How would you tell the story of your firsts? Where would you begin? What secrets would you share?
Traversing down that path of self-remembrance and — even — self-discovery is an internalized prism unique to each person’s innate divinity. How can one articulate those individual, defining perceptions in a way that others could feel, understand, and consume? Our firsts define us. It is a titanic feat that, once achieved, lays the foundation for others to pirouette into our intimate and hidden selves. The quick ascending sibling-duo Lastlings take on this towering self-conceptualization to fuse a debut album of unbridled emotion that swirls colors accentuated with poignancy, melancholy, love, and hope.
First Contact builds on the early threads of Lastlings’ astounding legacy. They have risen the proverbial ranks to be one of the most sought after and talked about acts backed by a ravenous global fanbase, one that fueled the flames of anticipation for their debut album. The past two years have seen them tease the album with six singles including 2018’s “Deja Vu”; 2019’s “I’ve Got You” and “Last Breathe”; and the final singles out this year, “No Time” and “Out Of Touch”. Behind all this was a group that was unafraid of exploring ambitious themes that poured from their souls with honesty and electricity, draped by a cohesive sound that breathed a fresh perspective into the electronic scene. This all comes to a head with the full release of First contact.
The twelve-track album opens with Lastlings’ Rose Avenue debut, “Deja Vu” and glides through a wondrous soundscape with cinematic winds, prickly synth, and the angelic-wave that is Amy’s vocals, until we arrive at the finale and second single, “I’ve Got You”. In-between these narrative points, the siblings of Amy and Josh Dowdle weave together a story that shares their first experiences like first steps, first breathes, and first heartbreak. It is their defining moment and one that firmly plants their arrival as a group, one that knows who they are and what they can accomplish.
In anticipation of First Contact, we spoke with Lastlings to learn more about the project’s past and discover what defines the album. Here is our interview with Amy and Josh Dowdle:
Growing up, how did music shape your lives?
AMY: My mum got me into classical piano when I was about 6 years old. When I was 11 years old I began writing songs regularly. I was always in my room writing music and practicing covers. My dad and I used to always sit outside and play around on our guitars and sing songs together. We were also both really into our karaoke. Dad and I used to always stay up late singing songs in our karaoke room downstairs. Dad and mum definitely influenced my love for music and I am really grateful for this.
JOSH: Music is now the sole focus and shapes our everyday decisions, but I was initially studying biomedical Science at university and after visiting Japan during a gap year I came back feeling inspired to focus more on writing music. After I finished the degree I felt this would be my only opportunity while younger to give music a proper go. Amy was still in school so in our spare time we began writing and producing together. From there things started to connect and now we’re lucky enough to focus on it full time.
Did you two always make music or perform together? At what point, did you guys decide to join forces and start Lastlings (or the first iteration)?
AMY: We both started off doing our own things. I would always play piano in my room and write songs and practice covers – where Josh was in a band with his friends from University. They used to practice a lot in the garage and I would always pop my head in after everyone had left to see what they were getting up to. One day Josh and I just started jamming together in the garage and eventually, we wrote our first song together. Then Lastlings was formed! This would have been back in 2015.
What’s it like creating an artistic vision that involves music and visual narratives with each other? Do you find that the sibling relationship makes it easy?
JOSH: We both have quite similar artistic visions which is really convenient for this project. There are some things that we do not agree on from time to time – but we are usually pretty into each other’s ideas and choices
You draw quite a bit of inspiration from Japanese culture like Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian Never Let Me Go and Your Name by Makoto Shinkai. What other inspirations come from Japan? How do you apply these inspirations to your music and visuals?
AMY: Other inspirations would have to be the beautiful landscapes and architecture that Japan has to offer. There are a lot of locations over there that we can’t find here at home, such as the tunnel that was in our ‘First Contact’ trailer. It was in the middle of nowhere – no cars drove through the entire time we were shooting (we were there for a few hours) and it was well lit. We also shot in front of ‘Mount Fuji’ on the most beautiful day. You could see the reflection of Fuji-san in the lake below – which is really rare. Another place we visited was the ‘Sekizenkan Ryokan’ which is a historic hot spring spa. The red bridge in front of the Ryokan is said to be inspired by the Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away which is another favourite of ours. You just can’t find these kinds of places here in Australia. Snow has also had a huge influence with my songwriting too. A lot of the lyrics were written in Japan when I went on a trip there with my mum in 2018. I spent a lot of time looking out the window at my grandparents home watching the snowfall. It was so peaceful – the perfect environment to write in.
Besides the Japanese cultural influences, what else has influenced or inspired the ideas behind Lastlings?
JOSH: A lot of films and other artists have inspired our project. We have both always been really into Sci-fi and Fantasy – things that take you away from the real world. Blade Runner 2049 has definitely been one of our biggest influences. Visually and Sonically. We both really loved the world they were in and the soundtrack to follow.
What were your experiences like touring with RÜFÜS, Two Door Cinema Club and Glass Animals? Plus performing at LA Historic Park and shows at Red Rocks and Coachella?
AMY: Really incredible – we both miss live shows a lot. We’re both really inspired when we go on tour and see other artists play live. You get to learn so much, feel so much, and meet all these different people. Red Rocks was so incredible, it’s definitely up there in our favourite shows list – we will never forget the feeling when we first stood on that stage and looked out into the crowd.
What’s it like working with RÜFÜS? What impact have they had your music overall and the album?
JOSH: We are really lucky to have them in our lives. They have been really great mentors for us. They have definitely inspired us a lot when it comes to the studio and live shows. They gave us a lot of tips and feedback on the Album which we found really helpful and beneficial.
Can you walk us through your writing and creation process and your roles?
AMY: We usually both do our own thing separately and then come together and share our ideas. Sometimes Josh will show me a song he made and I will write over it – or I will write a song at the piano and Josh will turn it into a track.
Your album trailer is incredible. What inspired it?
OSH: We are both heavily influenced by Japan and our favorite sci fi films (namely, Blade Runner 2049), so that naturally bled into the album vision and this album trailer film. Our plan was initially to shoot a documentary piece about the formation of our album and the influence Japan has had on our upbringing and music, but while we were there we became more inspired to create a conceptual piece that introduced the album and played more into the visual aesthetic that we wanted to support the music.
First Contact is all about firsts. Where did this concept come from? What type of “firsts” do you explore on the album?
AMY: First Contact was originally the name of a song that didn’t quite make the album (We like the song too much and want time to work on it in the future). I had recently watched Arrival – a sci-fi film by Denis Villeneuve. For those who don’t know, it is about a linguistics expert that has to interpret the language of aliens that mysteriously land on Earth. I think that was partly why I named that song “First Contact”. We both became really attached to the name “First Contact” and decided that it better suited the title of our debut album. The type of firsts that are explored on the album are first love, first heartbreak, the first time exploring a new country, the first time you open your eyes.
What takeaways do you want listeners to take away from the album?
JOSH: We want this album to spark all the beautiful and important memories, feelings and emotions that you feel when you experience something for the first time.
If you could choose the perfect place to listen to the album, where would it be and why?
AMY: Definitely at our grandparents’ home in Japan – sitting in their living room with our mum and dad too. A lot of the lyrics from the songs on the album were written here – so it would be really special to listen to these songs in the place where they essentially began.
To stream Last Contact, continue down or follow the link here.