Live’n’loud: Ice, fire and Em­pire of the Sun

It’s been a long time com­ing, but the thaw has started for Em­pire of the Sun, writes Kathy Mccabe

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY CONTENTS -

LUKE Steele is hav­ing a mas­cara mal­func­tion. As Em­peror Steele, the supreme com­man­der of Em­pire of the Sun along­side Lord Lit­tle­more, he is im­mac­u­lately uni­formed, coif­fured and made-up. But as­sum­ing his char­ac­ter on a Wed­nes­day morn­ing has its tri­als, in­clud­ing a new brand of mas­cara which is ir­ri­tat­ing his eyes.

‘‘Snaps (his wife) just bought it and it’s not work­ing,’’ he says, laugh­ing.

Not ir­ri­tat­ing at all is Ice On The Dune, the sec­ond record from th­ese ec­cen­tric mu­sic mak­ers. Steele and Nick Lit­tle­more, along­side a team that in­cludes Pnau’s Peter Mayes and elec­tro-pop, go-to stu­dio bof­fin Don­nie Sloan, took their sweet time fol­low­ing up in­ter­na­tional suc­cess Walk­ing On a Dream.

The Em­peror was flat-chat tour­ing it around the world while the Lord re­turned to his Pnau day job and hung out with the car­ney folk at Cirque du Soleil.

The Em­peror is now back on the road while Lit­tle­more slips back into his stu­dio cave.

Ice On The Dune got its live in­tro­duc­tion off-Broad­way in the US be­fore re­turn­ing home for two con­certs at the Syd­ney Opera House as part of the Vivid Fes­ti­val.

An­tic­i­pa­tion for the record in th­ese heady EDM days is high, with their Amer­i­can label gun­ning for No. 1 and the band booked for all the big tonight shows there.

‘‘The shows in Amer­ica were pretty awe­some, hey. For me it kinda felt like the day be­fore your wed­ding, there’s so much run­ning through your brain like flow­ers, cars, speeches,’’ Steele says.

‘‘For the show, it was cos­tumes, setlist, mu­sic, the lights, do we have enough gaffer tape? I’ve started chew­ing Hubba Bubba gum again, which will come in handy if we run out of tape.

‘‘We were like the only live band on this fes­ti­val called Elec­tric Daisy Car­ni­val. We got to meet (David) Guetta right be­fore we went on. I think we are go­ing to do some mu­sic to­gether.’’

You can’t doubt the pos­si­bil­ity. Walk­ing On a Dream got shout-outs from tastemak­ers in­clud­ing Jay-Z and Kanye West while Guetta has added his tal­ents to the sec­ond al­bum pro­ject with a remix for first sin­gle, Alive.

Steele ad­mits it took a while for Em­pire of the Sun to hit their groove in the early record­ing ses­sions.

The Sleepy Jack­son front­man dis­misses any sug­ges­tion the awkward ses­sions had any­thing to do with Lit­tle­more’s re­fusal to tour off the back of the first al­bum or their con­ver­sa­tions via the me­dia af­ter Walk­ing On a Dream came out in 2008.

How­ever, he ad­mits be­ing the only one in the Em­pire team who ex­pe­ri­enced the en­ergy of the crowds on the world tour may have con­trib­uted to feel­ing out of whack with the rest of the crew when they sat down to cre­ate the sec­ond al­bum.

‘‘With this one, ev­ery­thing felt back­wards. I would go to sing and it would come out in the wrong key, play a chord and it would come out wrong, shake Nick’s hand and he would be on the other side of the room,’’ he says.

‘‘It felt like our heart­beats for a while weren’t in sync but once the tyranny of dis­tance got washed away, all the kinks were ironed out. When we are in the same room, it’s like we are on the same elec­tro mag­netic fre­quency.’’

Steele and Lit­tle­more have al­ways spo­ken of their mu­sic, col­lec­tively and in­di­vid­u­ally, in terms of the imag­i­na­tion rather than the mon­eti­sa­tion. They may be classed as elec­tronic artists but they stress their stock in trade are songs rather than tech­nol­ogy. Ice On the Dune is a con­cept, an an­i­mated mu­si­cal yet to be filmed. As Steele has ex­plained, its story fol­lows the theft of the Em­peror’s head­dress by the King Of Shad­ows, bring­ing chaos to the world. He doesn’t know why such high con­cepts should draw snig­gers or cyn­i­cism be­cause his mu­sic is so con­nected to a big­ger pic­ture in his mind and those of his fans.

‘‘I don’t know what that is; maybe some peo­ple’s ears are tuned not to hear and I’ve seen that hap­pen so many times,’’ he says.

‘‘We wanted to do some­thing that makes peo­ple feel good, some­thing that has imag­i­na­tion.’’

Steele and Lit­tle­more are al­ready talk­ing about the third record. They want to crank up the out­put even as their other re­spec­tive mu­sic projects de­mand at­ten­tion. Lit­tle­more has Pnau, Steele has Sleepy Jack­son (maybe) and his on­go­ing ses­sions with good mate Daniel Johns. (He jokes that he and Johns are into their third record even though none of them have seen the light of day yet.)

‘‘Nick and I want to pump out more records than The Bea­tles and have less time be­tween drinks,’’ he says.

Ice On The Dune (EMI) is out now. Em­pire of the Sun play Splen­dour In the Grass, at North By­ron Park­lands, from July 26-28.

Above: Em­pire of the Sun’s Em­peror, Luke Steele.

Left: Pnau’s Nick Lit­tle­more (left) and Peter Mayes also worked on Ice On The Dune.

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