Interview: 5 Minutes with Lastlings
Lastlings is the artistic output of sibling duo Amy Dowdle & Josh Dowdle. Releasing two EPs to early acclaim, the duo found themselves having to make a choice between full-time musical pursuit and allowing Amy, then sixteen, to focus on finishing high school. They resisted the pull of the industry, Amy finished her schooling and in 2018 Lastlings returned with new music and the world at their feet. In 2018, the mystique surrounding Lastlings expanded as their live show caught the attention of Australian electronic heavyweights RÜFÜS DU SOL, signing the duo to their newly founded label Rose Avenue Records, and welcoming three substantial singles that included ‘Deja Vu’, ‘I’ve Got You’ and ‘Last Breath’. With new music exposed to the world, in 2020 Lastlings signed a further license deal to Astralwerks in North America and Liberation in Australia, launching into the new decade. As their new sonic direction finds its feet the Lastlings live show continues to be reimagined, oscillating between anguish and bliss, with compositions designed to transcend. In March, Lastlings welcomed ‘Take My Hand’ off their eagerly anticipated debut album, a surging electronic track, furthering their unique conceptual space.
Remix efforts from Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Torrent Foot further encapsulated the aura this track radiates. Next up is ‘No Time’, a hauntingly beautiful track debuted on Untitled Group’s Virtual Day Party stream from the historic Old Melbourne Gaol. Previously selling out Australian headline tours, supporting the likes of Two Door Cinema Club and RÜFÜS DU SOL, while earning spots on esteemed music events; Coachella’s DoLaB, Splendour In The Grass and Beyond The Valley, Amy and Josh are no strangers to the world’s biggest stages. Lastlings start a new chapter in what is set to be a bright future following in the steps of one of Australia’s biggest dance exports.
Get to know the sibling duo below.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
We have both been really into the arts from a young age.
Amy: I have been playing classical piano since I was about 6 or 7. Piano is definitely the reason why I started singing. I used to learn the chords to my favourite songs and sing them. From there I joined school choir/school musicals. I was always into drama, music and art at school. They were my favourite subjects. Music for me is an escape from reality. It’s nice to just zone out and write songs.
Josh: I’ve always loved music even from a young age. I’ve never really enjoyed structured learning so I quickly stopped classical piano and did one classical guitar lesson and stopped. It wasn’t until high school my parents got me my first electric guitar after I pressured them into it. I think a lot of musicians I know or I’ve read about get into music this way haha. They make their parents choose between drums and guitar and 9/10 parents will go with guitar because of the noise. I actually didn’t play a whole lot of music in high school and prioritised my studies because I was trying to get into Medical School I was busy doing all the science subjects – Chemistry, physics, biology etc. I finished my undergraduate Biomedical Science degree but felt like I could always go back to study more so I chose music as it could be a once in a lifetime chance.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
It varies from time to time. We usually draw inspiration/ideas from visuals, film scores and stories and begin to write with those in mind. A lot of those ideas are from Sci-Fi movies like Bladerunner, Arrival, and Cloud Atlas. We have both loved sci-fi and fantasy from a young age, so I think it has played a big part in our music production and lyrics. Our recent single ‘No Time’ was inspired by Kazuo Ishiguro’s Novel “Never Let Me Go” and “Take My Hand” was inspired by a Japanese anime called “Your Name”.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
We worked on our upcoming album with our friend Cassian and a few songs with a Melbourne producer called Luke Alessi. Cassian helped us produce most of the songs on our album and also mixed every song!
We would love to have some features on our future songs and collaborate with some other artists that we want to work with.
What’s on your current playlist?
When I only Dream – ANNA
Back to Basics (feat.Skepta) – Floating points Remix
Good Life (feat.Kaori) – Thomas Schumacher
Fall – Jacques Greene
Flicker – Juno Mamba
Forwardism – Rival Consoles
Charmer – p-rallel
Wear me down – Ross from Friends
Home – Knucks
18HUNNA (feat. Dave) – Four Tet Remix
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
Amy: The best feeling on stage is when your fans sing your own lyrics back to you. We will never forget the first time it happened at a show. It’s so so rewarding.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
Josh: I spend a lot of time sampling my own instruments and putting them through a lot of different processing. Sometimes I don’t really have an end sound in mind so when I get to something that is interesting and usable it’s a beautiful discovery. Those moments when I find something out of nothing are very special and keeps the music-making process exciting for me.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
Josh: Majority of the time we write separately. For the most part I have an instrumental idea demoed out for Amy to write a vocal onto. We then workshop that idea until we’re both happy with it and then continue to work the production around the vocals.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
Amy: I think the first moment would have been when our first song we had ever made got played on the radio. I was in grade 10 at school and Josh was only 21. My mum, Josh and I all hopped into our mums car. We all had our iPhones out ready to record. The exact moment would have been when the radio host said “And this is Lastlings with their first ever single – Verona”. After the song had played the radio host started to receive a few phone calls from people driving home from work. There were some really nice things said by those people. Knowing that our music can help other people in some ways is really rewarding. That’s when I knew that I wanted to do music.
Josh: Like Amy said, putting out our first song and seeing the response from friends, family and people we didn’t even know was something that was so foreign but awesome for us. I think it began to sink in that this was what we wanted to do when we started playing bigger shows, tours and festivals. It’s been a super challenging 5 years but the places we’ve been with our music, the amazing friendships we’ve made and the lessons we’ve learnt are are all things I’d never trade-in for a normal 9-5. Playing at Red Rock supporting Rufus Du Sol was pretty special. I’ve mentioned it in a lot of interviews but after we stepped off stage people were still cheering and the energy was crazy I may have teared up a little as well and I thought then I want to keep doing this for a very long time.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Amy: A water bottle or a cup of tea!
Josh: A towel for my hands. Kind of gross but my hands get pretty sweaty from playing because I get nervous.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Our favourite emerging artists right now are Juno Mamba, Big Words, Running Touch and Willaris K.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Amy: My salt lamp, a candle and some tea usually does the trick. I also really love chucking on some relaxing music and doing pilates. It really helps me to relax before writing. Sometimes even just sitting at my piano and improvising helps me think of different melodies.
Josh: Usually I watch a movie or cycle through a lot of new songs that I’m liking at the time. I go through pretty intense writer’s blocks so I usually download a new bunch of samples if I get stuck or just step away from the laptop and write on my guitar.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
Josh: Over the years I’ve bought into a lot of different gear and pedals but recently I’ve tried to strip it back and focus on a few key instruments that I have.
I’ve been using a Dave Smith Prophet 6 for the last few years now which I love and have used on a lot of our new songs. We first used one in the states when we worked with Cassian at the Rufus Du Sol house and had to get my hands on one. Guitar-wise I run a Fender 72′ Telecaster and more recently I’ve ditched my pedals and have been using the Axe-fx III rig modeller partly because it sounds really great, but also because it’s easier to tour with. Like I said, when I get writer’s block I step away from the laptop and just write melodies/sing and play guitar so I’m happy that I got a new Fender acoustic recently. It’s a smaller body size so it’s easy to just pick up and strum away on.
I run Ableton as my DAW of choice with my UAD Apollo 6 into two KRKs which I’m enjoying at the moment. Previously I was running Yamaha but they sold out everywhere in Australia. Software/plugins-wise I don’t stray too far from Soundtoys when I’m doing creative stuff and love Omnisphere and the Arturia bundle.
Oh, when we record Amy’s voice we record with our friend Matt Bartlem but I just want to mention the Chandler Limited Red mic that we’ve used on every song on the album. It’s amazing.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Not at the moment. We would like to one day, but for now we are working really hard on this project together 🙂
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
Amy: I think I have definitely learnt a lot over the past few years in this industry. I try and write as much as I can – my notes and voice memos are filled with a lot more ideas now compared to when we first started Lastlings. I have also been reading more often which I think has helped with improving my songwriting and ideas.
I also just started to learn how to use Ableton this year. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube tutorials haha – so I’ll see how I go with producing now! What I love about this industry is that you are always learning. There is so much that I don’t know about and I definitely still have a long way to go in terms of refining my craft. Next I want to learn how to DJ!
Josh: I’ve definitely become faster at finishing songs or getting mixes to a point where I’m really happy before passing it on to someone else for further tweaks. Eventually, I’d like to be able to mix a song to completion but at the moment I’m putting my full trust in guys like Cassian and our friend Matt B. I took a break from singing and only this year I’ve started warming my voice up more and doing some light backing on tracks so that’s been a good challenge for me.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
Our debut album First Contact! (and hopefully a few shows) – We are incredibly excited. We have been sitting on this album for quite a while now. It’s going to feel so so great when it’s finally out!