Lastlings take us through their exceptional debut album, ‘First Contact’
Debut albums are often drawn out projects which are a long time in the making. In the case of Japanese-Australian brother-sister duo Lastlings, this is especially true. The pair have been mainstays of the Australian music industry for half a decade, carving out their own place thanks to their deeply emotive, considered and now quintessential electronic sounds. Pairing Amy Dowdle’s delicate yet captivating vocals with Josh Dowdle’s penchant for ethereal, encompassing soundscapes, Lastlings have consistently delivered stirring, evocative and entrancing releases for the last five years.
Speaking on the meaning of their debut album, Lastlings said, “First Contact is all the moments we experience for the first time, how special they are and how important they are in shaping us as people. It is about those beautiful moments when we feel love for the first time, a child taking its first steps or travelling to a new destination. It’s also about the sombre moments in our life where we have lost something or someone for the first time and how we grow and change from these. We hope that this album sparks all the beautiful and important memories, feelings and emotions that you felt when you experienced something for the first time.”
Their efforts have seen them go on to tour the world, grace festival stages all over the country and call the likes of Rufus Du Sol as close friends along the way, and their continued ambition and effort all culminates today in the release of their long awaited debut album, First Contact. Exploring the senses and emotions that arise when encountering experiences for the first time, the record delves into fleeting moments of love, disappointment and devastation, optimism, the power of connection and so much more. Deeply personal yet entirely universal, Lastlings have distilled everything they’ve learned and all the growth they’ve undergone as people and as artists into just twelve exceptional songs, delivering a body of work they can not only be proud of but one worthy of their journey over the last few years.
From ‘Last Breath’ to ‘Deja Vu’, ‘Out of Touch’ to ‘No Time’, they’ve carefully unveiled their record over the last year, steadily inviting us further and further into the carefully constructed world of First Contact. Leveling up in every single way they can, the record is a powerful sonic statement heralding the end of the duo’s first chapter and the start of their next. Here, the siblings take us through each song on First Contact, diving deeper into the remarkable world they’ve created. Dive in below:
AMY: Deja Vu explores the fear of truly expressing who you are. That idea or predisposition to feel like you should fit in, instead of embracing your uniqueness. To realise that you should learn to trust yourself, try new things, follow your heart, and find out who you really are through what you love.
JOSH: Deja Vu began in a studio in Sydney. We were struggling to connect the interface to the speakers but there was a guitar sitting ominously in the corner of the room, so we decided to just write with that. It was the first song we finished for First Contact so it feels like the right way to open the album.
TAKE MY HAND
AMY: Take My Hand was inspired by one of our favourite anime films – Your Name. The film tells the story of two strangers, infatuated with each other yet isolated by distance, and ‘Take My Hand’ explores this concept of two people who are unprepared to let go of each other, no matter what is pushing them apart.
JOSH: At the time I was listening to a lot of RÜFÜS DU SOL. While producing I stumbled across some really simple chords that worked nicely together. I have this habit with a lot of tracks where I try to visualise what environment I would ideally hear the song in, and I envisioned a festival setting, as the sun sets, for Take My Hand.
OUT OF TOUCH
AMY: I wrote Out of Touch at our grandparents home in Japan in 2018. At the time I had just finished high school. The time that I spent there was really positive for me as I was able to break away and focus on myself. Out of Touch delves into the yearning to disconnect from real life, and have some alone time to look inwards, especially when life becomes too much and you need to recharge.
JOSH: The guitar melody from Out Of Touch was inspired by Joe Hisaishi’s ‘The Wind Forest’ from one of our childhood favourite Ghibli animes ‘My Neighbour Totoro’. I used my old classical guitar to record through an equally worn drum condenser mic that a childhood friend had lent us. For me the song evokes a very personal sense of nostalgia as I connect it’s production and sound with the use of those original instruments from my childhood. The forest surroundings at home also look and feel quite similar to the scenery of Totoro.
AMY: False Reactions is about bringing out the best in others, most importantly our loved ones, who bring out the best in us when we feel down.
JOSH: For what felt like forever I put this track on the back burner because it was missing that last element to bring it together. When I finally played the main lead on my prophet-6 synth felt like one of those light bulb moments – I was vibing to the song for ages on loop in my room, it just clicked.
AMY: 9400 is the introduction to Last Breath. It is Josh and I’s birth years mashed together – I was born in 2000 and Josh was born in 1994.
AMY: One of my favourite experiences from my trip to japan in 2018 – was sitting on the bullet train on the way to my grandparents home. As it began to snow, I gazed out the window, watching all the villages rushing past, sprinkled in white. It was in these moments that I wrote the lyrics to Last Breath. It remains one of the clearest experiences of words flowing from brain to paper. This song is about being born, seeing first light, living and being there for each other until our last breath. It is dedicated to our parents because of their on-going love and support.
JOSH: I began with the drums for Last Breath which is something I don’t normally do. I was writing a lot of four on the floor tracks so I wanted to mix it up a bit. Sometimes when I’m producing I like to play a movie in the background on mute so it feels as though I’m scoring to that film. I was definitely watching a sci-fi or space film like ‘Arrival’ or ‘Interstellar’ for this one.
AMY: No Time was inspired by Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’. It is about releasing yourself from negative thoughts, and growing from our disappointments and failures. It is also about living life to its fullest potential because, as cliché as it may be, life really is short and everything happens for a reason.
JOSH: The song started with some vocal ooh’s and guitar plucking. It has been through multiple versions but we finally got to the finished product when we were in Sydney with Cassian. Cassian had a big role in this song, as we were going back and forth on different melody ideas. We made sure Amy’s vocal textures really shone through. I think that’s why all the melodic stuff feels so dynamic, we just love working with him.
AMY: Visions is about moving on from a toxic relationship and the unavoidable hardships you face during the healing process. This is one of my favourite songs vocally, they feel almost haunting.
JOSH: We were listening to a lot of Kiasmos and Chrstian Loeffler at the time. It was ‘York’ by Christian Loeffler that inspired the production, although the songs are ultimately very different. I think this is mostly to do with the contrasting bass rhythms and the simplicity of my drums.
JOSH: I wanted to make a purely instrumental dance track for the album with no vocals. What inspired me was the music video for Cirrus by Bonobo. If you’ve seen the video you’ll know about the hypnotic visual repetition, it’s quite trippy. While I was producing the song it made me think of a high-tech facility producing elaborate robot units – kind of like iRobot.
AMY: Held Under is about the unavoidable fear of growing up, the process of accepting this as a fact and learning to find your independence. While I am still relatively young, I am starting to see, hear, and feel things in the world for the first time and that can be naturally overwhelming. This song focuses on the strength of bringing yourself out of your shell as you encounter the new and unknown.. It is a reminder for me to go at my own pace and to not be afraid of what is to come, instead to be excited and willing to learn. It is an existential experience we all go through.
JOSH: The bass stab right at the beginning of the song that disrupts and pearces the peacefulness of the pad was the first thing I recorded. The rest of the song I mainly used the cs-80 from Arturia to create the melodic sounds.
Also, I had this random moment while writing this song where it started to remind me of the underwater level on Donkey Kong. Those moments of serenity where you connect with a fond memory or feeling always catch me off guard. The kalimba sound in the chorus was inspired by a song called iKalimba by Ryan Murgatroyd. I recall being at a DJ set and someone closed with it and it ended the night perfectly.
JOSH: This song was the final addition to First Contact. I am fond of interludes on albums because it feels like a reset before you continue listening. It was initially an intro piece to a different song that I had demoed for the album but it never got finished. I had been watching the Cosmos documentary and Neil deGrasse Tyson was explaining the inception of life and the idea of humans having a first heartbeat and how fascinating life is. The interlude gives me a sense of newness and birth, and listening back with my eyes shut it feels as though there is a burst of white light that forms in front of me.
I’VE GOT YOU
JOSH: I’ve Got You was inspired by a track called “Bad Kingdom” by Moderat, one of our favourite artists that we draw inspiration from. I am obsessed with the bassline in this song and suitably I’ve Got You is a homage to that. I love how this song turned out with its softness and floaty atmosphere. I was really proud of how Amy’s vocal part juxtaposed the aggressive, driving production. I like how the two can work together.
AMY: I’ve Got You is about overcoming that subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place. The song reflects on caring for our loved ones, talking to them, and making sure that they are okay. While focusing on your life and your place in the world, it is easy to forget to reach out and check in with your closest.
Lastlings‘ debut album, First Contact is out now via Liberation Records. Buy/stream here.
Lastlings Brisbane shows:
Saturday November 21 The Triffid, Brisbane (early show) – SOLD OUT
Saturday November 21 The Triffid, Brisbane (late show) – SOLD OUT
Lastlings have just released additional tickets for their upcoming shows at Feedback Festival, which include the following shows:
Miami Marketta – Gold Coast, QLD
Friday 04 December – Early Show
Friday 04 December -Late Show
Saturday 05 December – Early Show
Saturday 05 December – Late Show
Introduction by Emma Jones
Image: Jessica Aleece