Music  |  Features

Band of the Week: Empire of the Sun

August 3, 2009  |  8:00am
Band of the Week: Empire of the Sun
Hometown: Perth, Australia
Album: Walking on a Dream
Band Members: Luke Steele, Nick Littlemore
For Fans Of: MGMT, Passion Pit, Santigold

Empire of the Sun frontman Luke Steele wanted to up the ante of his band's first live performance this September with the addition of a real tiger to the stage show, but the plans hit a snag. Unbeknownst to him, tigers have stringent concert clauses, including a $12,000 asking price and limited appearance availability from 8 to 11 A.M. “The elephant was the same,” Steele says, sounding dejected. “He was even more, nearly 15 [thousand] and only two hours.”

Still, minus the wildlife, the show likely won't be a letdown—Empire of the Sun's theatrical electronics are already over the top. The duo, often referred to individually as Emperor Steele and Lord Littlemore, outfit themselves in head-to-toe costumes resembling glammy, space-age Victorian garb. Their color-blasted music videos—shot in Shanghai, the deserts of Mexico and most recently in their hometown of Perth—consistently resemble the most gorgeous, and most bizarre, dreams you've never had. Above all, their addictive, pulsating debut Walking on a Dream is a mix of hijacked '80s beats injected with warped noise—like "Swordfish Hotkiss Night" (what rainforest creatures partying in a mall arcade probably sounds like) and "We Are the People, with its steady, winsome guitar strum building into a climactic chorus.

The pouty-voiced Steele is best known as the singer of Australian alt-rock darlings The Sleepy Jackson, but his plan for this new project was to think of everything he’s learned about the music industry—the routines, the photoshoots, the tours, everything having to do with a musician—and disregard all of it. “I think you kind of get contaminated over the years and it becomes kind of like a tax worker,” says Steele, who is personally designing Empire of the Sun's debut headlining show at the Brisbane Parklife Festival in September. (Littlemore won't appear on the upcoming tour due to scheduling conflicts with his other band, Aussie dance duo Pnau.)

Next year, Steele expects the Empire to move in on U.S. territory—he'd love to tour through Hollywood, New York, Chicago, Arizona and the Dakotas, at the very least. The preparation for the first few shows may be extensive, he says, but the results will be worth it. “Kind of like that thing, you know, when you’re cooking dinner for friends, and what you’ve got are genuine, respectable friends, and you start in the morning and you get your ingredients and maybe a nice glass of wine,” he muses. “You want to make sure it tastes good so they don’t try the lasagna and it’s got sugar instead of salt.”

Listen to "Swordfish Hotkiss Night" from Empire of the Sun's Walking on a Dream:

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