Empire of the Sun (band)

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This article is about the band. For other uses, see Empire of the Sun (disambiguation).
Empire of the Sun
Empire of the Sun 2013-05-31.jpg
Empire of the Sun front-man Luke Steele performing at the Vivid Festival at Sydney Opera House in 2013.
Background information
Origin Sydney, Australia
Genres Electronic, synthpop,[1] electronic rock, new wave, EDM, alternative rock, glam pop
Years active 2007–present
Labels Capitol, Virgin, Astralwerks, Virgin EMI
Associated acts The Sleepy Jackson, Pnau, Teenager, WZRD, Daniel Johns, Icona Pop
Website www.empireofthesun.com
Members Luke Steele
Nick Littlemore

Empire of the Sun is an Australian electronic music duo from Sydney, formed in 2007.[2] The duo consists of longtime collaborators Luke Steele of alternative rock act The Sleepy Jackson, and Nick Littlemore of electronic dance outfit Pnau.[3][4]

Their award-winning, 2008 debut album Walking on a Dream brought the duo international success and has been certified double platinum in Australia and gold in the United Kingdom (UK).[5][6] The album provided a number of internationally charting singles including "Walking on a Dream" which peaked at number ten on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart and reached number sixty four on the UK Singles Chart, and "We Are the People", which peaked at number fourteen on the UK Singles Chart.[7]

The duo's second album Ice on the Dune was released on 14 June 2013 in Australia,[8] and was preceded by lead single "Alive" on 16 April.[9] They are currently signed to EMI Australia and Virgin UK.[10] A live-band, fronted by Steel has performed internationally.


2007–2008: Formation[edit]

Luke Steele (left) and Nick Littlemore (right), the members of Empire of the Sun

Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore met in 2000 after being introduced by Steele's A&R executive, Simon Moor,[11] in a bar in Sydney.[12] Both were at the time signed to EMI and had already been working on their own independent projects.[2] Although they did not initially capitalize on their instant creative chemistry, the two consistently collaborated over the years. Littlemore helped write the song "Tell the Girls That I'm Not Hangin' Out",[13] which appeared on The Sleepy Jackson's 2003 debut album, Lovers,[11] and Steele had artistic input in Littlemore's 2006 art-rock project Teenager.[14]

The two reunited for two songs for the album Pnau released in 2007 co-writing "Freedom" and the opener "With You Forever". Littlemore sent a demo of "With You Forever" to Steele who supplied a vocal. This prompted a change in direction for the band who began to craft a work more vocally-centered album featuring guest performances.[15] A track-by-track analysis of the album Pnau by Nick and Pete reveals that writing "With You Forever" with Luke Steele was such an exciting experience that it directly inspired the two to begin work on another project together.[16] Littlemore said, "We fell in love with music again with [With You Forever]; I think this is [Pnau's] first great song." The release of Pnau unexpectedly brought acclaim from Elton John,[17][18][19] who, after befriending Littlemore, became involved in some of the early planning of Nick and Luke's new project.[20]

"Anything is inspiration. The vision of this band, it's built on imagination, so it comes from studying the samurais in art school to digital graphics, to topography, to filming under the ocean, to oil paintings, anything really."

— Steele on the duo's inspirations in 2013[21]

The new project began to develop into what would later become Empire of the Sun (under the working title of "Steelemore").[22] As Steele was living in Perth at the time and Littlemore was in Sydney for the next few months the pair independently continued to write songs for the project and organized meetings in Sydney where they decided on the album's musical direction and style.[12] Eventually the pair went into the studio with Peter Mayes to record the final material, all of which was entirely produced by themselves.[2]

Although the name of the project has been attributed to the 1984 novel of the same name by J. G. Ballard,[23] Littlemore denies this and offers an explanation, saying, "the name comes more from the idea of (and you'll see this in the ongoing videos) the fact that we're traveling around the world going to all the places of empires of the civilization 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."[12]

2008: Walking on a Dream[edit]

Empire of the Sun performing at Wellington Square in 2009.

After several months of consulting on the material for the album, Littlemore and Steele went into the studio to record their debut album. Titled Walking on a Dream, the album was first released on 3 October 2008. Prior to its release six tracks were put up on the social networking site Myspace for fans to listen to.[24]

The album debuted at number eight on the ARIA Albums Charts and eventually peaked at number six.[25] The album's lead single, "Walking on a Dream", was released digitally on 30 August 2008.[26] The single received airtime from many Australian radio stations and has since reached number ten on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart.[27] The second single released from the album, titled "We Are the People", peaked at number twenty-four in Australia.[27] In September 2009 this song was used in an American advertising campaign for Vizio televisions. The third single, "Standing on the Shore" was released on iTunes on 12 June and for general release on 23 June. The video was filmed in Lancelin in April 2009.[28] "Without You" was released as the album's fourth single.

In September 2009 Luke Steele revealed that his Empire of the Sun bandmate Nick Littlemore had been missing for five months and that he would also be performing a series of upcoming shows in the duo's native Australia solo. Asked whether Littlemore was still a member of the band, Steele said: "I really don't know, hey, he's just left me with the baby."[11] However on 26 November 2010, Littlemore, in an interview with internet music site The Music Network, said, "I talked to Luke (Steele) the other day; we're doing a new record. We've already written a couple of tunes. You know when it's right I guess."[29]

In October 2010, "We Are the People" was used as the soundtrack for a Vodafone TV commercial in Germany and subsequently topped the German Singles Chart.[30] "We Are the People" was also included on the soundtrack for the 2011 film The Roommate, and "Walking on a Dream" is included on the soundtrack for the 2011 film Hall Pass.[citation needed]

2013: Ice on the Dune[edit]

On 11 March 2013, Empire of the Sun revealed the debut trailer for their upcoming second album Ice on the Dune—the trailer was produced by Kelvin Optical, Inc., a production division of Bad Robot, and was directed by J.D. Dillard. The album's release date was revealed as June 2013.[31] The newly launched website for the album featured placeholder links for upcoming content, with dates allocated for 15 March, 22 March, 29 March, and 8 April.[32]

The lead single "Alive" was released on 16 April[9] and on the same day, the album was made available for pre-order on iTunes. The music video for "Alive", also produced by Kelvin Optical, Inc., was directed by Charles Scott and Alex Theurer.[citation needed] On 18 April 2013, the Farrelly brothers announced that the band would score Dumb and Dumber To.[33]

Ice on the Dune was released on 14 June 2013 in Australia[8] and New Zealand.[8] Following the release of the second album, Littlemore revealed details about a potential film in a June 2013 interview:

We've written a treatment for [a film] but I guess we're just waiting for that person with a sackful of money to come along and pay for it. We hope there'll be a film somewhere down the road and a Vegas-style show. We want to do it properly with animals and everything. We've always wanted elephants and tigers.[34]

Steele received global media attention following an interview he completed with music publication NME in August 2013 at the Sziget Festival in Budapest. During the interview, Steele compared Ice on the Dune with Daft Punk's 2013 album release Random Access Memories, stating: "They had a great marketing campaign, but we’ve got better songs."[35]

"Alive" was used in the introduction video for Google I/O 2013. It was also played within the introduction video of the new Yahoo! logo on 5 September 2013, played over the end credits of the 2013 film Paranoia, and featured in the movie Dumb and Dumber To. "Alive" was also a featured song on the soundtrack of EA Sport's FIFA 14.[citation needed]


In December 2014, Empire of the Sun released two songs, "Tonight" and "Wandering Star", which were written for the Farrelly brothers film, Dumb and Dumber To.

On March 21, 2015, the duo performed at the 2015 Cumbre Tajín in Veracruz, Mexico.


On 22 July 2009, Empire of the Sun made a special broadcast in conjunction with the solar eclipse that occurred on that day, which included a sneak preview of their forthcoming performance at the Parklife Festival in Australia. Luke Steele performed "Breakdown" and "Swordfish Hotkiss Night".[36]

Contrary to previous suggestions that they would remain a studio band, Empire of the Sun performed live, alongside Lady Sovereign and La Roux, at Australia's Parklife Festival during September/October 2009.[37]

In July 2011, Littlemore announced that the band had gone into the studio at the end of June to begin working on a second Empire of the Sun album. In an interview with Confidential, he explained that he and Steele had not, as reported, fallen out, but that Littlemore had been heavily involved in writing music for Cirque du Soleil and Pnau and therefore unable to tour. However, while playing a track from the new album to the interviewer, Littlemore confirmed he would "come on board this time, actually come together and tour."[38]

Awards and accolades[edit]

In the UK, they gained fourth position on the BBC News website's Sound of 2009 poll.[39]

Empire of the Sun appeared for the first time in a Triple J Hottest 100 with two entries in the 2008 countdown: "We Are the People" at number sixty-eight and "Walking on a Dream" at number four.[40]

"Walking on a Dream" was nominated as "Song of the Year" at the 2009 Australian Performing Rights Association awards.

Empire of the Sun were nominated for six awards at the 2009 ARIA Awards. They were nominated for Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Best Group, Best Pop Release, Best Selling Single and Best Selling Album, winning all but the Best Selling awards. Steele also performed "Walking on a Dream" at the event. Empire of the Sun also received an additional five nominations—Producer of the Year, Engineer of the Year, Best Video and Best Cover Art—as part of the Artisan Awards section of the 2009 ARIA Awards, and won all but two of these awards.[citation needed]


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications

Walking on a Dream 6 22 27 60 31 17 70 37 15 19
Ice on the Dune
  • Released: 14 June 2013
  • Label: Capitol
  • Formats: CD, digital download
3 37 40 26 34 26 53 16 7 24 20
Every Ocean Tells a Story[52]
  • Released: TBA
  • Label: Capitol
  • Formats: CD, digital download
To be released
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album

"Walking on a Dream" 2008 10 8 82 55 8 16 29 14 21 64
  • ARIA: 2× Platinum[54]
Walking on a Dream
"We Are the People" 24 20 1 23 19 20 14
"Standing on the Shore" 2009 63
"Without You"
"Half Mast (Slight Return)" 2010
"Alive" 2013 22 63 32 39 39 9 94 25 83 Ice on the Dune
"DNA" 76
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Title Year Notes A-side
"Breakdown" 2008 Available on iTunes Australia as an exclusive bonus album track.[59] N/A
"Etude" 2009 Available on Nokia Music Australia as an exclusive bonus album track.
"Romance to Me" Available as a free download for members of the official Empire of the Sun forum.[60] "We Are the People"
"Girl" Available on the deluxe 2-disc edition of Walking on a Dream, released on 20 November 2009. "Without You"

Other appearances[edit]

Title Year Album
"The Dream Time Machine" (WZRD featuring Empire of the Sun) 2012 WZRD


Title Year Artist
"Applause" 2013 Lady Gaga
"The Thrill" Wiz Khalifa

Music videos[edit]

Title Year Director(s) Notes
"Walking on a Dream" 2008 Josh Logue Filmed in Shanghai, China.
"We Are the People" Filmed at Mina, Nuevo León, and Xilitla, San Luis Potosí in Mexico.
"Standing on the Shore" 2009 Filmed at Lancelin, north of Perth, Australia.[2]
"Without You" Filmed at FOX Studios, Sydney, Australia.
"Half Mast (Slight Return)" 2010 Nash Edgerton Filmed in New York City, United States.
"Alive" 2013 Charles Scott and Alex Theurer Filmed at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, United States.
"DNA" Emmett Malloy Filmed in San Fernando Valley, California, United States.[61]
"Celebrate" 2015 Empire of the Sun

Awards and nominations[edit]

ARIA Awards[edit]

The ARIA Music Awards of 2009 nominations were announced on 8 October 2009.[62] Empire of the Sun received the most nominations of any artist,[63] with a total of eleven. The winners were announced on 26 November 2009 with Empire of the Sun winning in seven categories.

The nominations for the ARIA Music Awards of 2010 were announced on 28 September 2010 and the winners were announced on 7 November 2010.[64] The final nominees for the ARIA Music Awards of 2013 were announced on 14 October, as well as the nominees and winners for the Fine Arts Awards and Artisan Awards.[65]

Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2009 Walking on a Dream Album of the Year Won
Highest Selling Album Nominated
"Walking on a Dream" Single of the Year Won
Highest Selling Single Nominated
Best Video (directed by Josh Logue for Mathematics www.xy-1.com) Won
"We Are the People" Nominated
Empire of the Sun Best Group Won
Best Pop Release Won
Empire of the Sun and Donnie Sloan with Peter Mayes Producer of the Year Won
Aaron Hayward and David Homer from Debaser Best Cover Art Won
Peter Mayes Engineer of the Year Nominated
2010 "Half Mast" Best Pop Release Nominated
Walking on a Dream Most Popular Australian Album (Fan-Voted) Nominated
Accidents Happen soundtrack – Luke Steele, Empire of the Sun and The Middle East Best Original Soundtrack/Cast/Show Album (Fine Arts Award) Nominated
2013 Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune Best Group Nominated
Best Pop Release Nominated
Aaron Hayward and David Homer (Debaser) Best Cover Art Won
Peter Mayes Engineer of the Year Nominated
Luke Steele, Nick Littlemore, Peter Mayes and Jonathan Sloan Producer of the Year Nominated

APRA Awards[edit]

The APRA Awards are presented annually from 1982 by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).[66]

Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2010 "We Are the People" Song of the Year[67] Nominated
Luke Steele, Jonathon Sloan, Nick Littlemore – Empire of the Sun Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year[68] Won
"Walking on a Dream" Dance Work of the Year[68] Won

Live performance band members[edit]

  • Luke Steele – lead vocals, guitars, keyboards
  • Nick Littlemore - vocals, keyboards
  • Surahn Sidhu – guitar, backing vocals, percussion (2008 - 2015)
  • Tony Mitolo – drums (2008 - 2015)


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External links[edit]