By Brian Ives
“We have lofty ideas.”
That’s what Nick Littlemore of Australian duo Empire Of The Sun tells Radio.com during a recent interview. Those “lofty ideas” include not only a striking visual identity, but also a mythology that runs throughout their songs–albeit one the Australian duo (Littlemore and singer/guitarist Luke Steele) tends to avoid explaining.
“We wanted to do something that just extended your dreams,” is how Littlemore explains his and Steele’s elaborate costumes, video storylines and overall visual presentation. “We wanted to create something that kids could believe in.”
It’s fitting, then, that the band has aligned with J.J. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot. Abrams, after all, has enjoyed creating mythologies of his own, most notably in the TV series Lost.
Bad Robot produced “Alive,” the group’s first video from their new album, Ice On The Dune.
“They’re starting to branch out into the music world,” Steele explains about Bad Robot, “and our recording studio in Santa Monica was just down the road, and we started hanging out a bit. We started working with their screenwriters to help develop the next part of [our] fantasy and journey.”
The band’s latest release is Ice On The Dune, and Littlemore adds that they could wind up doing as many as five more videos from the album. To him, Abrams’ sense of wonder and mystery is one of the reasons he likes to be in business with the filmmaker.
“I loved seeing this TED talk by JJ,” says Littlemore. “He’s talking about the concept of a ‘mystery box’ that his uncle gave him for his tenth birthday. It’s just a cardboard box – it says if you open this box, everything you ever wanted is going to be inside it. So he’s never opened it! It’s still on the shelf in his office.”
“I can see it in his storytelling, there’s always another reveal, it keeps you hanging, he does it with such mastery and naivete, the way a child would, in the most pure and beautiful way.”
It makes sense that videos are important to the band, given their very striking image. And speaking of ‘striking,’ Littlemore cites Iron Maiden as an early influence–as much for their album covers (they’re “a very artwork-led band” says Littlemore) as their music.
These days, though, Elton John is the rock legend that figures more directly into their lives. Elton has, in fact, been a longtime fan of the band. “We got him a copy of the album before anyone heard it, and he flipped out over it,” Littlemore enthuses. “He’s been a wonderful positive influence and will continue to be so. ”
Littlemore notes they may collaborate in the future, but for now nothing is planned. He also reveals that he got to hear an early version of Elton’s upcoming album, Diving Board, but he says that it’s gone through a lot of changes since that point. “I heard a version about a year ago, but I don’t think any of those songs are on the one that’s coming out.”
Looking forward, Empire of the Sun will be on the road for much of the rest of 2013, but they have big plans in mind for the future.
“A feature film is something we’ve talked about since day one,” says Littlemore. “We’ve also talked about a stage show, or a Vegas show. We have lofty ideas.”