Empire of the Sun star Nick Littlemore chats to Linda McGee about the group's new album and their plans to bring their play on tour.
Linda McGee: Nick, can we just go back to the start and talk to you a little bit about your initial meeting with Luke and how your collaboration came about after that?
Nick Littlemore: Sure, well Luke and I met back in the year 2000. A mutual friend of ours, who was Luke's A&R man at the time, introduced us. I had a kind of dance project at the time and Luke was just starting out as a kind of would-be country-folk psychedelic artist, or whatever you want to call it. And he suggested that we got together and we met and just clicked very quickly. We actually drove up to my studio, which is in the Bush north of Sydney, and we wrote about four or five songs... we had this very quick kind of energy and there was a real spirit to us working together.
LM: So right from your first meeting you knew that you were going to get on? You felt that spark of common interest straight-away, did you?
NL: Yeah, it was quite weird because I think we took it for granted at the time and our careers took different paths. I probably worked with 1,000 people between that initial meeting of Luke and then coming back and realising that what we had, and the lack of having to explain yourself to someone and just actually be, is incredibly rare - to have that connection. So I think it took us a while to realise.
LM: So was your musical collaboration something that was planned from the beginning or did it just evolve to a stage where you thought that it would be a waste not to work together?
NL: Yeah, I think it was a case of at the time we were both young and precocious, we had our own egos to battle with and I think as you go through your mid-twenties you kind of deal with a lot of that kind of c**p. And we needed to come through that to realise that it's what we wanted to do and what we were capable of doing was something greater than the sum of its parts.
LM: When you decided to work together, was it difficult to keep up the momentum for the project, when you were both working on separate solo projects and having to part company a lot?
NL: No, because we're still doing it now because Luke lives in Perth and I'm in Sydney, although I live in London. When we're apart from each other we both write a lot of music - I probably write five songs a week and I think Luke's about the same - and there's a lot of words, a lot of times - so when we get back together we just present each other with the very best thing that we've done. So we're really always trying to top each other and only really in the spirit of trying to make the best possible music/art, whatever you want to call it. So it's really great. It's great to impress each other like that.
LM: I've read that you guys discovered very quickly that you had a shared appreciation for the same movies. Was that how the name came about?
NL: Well, the name comes more from the idea of (and you'll see this in the ongoing videos) the fact that we're travelling around the world going to all the places of empires of the civilisation where the sun has been a theme of worship. It's not based on the Ballard novel nor the Spielberg film of the same name. We love the name because it is such a big thing, you know. We never wanted to be compared to a band. We've had bands before and we'll probably have bands again but this is not a band project. We're not going to stand up there with guitar, bass, drums and a keyboard player and just play our songs out in a merry Indie kind of way. It's a lot grander than that. It's more based on trying to make a civilisation, an empire... an army of colour, if you will.
LM: So you see the project more as a concept?
NL: Well, I just think it's a lot larger than music has allowed us to be in the last 10 or so years. It seems to have gotten so narrow, the vision for it, and I find that that's not inspirational to me.
LM: So you guys see yourselves as outside of the various genres of music and really don't want to be pigeonholed into a category I suppose...
NL: Yeah, and I think I look much more to art, you know, modern art - people like Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst. There are so many people that are practicing outside of these commercial areas but they're still doing very large scale things and affecting huge numbers of people, you know all over the world. It just seems infinitely more fascinating. As soon as you let your imagination go there is so many possibilities for us to change things and to challenge people's ideas and ideals of what music can be and how strong and how powerful it can be.
LM: In terms of touring and presenting your concept to people, how do you guys intend to promote this album?
NL: I've just finished the first draft of the script and it's going to be more of a play, for want of a better term. So at the moment we've got people working in China building inflatable sets and all kinds of things and we're working with some theatre directors in London, just to give us a leg-up if you like, because this is a new undertaking for us as well, the theatrical side of things, although I went to film school and Luke went to art school, so we have that kind of training within us - but it probably won't happen until August at least because these things tend to take a lot of organisation. Initially we wrote a narrative after writing about four or five songs and that narrative was meant to be a movie but as we kind of found out I guess, the way the industry is now we're not going to be able to get the £5m it would cost for the movie so... (laughs) we're gonna put it on stage and really spread the stories and lessons and things and we will eventually, obviously, get to the movie but it might be on our third record, you know.
LM: The stage project sounds really exciting. Are you really looking forward to getting out and seeing people's reactions in a live environment?
NL: I think it's gonna be really exciting. I've been touring with my band last year all around Europe and England, Great Britain, and it's great. I really enjoy being on stage. But I'm really going to enjoy doing something beyond just playing music or singing... the idea or really taking stories and I love the idea of silence in shows and I think in a play you have that ability to really connect with an audience on a one to one level, you know?
Empire of the Sun's debut album, 'Walking on a Dream', is out now.