In some ways, Empire of the Sun are better known for their flamboyance than they are for their music. But Luke Steele, one half of the pop outfit he founded nine years ago with Nick Littlemore, is working to change that. As part of their plan for world domination, Ice on the Dune, the duo’s forthcoming album, was recorded in the States. The hope was that a U.S. Top 40 sound would somehow inspire theirs, bringing fame and fortune.
“My daughter is Katy Perry‘s biggest fan, and on this album we just pursued that American sound,” he said. “It’s big, it’s bright, it’s shiny. It’s classic American pop with the three choruses just taking off.”
If first cut “Alive” is any indication, Ice on the Dune will have more mainstream appeal than their debut, Walking on a Dream. Though that album sold well by Australian standards – one million copies worldwide – Empire mostly stayed under America’s radar. The Star Wars meets Dune aesthetic seemed like an overwrought imitation of whatever MGMT was doing, and while the title track was undeniably catchy, Empire remained “those guys who made that really cool song,” and not much more. Could Ice on the Dune be their silver bullet?
“With the songs [on this record], we wanted them to be like those American hits, to get to the point, to make them as big as they can be,” Steele said. “From the start, every artist wants to be relevant. Australia really bows down to America, you know? We want to get on American radio.”
For him, the timing is right to take the act farther. “I think everything you do in your life is just a natural progression,” he said. “You want your dreams to be bigger.”
In a way, Steele has already done so, having worked with Beyoncé on “Rather Die Young,” a catchy slow-burner off last year’s 4. Steele wouldn’t confirm nor deny whether he’s working on similarly high-caliber projects, but it’s safe to assume he’ll revive the Sleepy Jackson, his alternative rock group, at some point. “They are my band,” he joked when asked about their status.
Up next on Steele’s agenda is hitting the road for Empire’s tour, which will take the composers from New York to the South to the Midwest and back through Australia. They’re slated to play New York’s Electric Daisy Carnival May 17th, and “everyone’s minds are going to melt,” assures Steele. “It’s going to be like an international violence,” though he wouldn’t say what to expect. “We can’t give it away, you’ll just have to see.”
Ice on the Dune is out June 18th via EMI.