The Weekly Interview: Empire of the Sun’s Luke Steele

Empire of the Sun brings their dance party to Life Is Beautiful.
David Homer

Have you heard much about the Life Is Beautiful Festival? No, I haven’t really heard much about it. [But] we’re kind of pretty excited to come to Vegas. We’ve always had pretty wild times in Vegas, with the EDC festival and with my gambling addiction (laughs).

Have you ever been to Downtown Las Vegas? No, I don’t think so.

When you were here for EDC, what were you experiencing when you weren’t at the Speedway? I went with the band, we went to the Palms, you know, there in the casino. And we did some recording.

At the Studio at the Palms? Yeah, yeah. That was pretty fun. I kinda had a bit of a day at the pool, which is good.

Your stage shows are quite the production—the outfits, the dancers, the LED visuals. What can fans look forward to at Life Is Beautiful? I think it’s probably going to be bigger. … And also, it’s going to be wild. I think we’re trying to design new colors into the ether, and I guess make it a real trajectory experience for the average music-goer. It’s kind of like the real showdown now for music. There’s so much going on on the Internet, but the live show is important.

You played Electric Daisy Carnival here, but this festival doesn’t focus on electronic dance music that way. Will you alter anything for this general-music audience? Yes and no. … I’d like to see it with design. It’s like a spaceship coming in, you can’t change its panels or computer operating system. You still have to give people what you give birth to, so it’ll be our main show, really.

So in terms of aesthetics, the show won’t change much from what we saw at EDC? There [are] certain things, but the bulk of it is the same. We kind of designed it as a touring show that we’d do for a world tour, and we traveled that show kind of like Pink Floyd, going around the world … It’s sort of hard when there’s 40 people working on a show; you just don’t change it because the festival has got a few different acts on there. It’s more about us building a stage production … and then we travel that. And the people come.

The clothing you guys wear is pretty awesome and out there. Where did the concept for these outfits come from? From underground Japanese pop culture to, I guess, animals that you’d see at the San Diego Zoo, to the creatures that are in the ocean. Any great fashion designer kind of knows that to get inspired you need to go to the zoo, really.

What drove you guys to pursue the live act aspect of EDM? I guess it’s like, electronic beats. We use a lot of analog gear, but we still play everything—we still sing, we play guitars and we play synths, yet I grew up on Django Reinhardt and Stevie Ray Vaughn. I don’t think I’ll ever fake feedback.

You have such a unique sound and style. Who were you drawing from for inspiration? I guess always it’s a mix. You kind of take elements from bands you love. We love Fleetwood Mac, which that has that really warm, ’70s, analog, great West Coast cruising. Yeah, that and I guess everything from, I don’t know, melodies from anything—from John Lennon to Japanese or Indian music. I’ve been listening to Katy Perry, because my daughter loves it.

You put out Ice on the Dune back in March – five years after the release of Walking on a Dream. Why was the wait so long? I don’t know. We toured the record for like three years, [so] that was already three years gone.

Are you and Nick going back to the studio sometime soon? Yeah, yeah. We went in the studio in Belgium the other day and started the next record. So this one, with inflation, should only take 10 years. (laughs)

Do you like Las Vegas? Yeah, I do, for its entertainment, its clubs … I guess it’s quite unpredictable, a little bit like Los Angeles, where it’s the land of great dreams and great disappointments. I guess that kind of excites me, that it’s a bit on the edge.

We’ve only seen you at the Speedway here in town. Would you be open to playing nightclub shows here in town? Yeah, I love clubs, [club] culture.

Why haven’t we seen you at one here then? We have a team of people that organize what’s the best way to tour and where are we going to go, but yeah, we always kind of put our hands up for club shows, because they’re more intimate and you can feel the crowd and their personalities a lot more.

Empire of the Sun Sunday, October 27, 9:50-10:50 p.m., Life Is Beautiful Festival's Ambassador Stage

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