been setting up a lot of new equipment, rigging it.
Oh, I saw that on your Instagram story, literally just now.
Josh: Yeah yeah yeah! I’ve got like some more equipment and stuff so I am trying to make it more user friendly for me, when I’m playing live I guess. Making things change automatically, all that kind of stuff.
So, going of off the name Lastlings, I’ve tried to research it and where it came from but nobody I found had either asked you about the name or wrote out the origins. So where did the idea of the name come from?
Josh and Amy: Yea we get this asked this.
Josh: It was a short story that I wrote in high school and it was about the last beings on earth. Like a post-apocalyptic story, kind of set after everything has grown back in the world. All the natural forest has grown over concrete and stuff, set in that kind of time, a very dystopian story. I can’t even find it, I just remembered the name and we thought it was kind of cool, kind of sounds like siblings – we’re also love scifi, like scifi films and space films so it felt like it work.
Yeah talking about high school and growing up, you guys are from the Gold Coast which isn’t really known for electro. Doing some reading, I found out that you’re fans of Jamie xx & Nicolas Jaar, are they your first tastes of what electronic music was, or was there other stuff that got you interested.
Amy: Mine would have actually been RUFUS DU SOL, I think like one of my playlists I had when I was 14, I had one of their old songs on it I remember.I think, they were one of the first artists, then I listened to Zoo and then it’s just kind of broadened heaps.
Josh: Yea, I can’t actually remember when I first started listening to electro music, it was pretty early. I only started getting into it more when I was like 18, when I started going out clubbing and DJing with my friends. I think thats when I started listening to more electronic music. I found Moderat before listening to Nicolas Jaar, Moderat ‘Bad Kingdom’ because my friends would play it in the club, like different remixes of it. That song actually inspired ‘I’ve Got You’ which is actually on the album. So yea, we’ve always been interested in electronic music.
I actually want to ask about Verona. Released back in 2015. It’s one of my favourite songs of yours, it’s different to what you’re producing now but there are noticeable aspects that have carried over. It’s a lot more lofi sounding, so if you can think back 5 years, when you was making Verona and going through processes, do you go through similar processes as you did back then? How you create.
Josh: It was a long time ago (laughs). When we’ve been asked in other interviews about the album, and that was like one or two years ago and we can’t even remember some of the stuff. But, Verona just started on guitar really and then Amy, I can’t remember. I was playing guitar and Amy started singing I guess. Then we just made it in my room.
Amy: Yeah! I have a video of you(Josh) playing Guitar and I was just humming randomly
Josh: We made it at the same house we made First Contact at. Then, we worked with our friend Josiah, he has a project called ‘Garbs’ at the time. He produced that song for us, because I hadn’t even downloaded Ableton or any music software yet. I didn’t even know how to record or anything, like I could probably use garage band.
Coming onto First Contact, I wanted to dive into some inspirations behind it. I wrote down a few ideas that I had while listening to it. From a previous interview you spoke about how you was reading ‘Kafka on the Shore’ by Haruki Murakami, and you was inspired by that. Is there any significant literature or films that inspired you during the creation?
Amy: Defiantly Blade Runner. Josh and I saw that in cinemas when it came out (2049), it was raining that day and it was a nice day to go home and write music. So when the movie finished we went back and started writing this song called ‘First Contact,’ but it didn’t actually make it onto the album (laughs). But, we thought the album would fit the name First Contact more than that song did.
Yeah, throughout I got a lot of Blade Runner vibes.
Josh: Unpopular opinion, but I actually I prefer Blade Runner 2049 over the original. I know I’d get axed by a Blade Runner purist, but visually that movie was so stunning and Dennis Villeneuve if one of my favourite directors, I love all of his movies. So yea that was a natural one to get inspiration from.
With the teaser trailer, I want to say who makes a teaser trailer for an album? It was super cool and unique, after watching it I thought I was about to watch a movie coming out. Throughout I felt a lot of Blade Runner inspirations.
Josh: Thank you, initially it was suppose to be a documentary while we was in Japan. However, we ran into troubles with commission shooting places and getting to places when we couldn’t shoot there. So we couldn’t film what we wanted to do, so it ended up becoming a bit more conceptual which I think came out a lot better.
Immediately, it felt like a psycho-comic-horror piece, which I don’t think is a genre and also it gave me a feeling of Tokyo Ghoul through how you guys are speaking in the trailer.
Josh: Yeah, that’s actually our friends talking. They have better speaking voices than us, so we got them to do it(laughs).
Who’s idea was it to create the album teaser trailer?
Josh: So we went over there (to Japan) to film the documentary and also get a bunch of accompanying content, like photos. We got a lot of stuff, I think it was going to be more how Japan inspired a lot of the album, the documentary. I think one day I was sitting in the onsen, the hot baths, and I was like it would be really cool if we made it more conceptual. So I thought of a spoken word poem about First Contact and like kind of just had it in my head. I came back and told Amy, then I told Dillon who directed it and we kind of fleshed it out. I started writing notes in my phone, then when we got back to Australia kind of like finished it. It was more that it became a piece that introduces the album, and we used ‘9400’ which is on the album and the intro to ‘Last Breath’. 9400 is significant because 9400 is mine and Amy’s birthdays put together. It felt like a nice special piece to put out.
Talking about the conceptual stuff that appeared in my mind while listening, from the first three tracks, Deja Vu, Take My Hand & Out of Touch. I visualized from the music, Akira.
Josh: I love Akira, I don’t think actually inspired but I don’t know maybe? I defiantly had it on in the background while we was playing or producing at times, but I don’t think we directly referenced any of the music in it. Amy’s fish is actually named Akira!
Amy: Yeah, my fish is named Akira, I got him like a few weeks ago.
Two songs that really created imagery in my head, was 9400 and Last Breath, I was really feeling like something is coming. This other wordly fear of something, kind of Lovecraftian, I don’t know if you’ve read his books. So I wanted to ask, when you’re creating these songs and hearing it back are you seeing these things or thinking about this as well?
Josh: Well for the production, I was watching a lot of space movies like Arrival, documentary Cosmos, because I used to love the book by Carl Sagan. Then, I had them playing in the background, watching stuff explode in space and kind of just scoring to that. I really like just watching stuff and imaging in my head what it would sound like, I know things don’t make sound in space because its a vacuum but I like to imagine what it would sound like in a movie. Also, I haven’t read much of Lovecraft’s stuff, I really want to read The Call of Cthulu.
I would recommend the Dulwich Horror, if you want to read any. Talking on track orders, I noticed how on the album it starts of quite brooding and dark towards the end it becomes a lot lighter, more energetic and less heavy. Is this an active thought in your mind, when you’re deciding what order it goes in and when you’re creating?
Amy: We had a playlist on Soundcloud where we was just switching songs about to figure out the best order. Yeah, I agree it starts of dark and then it goes into this kind of mysterious part of the album with Visions & Last Breath, ending on I’ve Got You. I think those ones are a lot lighter.
Going off that, in the later parts of the Album. AI, felt very Jamie XX inspired, sort of linking to ‘Gosh’ in sounds, to me. Were you inspired by this at all? Also a little of a cliche question but would work with him(Jamie XX)?
Josh: Oh, one hundred percent. Funny story actually with me and Amy, but when we was in America, we was staying at the LINE hotel and we could swear he was like in the gym. We didn’t know if it was him or not so we didn’t say hello. We walked into the gym and was like ‘wait is that him? I can’t tell. I think it is?’ We walked back out and there’s a little window on the door so we was trying to see through the window.
Amy: Maybe don’t put that in(both laugh).
Josh: We never confirmed.
Amy: It could have been him, because he was playing Coachella. So there was a possibility of it being him.
Josh: It also would have been a weird time to say hello during his workout. (laughs) But, yea would love to work with him one day. That song (AI) I was watching a music video by Bonobo called Syrus and it’s like really like repetitive, loop animations. It’s just really like uncomfortable to watch, and it made me think of heaps of robots being made. And like Robot factories in Japan, and like I-Robot, so I made a complete dance track with no vocals. I feel like the album needed something that didn’t have Amy’s vocals on it just as like a refresher.
It gave a real change of pace, to the album and provided a nice bridge between Visions and Held Under.
Josh: Yeah, I think like we made Held Under and Visions later on in comparison to the rest. The first songs done were Deja Vu, Take My Hand, I’ve Got You. The production was a little bit different as well as we made them with different producers. Out of Touch etc, were done with CASSIAN, and the later ones were mostly myself and a guy called Luke Alessi from Melbourne. Our friend Matt Bartlem helped with Held Under.
Throughout there are points that give a very minimalist feel. Like in Held Under, it’s very drawn back and it feels in the music that ‘less can be more.’ There’s an impression, from my understanding, that it can be a lot of moving parts, but I feel like that comes from a lot of genres that get classified in with techno as they are ‘club songs’.
Josh: It wasn’t a an active thought to do that, but it’s interesting you say that. I find Techno quite simple, it’s mainly a kick drum and a few melodic things with a little bit of a base line, so that’s what Held Under felt like. There’s not too much complex percussion in it. I don’t know it sounded good as it was, adding anything else was over kill. I think we get our simplistic nature from our Japanese heritage, Japan is pretty simple but complex.
Going more onto lyrics now, stuff I was reading through lyrics and vocals. It seemed throughout that there was two characters talking. I heard it more as you yourself as in your mind, was talking to yourself like your real person. Trying to figure out your emotions for the first time.
Amy: Yeah, that’s exactly it.(laughs)
Josh: (laughs) just put yeah.
There is a striking contrast between the synth bases and the vocals. There is a song called ‘無能(incompetence)’ by a Japanese artist called Osterreich that has a similar sort of style, however he has more beautiful songs with demonic lyrics. When you was creating the vocals were you writing to contrast or just going organically.
Amy: It sort of just happened organically. I had a lot of lyrics already written in a little book, so I would take those out and try to match them to the song. Sometimes, we would strip the song back heaps and it was so just like the synth and drums and I’d sing over that because it was easier.
Josh: It’s also easier for me to know what Amy’s writing so I can like produce around it. Otherwise, I start filling stuff in then there’s not much for her, imagine a melodic hit happening while she’s singing it could be distracting.
The emotions presented in the lyrics, a lot of people ‘write from the heart’, were the emotions based on real events? Or curious thoughts about that emotion?
Amy: Well I guess, the songs they were written over a couple of years, maybe two years or something? It was when I was finishing high school, a lot of the songs were about high school and you know about finding yourself, figuring things out. All the first experiences, first love and heartbreak. A lot of the lyrics were written when I went to Japan with my mum when I finished school. I spent a lot of time at my grand-parents place, and I had a lot to time. There’s nothing to do there other than eat food and spent time with the family, because it’s in the middle of nowhere. So I would sit upstairs and write in this book I had at the time. I would just write all these lyrics. Some of the songs are about family too. They were all real experiences, a lot of the songs were inspired by movies and books I was enjoying at the time.
I wanted to step past the album now, I know you guys have a few live shows coming up in Australia. What is planned after the shows and the album?
Josh: I think it’ll be nice to have a bit of a break. The last show is on December 5th, and so I guess that’s leading into Christmas so I guess we’re going to take a bit of time off and maybe find somewhere we can just kind of write music for a week before Christmas. I think this year because of COVID, there’s no new years festivals which we’ve played like back to back, which is a pretty hectic time for us because we’re flying all over. I think we’re just going to spend this time with our Family. Next Year, we can hopefully start doing festivals in Australia if everything goes on track. We’re thinking of maybe moving away from the Gold coast to maybe something like Melbourne to have like a new experience. We love the Gold Coast and being around our family but it’s like we’ve use all the experience up and maybe need something fresh.
Would you ever consider moving to Japan?
Josh: I’d like to spend a lot of time there, but I wouldn’t probably live there. I love the way of life there, food is super cheap and there’s so many things to do. I do like Australia though.
I ask this to everyone. What’s in your playlist right now?
Josh: I’ve been listening to Jacques Greene “Dawn Chorus” a lot.
Amy: I’ve been listening to a lot of different things(laughs). A lot of Apparat & Leon Vynehall.
Josh: I’ve also been listening to James Blake’s 2011 album “James Blake.”
Lastling’s debut album “First Contact” is currently available on all streaming platforms.
Images: Press shots