Interview: Last Dinosaurs Release New Album 'KYO' With Correlating Manga

Written by Alexander Liuzzi, Photography by Keaidkumchai Tongpai

Completing the storyline they started with their last EP, RYU, Last Dinosaurs is releasing KYO on April 5th, the second installation of their sci-fi universe. Working with Manga artist Chris Yee, they’ve put out an accompanying manga to read as it tells the story of a distant future in which an AI satellite reprograms its protocols to function as an ancient radio station. 

The three members are Sean and Lachlan Caskey (brothers), and Michael Sloane. Sean wrote RYU, and Lach took over for KYO, both shortenings of their respective middle names, Ryusuke and Kyohei. We were able to sit down recently with Lachlan to talk about their new album and perspective on mental illness in a dystopian reality.  

Alexander: You’ve taken over as the main writer for this project, and you have done so in the past, like for From Mexico With Love. How has your writing process changed for KYO, and what did it look like on other projects that were more equally written?

Lach: Well, so on our third album, Yumeno Garden, that was like the first time that my songs, where I was singing specifically, were a 50-50 project. From Mexico With Love was all me, and then RYU was all my brother, and now KYO is just all me. Ryusuke is my brother's Japanese name; Kyohei is my Japanese name. That will come together at the end. Our names together, coincidentally, are actually the Japanese word for dinosaur (Kyōryū 恐竜). It's literally just a coincidence. 

Alexander: When did you guys discover that your middle names spell Dinosaur? Did that go into the naming of the band at all?

Lach: No, not at all. It was on a trip to Japan with the band a long time ago now. We were on a train. I think it was either in Tokyo or it was in Osaka, I can't remember, but there was an advertisement inside the train, like a little placard that was advertising an exhibit at a science museum or something. And we noticed, "Oh, that's a cute funny image of a dinosaur," and it said kyoryu. And I thought, "Wow, that's funny. I wonder what the Japanese word for dinosaur is? It could be kyoryu, and that’d be nuts." 

Alexander: On your TikTok and YouTube shorts, there's a clip of the song "N.P.D" - Narcissistic Personality Disorder - music video with an excerpt from Christopher Lach’s Culture of Narcissism laid over it. What if anything, what would you like for the listener to know about or think about after listening to N.P.D, and what inspired you to think about narcissism? 

Lach: It's not that the culture of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder is the grand theme in KYO. The idea is based around the central character, who is the character in the universe that we're creating. I just wanted to make a parody on the narcissist, if you will. I think narcissism is becoming way more prevalent as something in our culture. We're all coerced into our narcissistic side, and I think the point I'm trying to make is that to be a pathological narcissist, you fundamentally have to have very poor self-awareness. And I think that the narcissism that's being promoted today is also being capitalized on because it is taking advantage of a lack of self-awareness in the culture. It's also making people accept the world as it is with an absolute lack of community. Everybody has a narcissistic personality trait of some sort. And it's something that is okay; it's a human condition, but for it to be exaggerated in us is something that’s corrupting. I just want to make a parody of it to make it really seem as ridiculous as it is. Like I want people to see that I'm clearly a narcissist as this character, but there's something deeply and desperately wrong with that. It's the bravado of the narcissist, but also the hyper-exaggeration of the lack of self-awareness. Hence the stuff I put in my teeth. It's just like I'm trying to look ridiculous. I think there’s a lot of people relating to and experiencing narcissists in their life. It's like the system wants us to be completely concerned with ourselves and only ourselves.

Alexander: How does this tie into the more consumerist themes of "Keys to Your Civic," where you're basically trying to sell a car the whole time?

Lach: So it's the same character, a guy that will stop at nothing to get wherever he needs to go. And as you'll see the story develop in the manga, it all makes sense. He is a hyper-capitalistic, self-serving person that existed in boom time Tokyo in the 80s and early 90s when everything was just absolutely booming, and he's caught in this wave. The idea is that he'll sell anything in order to sell that car. Ads are all about pulling on your emotions and making an insurance company seem like they really care about the family. This is a song about falling in love, falling madly in love, but I'm just trying to sell a car. So it's just playing into this universe that this guy is just a shady car salesman, effectively.

Alexander: What has been your favorite place to perform?

Lach: It's always got to be here or Mexico. Mexico is like a special place for us. I would say the best show of the last tour was Pomona, which is still Los Angeles County, but it really feels, effectively, San Bernardino. It's really far east. Man that show was fucking awesome. It was awesome. Awesome. Awesome. I will never forget that, and I just loved it.

Alexander: There's a clip of you reenacting a viral video of Shuzo Matsuoka telling people to stay in the present moment as well as several other philosophical videos where you’re playing at the mental difficulties faced by many people in the modern world (clip featuring song "Auto-Sabotage"). What’s the philosophy of Last Dinosaurs when it comes to facing these problems?

Lach: I can only speak to my philosophy, but I'm sure my brothers’ align somewhat. Shuzo Matsuoka, that's that era of Japan that I'm basing this character in. Shuzo Matsuoka was a professional tennis player-become TV celebrity-become motivational speaker. I think he's great, but he's a pretty corny guy. Someone that does all those things, I think, everyone should be inherently quite suspicious of them. So I'm sort of mirroring aspects of this guy in order to portray the character. But when it comes to the "Auto-Sabotage" one, I think that hedonic malaise is a very large condition of the world that we're living in now. And I think that song "Auto-Sabotage" is about self-sabotage. It's about this idea that we're constantly doing things that are not in our best interest because they're easy and because we are so detached from so many important things in our world. A lot of people don't even realize how depressed they are. They're just used to it. And it's just like, they will just go along in this aforementioned malaise, and they can't see a way out of it because that's all they know. And the only thing that will make them change is some sort of tragedy. It's why a lot of tragedies can be really formative in a positive way because that actually forces you to get up and react to something happening. And it's just a shame. That's one of the big themes in From Mexico with Love, because it was written during COVID, and it’s sort of highlighting our inability to overcome ourselves these days. Everybody is struggling with themselves and especially in a first world context, where it’s getting more meme-able by the day. I think it's just a very very prominent and relevant thing.

Alexander: What can people expect out of the rest of this project?

Lach: For the universe - the world that we're trying to create - to be built out more, and for it to become more clear what the story is.

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