“I never have writer’s block, I just have writer’s trash where I go to write something and it’s just bloody horrible.” - Luke Steele, on coming up against creative obstacles.
“An artist works their whole life to reach a point where people around the world want to book you at world-class festivals.” - Luke Steele, on why he kept touring after Nick Littlemore bailed.
April 19, 2010. By Jordana Borensztajn.
Even some of Australia’s most talented musicians come up against creative obstacles. Just ask Luke Steele, the mastermind behind one of the country’s hottest electro acts, Empire of the Sun.
“I’m at my house in Perth in my studio, just trying to write a few hits, banging my head against the wall,” Steele tells Nova, with an air of frustration in his voice. “I never have writer’s block, I just have writer’s trash where I go to write something and it’s just bloody horrible.”
Despite facing moments of aggravation, overall, Steele’s been doing a pretty spectacular job. Empire of the Sun is arguably Australia’s most successful electro act and despite half of the Empire foundation (and original partnership) bailing unexpectedly last year, Steele carried on with the pair’s music project, putting on ripper live shows and winning multiple awards.
In fact, Empire of the Sun’s debut record Walking on a Dream was so successful that it garnered the group a massive seven ARIAs including Album of the Year and Single of the Year. “That felt fantastic, that night. I’ve always wanted to win an ARIA,” Steele begins. “I’ve worked pretty hard since I was 15, exhausting all avenues, and touring around the world, and when that does happen, it’s acknowledgment of your music. It was just perfect.”
While upsetting to accept the accolades without his partner in crime Nick Littlemore, Steele says there are no hard feelings between the duo. “Nick didn’t really want to tour, and he sort of disappeared and went to Las Vegas and Canada and ended up in London. That was pretty much it. I knew that we had to tour because these were big songs the whole country was singing – and even around the world – and it was just murder not to take these songs out and play them for people,” he says.
“An artist works their whole life to reach a point where people around the world want to book you at world-class festivals, when you’ve sold hundreds of thousands of records. So I pretty much just said ‘I’m going to take it on the road’ and that was that. We never really had a falling out.”
Despite being one man down, Steele’s upheld the Empire ‘empire’ in top form. Their highly anticipated debut live show at last year’s Parklife festival in Melbourne went off with a bang, and opened the door to plenty more festival opportunities.
“Oh man, Parklife was a big relief, actually. It was like our wedding day but for a music event. You want to make sure your cufflinks are on, and your pants don’t fall off, and that you don’t fall in the crowd with your headpiece,” he says, laughing. “It was quite nerve-racking because we built up the show so much. People generally knew it wasn’t going to be as big as a U2 show but we seemed to get it pretty big.”
In a few weeks time, Steele’s set to send Aussie crowds spinning yet again with one of the major spots nailed at this year’s Groovin’ the Moo festivals. Steele says he can’t wait to play alongside this year’s stellar line up.
“I’m really digging festivals. They’ve got a bit more of community feel and you play to a lot more people. This festival – with The Chair, the Grinners, Vampire Weekend – it’s going to be wild. It’s going to be a full on bender.”