Empire of the Sun - The music that made us: "We were going to acid parties and wanted to recreate what we heard"

We explore Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore's musical DNA to learn what inspired their new album Two Vines.

Empire of the Sun are one of the most enigmatic forces on the music scene today.

UK fans can immerse themselves in a brand new collection of material when the Australian duo's third album Two Vines is released on October 28, although they may have already witnessed the psychedelic extravagance when the band played their first UK headline show at The Roundhouse earlier this month. 

To learn more about the band's origins and influences, we sat down with Emperor Luke Steele and Lord Nick Littlemore and talked Silence of the Lambs, Willy Wonka and, erm, knocking Dudley Moore over at the airport.

What was the first ever gig you ever went to?

Luke: "Other than my Dad [local blues musician Rick Steele] it was Midnight Oil. I've worked with Jim Moginie since."

Nick: "I love Jim Moginie. Such a wonderful man. Mine was Fleetwood Mac. The 1986 Little Lies tour at the Sydney Entertainment Centre." 

The first album you became completely obsessed with was...

Nick: "The first cassette that I ever owned, and yes I am from the era of cassettes [laughs] was Man of Colours by Icehouse." 

Luke: "Mine would have to be a toss up between Metallica, Beach Boys and Jimi Hendrix. I have the coolest story from when I was in high school. It was when tape machines were around I had two tapes; Metallica's The Black Album was one and the other was Beach Boys. When my friends would call I would play Metallica and as soon as they hung up, I'd be playing God Only Knows by Beach Boys. [laughs]"

What song will get you up on the dancefloor no matter what?

Nick: "Teardrops by Womack & Womack, Fingers Inc.'s Can You Feel It?, DJ Derrick Carter's Boompty Boomp, LFO's LFO. If I Ever Feel Better by Phoenix. F**k, there's a lot actually." 

Luke: "It's gotta be Kiss by Prince or Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel. Our live band are from the group Gomez and have worked with Peter G quite a bit."

MORE: Empire of the Sun on new album Two Vines: "Buddha was revealed to me in a deep meditative state"

What track is your ultimate guilty pleasure?

Luke: "One song me and my daughter sing together at Christmas time is Close to You by The Carpenters. It's a little bit of a guilty pleasure, not something you would put on around really alpha males [laughs]. Another would be Say It Again by Frances. Amazing topline. I was saying before that Taylor Swift should do this song. It should have been a hit." 

Nick: "It's that one from Silence of the Lambs. Goodbye Horses by Garvey. Not the most uplifting but a fantastic film." 

What is a song that reminds you of your first love?

Nick: Mine would be Disorder by Joy Division. You could say it was a tumultuous relationship." 

Luke: "It would have to Carole King's So Far Away. I fell in love with this Norwegian girl in Perth and the she went back to Norway, pretty much the furthest place away from Perth! I actually saw her when we toured in Kristiansand. It's always interesting when you catch up again. She has a baby now." 

What was the first song you ever wrote?

Nick: "The first song I ever wrote was with Peter [Mayes, Nick's partner in the band PNAU] and we were in high school. We were about 14 or 15 and it was called Luna. We were just learning how to use synths and things and it was done on one of those really bad workstations. I'm sure it was really bad.

"We were going to acid parties at the time and wanted to recreate what we had heard booming on a Saturday night. There was no internet so we didn't know how that shit was made. There was a lab in school and they had some of these workstations with really shitty keyboards. I don't have a copy of it and it is probably for the best..." 

Luke: "What keeps coming back to me was a song called Sunglass Man whose job was going around the city selling sunglasses. Me and my brother were working down by the river in Perth, hiring out bikes and canoes. It was when Oasis had just hit. The chorus was: 'It's a long way to the top when you're drifting. It's gonna be one of those days.'"  

MORE: Empire of the Sun's full UK chart history

What is your favourite Empire of the Sun track?

Nick: "I'm going to have to say To Her Door. We have certain songs that we keep creating, that fit into a certain family of songs. There's Country on the first album, I'll Be Around on the second and now To Her Door. It feels like the same sentiment to me.

Luke: "I would say the same as well. Working with Lindsey Buckingham, it happened so naturally. It was like we had planted a seed and watched a tree grow within six hours.  

People might be surprised to learn that you listen to...

Luke: "Country music."

Nick: "I still listen to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. Actually, I try and spend as much time as possible listening to the wind. I have a garden where I live and there's lots of bamboo. You always hear the sound of it. Also living in LA you have the sound of sirens but I try and block them out."

The weirdest music on your playlist is...

Luke: It would have to be Deconstruction from Goodbye to Language by Daniel Lanois. It's amazing. Pedal steel dreams." 

Nick: "F**k we've got plenty of contenders for that! [laughs] Mine is maybe Moses Sumney - Man on the Moon. Other than Luke, he's got the greatest voice."

Which artists are you currently listening to?

Luke: "I'm going through a bit of a Sufjan Stevens phase. I'm playing lots of Sigur Rós too after seeing them the other day."  

Nick: "Majical Cloudz. But they just broke up. They have an amazing song called Bugs Don't Buzz. I think in 20 years, they'll be regarded like Joy Division. I'm listening to a lot of Dudley Moore Trio recently too. I think he is such an underrated musician. My Mum actually knocked him over in the airport accidentally! She's a 6 foot blonde and then she turned around and Dudley was on the ground." 

What song do you want played at your funeral?

Luke: "Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka. I've always thought about that."

Nick: "Mine would be Nina Simone - The Twelfth of Never."  

Empire of the Sun's third studio album Two Vines is released October 28.