Lastlings, the Australian electro-pop duo of Josh and Amy Dowdle, wrote much of their debut album First Contact in Japan. Born to a Japanese mother and Australian father and raised on Australia’s Gold Coast, the brother-sister duo spent childhood vacations visiting their grandparents in Aomori, a quiet port town in northern Japan. “It’s really peaceful there,” Amy tells Apple Music. “I spent a lot of time indoors writing songs.” Those introspective trips—combined with teenage years spent exploring boundary-pushing live electronic acts like Nicolas Jaar, Moderat, and Bonobo—laid the foundation for their high-energy debut, a joyride of escapist pop vocals and propulsive dance-floor beats. You’ll hear flickers of their labelmates RÜFÜS DU SOL, the Sydney band known for their wistful, euphoric dance-rock, and whose go-to producer, Cassian, shaped many of these melodic tracks. “Getting to watch him edit and refine was an incredible experience,” says Josh, who handles the production while Amy writes the lyrics. “We grew so much as musicians during this project.” Below, they talk through the making of five key tracks.
Deja Vu Josh: “This is the first track that we finished for the album, so in a way, it set the mood. It’s one of the slower songs on the album, at 105 BPM, but it’s quite high-energy. We wrote it in Sydney—I think we were there on a writing trip—and the studio we were in wasn't compatible with my laptop, so I couldn't use the monitors or any of the equipment. But there was an acoustic guitar, so we started there.” Amy: “Everyone is trying to conform and fit in, and seems afraid of being themselves. The song pushes against that. It says that you should trust yourself and try new things and embrace who you are rather than who everyone else appears to be. It was inspired by Instagram, which has this very specific beauty standard and is this place where everyone tries to post the same things. It’s pretty dystopian! And the song has a dystopian vibe to it, which we love. The visuals that we put together took inspiration from Blade Runner.”
Out of Touch Amy: “This was one of the first songs I wrote in Japan when I went with my mom after graduating from high school. We were there for a while and it was a really good time to focus on myself. ‘Out of Touch’ reflects that headspace. It’s about disconnecting from real life, recharging, and self-care.” Josh: “I remember writing this really crazy, driving acid house break, which made zero sense for Lastlings but I liked it. I wanted to balance it out, though, so I started adding guitar. The guitar melody was inspired by this song called ‘The Wind Forest’ by Joe Hisaishi from one of our favorite Studio Ghibli anime films. If you listen closely to the melody, you can hear the similarities. And I actually used my own little classical guitar that I’d gotten when I first took lessons as a kid. For whatever reason, I’d hung on to it for years, and it finally made it onto a track. The whole song is really nostalgic for us because it reminds us of home, especially our grandparents' house in Japan. It’s quite sentimental.”
Last Breath Josh: “I was making a lot of four-on-the-floor house music at the time, so I was keen to mix up the drums a bit. I don't really start with drums when I produce, I normally start with melodic ideas or chords. But this was an exception. We started with this specific drum loop and experimented with heaps of melodies alongside it. I think I was playing Arrival or Spacetime Odyssey in the background—Amy and I always write with something on the TV—and I felt like I was scoring it. That's why a lot of the crashes have that vibe.” Amy: “The lyrics all fall back to that trip to Japan. I was sitting on the bullet train on the way to our grandparents’ place, and it was winter, so the villages were covered in snow. I just started writing. The song is dedicated to our parents and our family, including our grandparents who we don’t get to see that often. I wanted to write something that traced those big ideas—being born, moving and breathing, and being there for each other until our last breath. The day we finished the song, we found out that someone very close to us had passed away. It was quite hard to record the vocals. It was a hard day in the studio.”
No Time Josh: “Cassian was heavily in this one and there was a lot of back-and-forth about melody ideas, which we kept circling and circling but just couldn’t nail. It was definitely the hardest song for us to finish because we just couldn’t get it right. Part of that might have been because we were in a not-great studio at the time, and at one point it started hailing so hard that we couldn't hear the monitors. We were really up against the elements. But once we got it right, it felt so good. I love this one because it sounds a bit broader than the rest, like a group effort.” Amy: “I had read this book called Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and it’s about releasing yourself from negative thoughts and living your life to your fullest. It hit home how short life is. You have to embrace every moment, bad ones and good ones, because it goes quickly. That was the inspiration for this song.”
I've Got You Josh: “This song, especially its bassline, was inspired by Moderat’s ‘Bad Kingdom.’ That song was absolutely huge when my friends and I started going out, so it’s really special to our whole group. ‘I’ve Got You’ is like an homage to it. It was really hard to get right production-wise because it’s such a big track and has so much going on, but again, Cassian came to the rescue. The best part about it, to me, is that even though it has this really aggressive production, Amy's chords still sound so soft and give it this nice contrast.” Amy: “This song is about feeling out of place, and caring for your loved ones and making sure they're okay. I wrote it when I was in high school, and I remember there was this guy in my grade who’d been acting super strange around me, pushing and running away from me when I was trying to be his friend. I think the song was my way of just trying to be there for him because I knew that he was going through a rough time. So I guess it’s also about empathy, in a way.”
Take My Hand
Out of Touch
I've Got You
12 SONGS, 47 MINUTES
NOVEMBER 20, 2020
ASTRALWERKS; ℗ 2020 ROSE AVENUE RECORDS, UNDER EXCLUSIVE LICENSE TO UMG RECORDINGS, INC.