Australian electronic rock project Empire of the Sun return to San Francisco on Saturday, September 19 to perform at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium with support from South African alternative dance act St. Lucia, and synthpop duo Holy Ghost.
For the last six years, Empire of the Sun has been one of the premier acts in the live music arena. The band is a collaboration between Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore. They have played countless shows and festivals worldwide. Their shows are a fantastic experience full of ornate costumes, masks and dancers. Their 2009 debut album Walking on a Dream put Empire of the Sun at the forefront of the mainstream alternative rock, emphasizing upbeat electronic grooves with catchy choruses. Their 2013 record Ice on the Dune pushed their sound further toward dance-centric styles with heavier basslines and sizzling synthesizers throughout.
We interviewed Empire of the Sun front-man Luke Steele about the development of the band over the years, details about their on-stage dancers, choreography and their plans for the future.
Did you grow up listening to your parents’ music or did you discover sounds more on your own?
Yeah, definitely more my parents’ music. My father is a blues musician. I kind of got brought up on J.J. Cale, B.B. King and Howlin’ Wolf. And a bunch of other stuff.
When did it hit you that Empire would be a very successful music project?
I guess it was when we were traveling the world. Getting to play [outside of Australia] in America, Russia, and Singapore.
Have you always seen Empire as a dance project or has it been an evolution between genres?
I kind of fell into Nick’s [Littlemore] world a little more than my world. He kind of brings it down. You know, he grew up in dance. It’s all kind of new to me. I’m from guitar-based music. It’s a good mix.
How do you recruit your on-stage dancers and design their choreography?
We actual did a switch to American dancers and it was quite an awesome discovery. Every dancer has a history, repertoire and a certain style. [We get a sense of their style], then we sort of dive in, find a theme, and move from there. We currently have four [dancers] touring with us.
What do you enjoy most about visiting San Francisco?
Last time I was there, I got a personal tour of the Skywalker Ranch. I guess so many people get to do that but I felt pretty lucky to be able to go there and relive my childhood.
Who would be some dream musical collaborators?
There’s tons. I would like to do a song with Brandon Flowers. He’s really cool and has such a good voice. It would be good to do something with Kanye. Also, it would be great to work with Bruce Springsteen.
Would you ever consider releasing additional content using a different pseudonym?
Yeah man. I already have another three bands. It’s cool. I think it sort of like arts, you know, the ones that realize what’s going on in the musical climate. When something’s going, you gotta ride it while it’s hot. We’ve sort of had that with Empire, snowballing into a lot of other collaborations. We’re going to be touring the remainder of this record for the end of the year and probably have a break.
Does Empire have any upcoming releases in the pipeline?
Not yet. I think the record has been pushed back. We’re just gonna keep riding it until Christmas. But yeah, there’s always the odd collaboration here and there. Nothing imminent at the moment.