This summer, for the first time in, well, ever, we’ve got an Australian coming to the Whistlah area who won’t annoy the fuck out of you. When Luke Steele, frontman of Empire of the Sun, takes the stage at the Pemberton Music Festival there will be no talk of the pow conditions on Blackcomb or how off his face he got at Garf’s last night. Instead, be prepared for an over-the-top live show that combines the band’s electronic glam-pop with costumes that make the cast of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert look norm-core and production values that would make Baz Luhrmann proud.
“It’s like taking people on this return to some unknown vortex of the senses,” says the 34-year-old solar deity of his multiplatinum outfit’s live show, interviewed by phone. “You want to take the music beyond the world and not live in this world and into the realms and the heavens. Once you open that door, there’s this flood of never-ending stories, and signs and wonders, and journeys beyond nether lands, and blessings and curses.”
If thought loops like that give any indication about the show, we’d all better pray there isn’t any brown acid floating around Pemberton this weekend. Granted, Empire of the Sun’s life-affirming, dance-floor-friendly sound, which has made it a favourite on the festival circuit, will probably cure a bad trip better than some trust-fund hippie shaman trying to talk you down in the chill-out tent.
“I like playing festivals that have a mix of music: bands, singer-songwriters, and DJs. We’ve done some around the world that are strictly techno,” the road warrior confesses. “It’s hard.
“[EDM] has come to America like a giant storm,” he continues. “It’s funny sometimes ’cause the crowd is so different. There are a lot of guys with their shirts off and sporting that oiled-up tan and a six-pack. It’s made it about kind of a fashion parade.”
Steele knows a thing or two about fashion. While it’s not mathematically possible, he claims to be “120 percent involved” in Empire of the Sun’s lavish accoutrements and is quick to dispense advice for those working on an outfit to wear to the show: “I always say fashion designers should hang out at the zoo.”
Whether he’s performing for his devoted Empyreans, oily dance-music meatheads, or people who fall in between, it’s clear Steele won’t be pigeonholed easily. Look no further than Empire of the Sun recently recording with Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham; letting dance-music heavy hitters David Guetta, Calvin Harris, and Zedd give tracks off 2013 sophomore album Ice on the Dune the fist-pump-remix treatment; and scoring the upcoming Farrelly brothers flick Dumb and Dumber To.
“It’s getting pretty wild now,” he says. “We can’t stop. It’s an addiction. Once you have a little taste on your lips of what imagination has to offer, you’re gone.”
He’s right. There’s only one thing on the planet that tastes better than imagination: Vegemite on toast.
Empire of the Sun plays the Pemberton Music Festival on Friday (July 18).