Last Import Q&A
Last Import is a self-described “surf punk grrrl band” comprised of “just three college-age girls doing their best.” Emily Bjorke is studying Music Business and Geography at Mankato State University and plays guitar and vocals. Grace Baldwin, a Psychology student here at the University of Minnesota plays bass, and Jane Halldorson plays drums. We chatted in Jane’s basement, their rehearsal space, about playing the Mainroom at First Avenue, Battle of the Bands, and how they’re making this long-distance project work.
How long have you been playing together?
Jane: [gestures to Emily] Us, like six years… five or six. And then Grace just joined like a year and a half ago.
Grace: Yeah, the old bassist moved to Tennessee so I was like, “Let me in!”
How did you meet?
JH: Through She Rock She Rock. It’s a nonprofit organization that empowers women and everyone through music. Emily found it through Craigslist. I’ve know Grace since fourth grade. But it’s like a girls’ rock and roll retreat, and then we put the band together.
GB: It’s kind of like the “School of Rock” scenario.
How did each of you pick the instruments you play today?
JH: I picked drums because string instruments are hard, and I like to play loud and just hit things. I have a lot of energy.
EB: I play guitar because that was like the only thing I had access to as a kid… I never could lessons or anything either, so it was like when I was home, that was what I would do.
GB: I started out learning guitar first, and my dad had always been a bassist in bands… I was kind of being stubborn about it, like “I don’t wanna do the same thing as my dad” so I tried every other instrument and then I played bass once and I was like, “Oh. I dig this, actually. I guess I am gonna be like my dad.”
Where do you usually rehearse?
GB: Right here! Jane’s basement.
JH: We have no PA or mics, and so we practice all instrumental or screaming. We used to… hang a bullhorn… and it would kind of twirl around and Emily would have to, like, chase it.
EB: Yeah, I would have to chase that thing down.
JH: I don’t know why you didn’t just tie it to your head.
EB: That’s horrifying.
How do you balance the band with studying?
EB: I have to drive from Mankato. My parents live in the Twin Cities, so it’s not the worst thing ever. But it’s just constant movement. For anybody who would theoretically wanna do that kind of thing, if you don’t like running around, wouldn’t recommend it… it’s fun, though. It makes everything much more worthwhile, in the long run.
GB: I’m typically very much a procrastinator, so I’ve definitely had to cut back on that and get better at scheduling my time.
Who are your musical influences?
GB: I really like punk bands. I run a punk show on Radio K… grew up with a lot of Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Panic! At The Disco, all that emo stuff.
EB: I love Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. He’s like my biggest inspiration. So anything like surfy and simple was my childhood, and then these two have kind of opened me up to a wider range of letting my emotions out within music.
JH: I like all music. I like metal a lot and just rock. The Doors are my favorite band, and then the Glorious Sons, too. But for, like, drumming or band inspiration, probably The Front Bottoms.
EB: I also like to say Foster the People, who we also opened for them this summer.
What was it like to release your first EP?
JH: Fun; it was stressful though. We just recorded a full-length album that we’re releasing in February, and like, we’ve planned it out so much better and gave ourselves so much time. Did our EP even get on Spotify?
EB: No, we just randomly dropped it for our release show. Like, it wasn’t even on time. People were like, “When will it be up?” and we were like, “I don’t know.” We really rushed to get it out… we finished recording it in September and it’ll be released in February, so we have months to prepare.
GB: It’s a lot less chaotic this time.
What is your songwriting process?
EB: It sounds kind of intense, but I’ll keep myself awake at night, because I’ll start to hear things in my head. It’ll typically come with the melody or there’s some kind of hook in my mind… you can kind of tell what the song is about, kinda like a music soundtrack… the words come last, and then we all come together and bring our own ideas to the table.
GB: We do a lot of collaborating over text and group message, too. It’s a lot easier to be able to like just send ideas back and forth really quick, rather than having to wait ‘til we’re all in the same place at the same time.
Last Import was a finalist at the University of Minnesota’s Battle of the Bands last spring. How did you like competing, and would you ever do something like that again?
EB: I would do it again.
JH: Once we get our prize, I’ll do it again.
EB: Yeah, we did two of them last year. We did the University of Minnesota one and then we did the Go 96.3 one. And we made it to the finals in both of those. We didn’t win either of them.
JH: We were close… it’s just the experience.
EB: It’s cool because… I feel like we met so many people through those, whether it be other bands or people who are just interested in music.
JH: What was cool too with The Whole one it’s like all college kids… right now we have, like, our family and parents… and I mean, we have our younger crowd but it’s all like our friends, so to have like, some party kids...
EB: What we won through that is we’re actually playing on Thursday [Oct. 18] at The Whole.
GB: We can kinda get competitive too… in a really fun kind of way. It was definitely a cool experience.
What was the best show you’ve ever played?
JH: We’ve played in the Mainroom [at First Avenue] and that was super fun. Then we played with Foster the people…
EB: That was my favorite one.
JH: Then we’re gonna play at Palace [Theatre], so that’s going to be super fun.
GB: I think First Ave Mainroom for me, just because… as a kid in Minnesota, that’s what you dream of, and where you see all your favorite people playing.
JH: I was surprised I wasn’t more stressed out for that.
GB: We sobbed after.
EB: I cried like five times that day.
Who would you like to collaborate with, and what would you do?
JH: I want someone who screams, just for like a song.
EB: If we could collab with Greta Van Fleet… if you’re talking screaming, that’s screaming I could get with.
JH: I don’t know who I would collab with...
EB: Glorious Sons?
JH: Oh, my god, yeah.
What are your plans for the band after college?
EB: I’d love to make it work big time... when you get just even a taste of what it feels like, like when we played Mainroom… it makes you hungry for more.
GB: We all definitely have a drive to make that happen.
Last Import will be playing at Turf Club on Nov. 23, opening for Bastille at Palace Theatre on Nov. 28, and at Nomad World Pub with Gully Boys on Dec. 1. Their forthcoming EP, set for release in February, is completely crowdfunded. Donate here!