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Music Interview

Empire of the Sun interview: 'We want Vegas show with elephants'

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Empire Of The Sun press shot 2013

On 2008's Walking on a Dream, synthpop duo Empire of the Sun found themselves picking up a global fanbase; the LP proving a sleeper hit that went on to sell one million copies.

Five years later, Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore are back with offering number two, Ice on the Dune - a fantastical collection of dreamy pop complete with grandiose visuals and backstory.

With the LP out next week, we met up with them to find out more about the record and plans for a Vegas-themed show.

Hello Empire of the Sun! Your new album is out next week. Is it exciting releasing music together again after some time apart?
Luke: "It really is! We were talking about it the other day... it's taken us a little while, but it takes time for dust to settle and it can't be forced. It felt like the right time. We're really enjoying talking to people about the album as well."

It's a very cohesive record, yet it was recorded in short bursts over a long period of time. Was it difficult to stick to the same vision?
Luke "We didn't really have a choice when it came to the recording. We'd record in New Zealand at my house..."
Nick: "When we started it I was in New York and Luke was in LA, and from there we collected songs over time and would meet up. From the beginning the feeling, ideas and colours were quite strong, so it was just a case of bringing it into line. We recorded like 100 songs or something."

How on earth did you cut it down to a standard album length?
Nick: "It was hard! Some of the songs we had to cut we adore, but it's an album and it has to be cohesive. It feels right. We had a lot more involvement this time as we'd come off a million-selling record."

Your debut album was a bit of a sleeper hit in the UK; did you expect it to sell so well?
Nick: "We really didn't - we were just happy to have made it. We both love making albums - a real body of work - and the one we made wasn't an instant thing that went straight to radio. It grew and changed as more and more people heard it. We now have the sweetest, kindest and most generous fans from far away places - it's a real privilege."

Did that add the pressure? Not many record labels are fans of 'growers' these days...
Luke: "There was a check board of label stuff we had to tick off... I'm not kidding!"
Nick: "I think the label are expecting something different this time. It's a whole other ball game now. We're now in business with these people. For us as well, this is our sophomore excursion - we also want the album to be bigger, bolder, brighter and better than before."

Empire of the Sun, Luke Steele, Nick Littlemore


What are you liking on the charts at the moment?
Luke: "My daughter is really into Taylor Swift at the moment. She loves 'I Knew You Were Trouble'. It's pretty amazing - it's got about four choruses on it. I actually met her producer Max Martin in the gym the other day - he was seriously fit."

It's safe to say that Ice on the Dune is a very happy album. Do you always feel like that?
Nick: "We always talk about trying to put our best foot forward. This is what I love about music - it gives you three minutes to put something out that represents what you believe. It's hard to make good songs without making them sound trite. No-one's happy all the time, but out of very sad things can blossom happy or funny things."
Luke: "We like putting positive things out into the universe. We're a humanist band and we very much believe in karma. I don't think we'd have ever met or worked with Jay-Z or Elton John if we hadn't done it. It's what connected us in the first place when we first met."

What's the best song on the album?
Nick: "'I'll Be Around'. I can't get enough of it - although it changes all the time."
Luke: "I've always loved 'Concert Pitch' from the beginning to now. I love playing it live."

There were rumours that a film was going to accompany the album...
Nick: "We've written a treatment for it but I guess we're just waiting for that person with a sackful of money to come along and pay for it. We hope there'll be a film somewhere down the road and a Vegas-style show. We want to do it properly with animals and everything. We've always wanted elephants and tigers."

How much does it cost to hire an elephant?
Luke: "£15,000 an hour - we've actually got quotes!"

Empire of the Sun release their new album Ice on the Dune on June 24.

Watch the music video for their latest single 'Alive' below:

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