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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Empire of the Sun’s Luke Steel reveals he is an Enya fan

Empire of The Sun frontman Luke Steele talks about the Aussie duo’s rocky relationship and being a fan of the Irish musician.
Luke Steele, the frontman of Empire of the Sun. Photo by Cybele Malinowski
Luke Steele, the frontman of Empire of the Sun. Photo by Cybele Malinowski

It’s not the sort of revelation you would expect from your usual rock star.

Asked which artist he has been digging lately, the Empire of the Sun frontman Luke Steele is gushing with praise for his new musical crush.

“I have been getting into a lot of Enya lately,” he says. “I learnt this women actually went out and bought herself a castle in Ireland. That’s just amazing.”

Steele’s fascination with the ethereal Irish singer stems from his latest on-the-road habit: the hotel massage.

“That’s another thing I picked up lately, as I learnt it’s good for my voice,” he said. “Doing these massages, you get to listen to a lot of Enya. I love it because her music creates dreams. This is definitely the kind of music that I am into.”

It makes sense. Since emerging onto the scene in 2007, the Australian pop-rock duo have found success with a couple of albums that can be best described as lush and ­cinematic.

The UAE will get a taste of Empire of the Sun’s lavish sonic approach when they headline Sandance at Dubai’s Atlantis the Palm on Friday.

The band’s idiosyncratic approach to pop music comes from the duo’s differing musical backgrounds. Steele cut his teeth in rock and blues clubs, and also heads the successful Australian indie-group The Sleepy Jackson. His collaborator, the producer Nick Littlemore, also found success in his own right by being one half of the electronic-dance act Pnau.

After working together in each of their respective projects, the duo decided to band together to form Empire of the Sun – and Steele had big plans for the group from day one.

“I am Mr Ambitious and I can be impatient,” he explains. “I am the kind of artist where on the second day, I want the tree to grow and the food is served.”

That ambition was laid bare in their 2008 debut, Walking on a Dream. Powered by the title track, the album was a heady amalgam of styles ranging from Europop, rock and jungle, and came complete with gibberish lyrics and song titles (in Swordfish Hotkiss Night, for example: Hotdog belt, doughnut melt/Magpie knelt by itself).

Last year’s follow up, Ice on the Dune, found them changing gears by downscaling the sonic trimmings to focus on creating a lethal set of sunny pop tunes.

Steele is unapologetic when it comes to Empire of the Sun’s lack of subtlety. He explains – in his own way – that this is a badge of honour.

“It’s what makes us,” he says. “It’s the whole combination. You don’t look at your wife and say your freckles and dyed hair are too excessive. It’s perfect because that’s who she is.” A similar acceptance of the way things are also extends to Steele’s rocky relationship with Littlemore, a partnership he describes as “a paradox”.

With the latter more comfortable in the studio, it is up to Steele to take the band on tour to promote the albums. It’s probably best this way, Steele admits. “It’s dysfunctional, but it works.

• Empire of the Sun perform on Friday at 7.30pm at Sandance at Atlantis The Palm. Tickets start at Dh325. Doors open at 3pm

sasaeed@thenational.ae