For most college students, late spring becomes a flurry of activity as assignments pop up left and right and the end of the academic year looms just over the horizon. However, the members of Last Import don’t seem too fazed as they balance school with recording new music, gigging around Minnesota, and competing in the University of Minnesota’s Battle of the Bands.
Last Import is a surf-punk trio from Minneapolis consisting of Emily Bjorke (lead vocals/guitar), Grace Baldwin (bass/backing vocals), and Jane Halldorson (drums). The band released their first official EP, Songs For Adam, in January.
Grace, Jane, and Emily sat down with me to chat about the music that inspires them, their favorite Minnesota music venues, filming a music video with the Shackletons, and recording their debut EP.
Colleen Cowie: I’ve seen that you have put out a couple Spotify inspiration playlists.
CC: Would you say that your music tastes are similar— is there a lot of overlap?
Jane Halldorson: Sometimes…
Grace Baldwin: We have very different music tastes but there are a few core bands that we all just agree rock. We were talking about Arctic Monkeys; that’s something that we all love.
CC: Yeah, I saw they were putting out a new album.
GB: We’re so excited!
Emily Bjorke: Monster Truck Front Flip!
GB: We’re so excited for the Monster Truck song.
CC: Are there any pump-up jams you like to play before shows?
JH: “Ring Ding Dong” by the K-pop group, SHINee.
GB: We listen to a lot of Beastie Boys. We play “Girls.”
EB: Sum 41, “In Too Deep,” “Old Yellow Bricks” by Arctic Monkeys.
CC: You were all in the music video for the Shackletons song, “Minnesota Girls.” How did that project come together?
JH: They just asked us if we wanted to kill them in a video, and they know that I like Gwar a lot, so they knew that we would be good for the job. So we just went to Stillwater with them.
EB: In a snowstorm.
GB: Yeah there was a blizzard and my car got stuck after that. But it was totally worth it, just to have that experience of taking down their whole family.
CC: Had you known the band before?
JH: Yeah, we’ve played with them quite a few times.
GB: I never played with the band earlier, but I went to high school with all the brothers back in Stillwater, so we knew each other from that too.
CC: You played a little while ago at 7th Street Entry for your EP release show, and I saw that you’re going to be playing at Electric Fetus’ birthday party at First Ave Mainroom.
JH: Yeah! We’re super excited.
GB: We already cried about it a lot.
EB: There were a lot of tears.
CC: It seems like you’ve played a lot of shows around the Twin Cities. Do you have a favorite venue, or a favorite type of space to perform in?
JH: Obviously, 7th Street. But house shows are super fun too.
GB: For me, I love Triple Rock Social Club.
EB: That’s what I was going to say.
GB: May it rest in peace. That was always a fun place to be. I don’t know what we’ll do without it.
CC: It seems like you’re all keeping pretty busy in the band, keeping up a pretty active schedule. Is it hard to balance band responsibilities with all of your individual commitments?
JH: We have a Google Calendar that has all of our schedules in it, so we just know, and then we double check with everyone about days.
EB (to Jane): You’re getting your wisdom teeth out next week, and we’re still playing a show that day.
GB: We’re hardcore, dude.
CC: That is dedication. Wisdom teeth is a pretty serious operation.
JH: I just wanna play on my drums.
CC: What is your songwriting process like?
EB: It’s kind of miscellaneous. I kind of have an earworm for things that come in my head. So “One A Day” starts with that, and then it goes into whatever lyrics there are. I have synesthesia, so I have color and letters and words. When I hear something there is an aesthetic to it, so I guess I try to work around that.
GB: A lot of times Emily will just send me these cool snippets of stuff, and then we just build off of that, and the whole song just appears really naturally.
CC: So it’s mostly bringing stuff into rehearsal, and then you all add your own pieces together?
GB: IPhones help a lot too, because you can send all the voice memos back and forth really quickly. That’s really helpful for songwriting.
CC: So you just spent some time in the studio recording?
JH: At Pearl Studios, [owner and head audio engineer] Zachary Hollander was our guy. Check him out.
CC: What was the experience like being in the studio? Had you done that recording process before?
JH: We did an in-studio at the Garage, but recording actually in the studio was really fun. His space is awesome, and he’s just the best person.
EB: It’s amazing in there.
GB: It was really cool to just get done with class and go a studio and just get to play music for a while.
CC: Are you working on any new material right now, or are you just taking time to play shows?
EB: Hopefully there will be one or two singles out in May. I know I want to throw some stuff out before the First Ave Mainroom show. But otherwise we haven’t gone in yet. But stuff has been written and it’s waiting to be put together fully.
CC: If you could each record a song with any musician alive or dead, who would it be?
JH: Jim Morrison from the Doors. He’s my favorite person.
GB: Jane loves him. We’ve eaten his grave dirt.
JH: I have a jar of it. We eat it before all of our shows.
GB: It’s good luck.
EB: Brian Wilson would be pretty cool. I live for Brian Wilson.
GB: Mine’s kind of cheesy, but it’s Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance.
EB: I knew you were gonna say that.
GB: I just love the way he writes and all the emotion behind it.
CC: And there’s a Brian Wilson reference, too, in “Minnesota Girls.”
EB: I was pumped about that one.
CC: Was that definitely an incentive to be on the video for that song?
EB: Yeah. When we got asked that I was like, “If I get to say ‘Brian Wilson’ in a video, you don’t have to pay me, I’m good.”