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Empire of the Sun Say New Album Is 'On God's Timetable'

Luke Steele chats about Jim Carrey, rediscovering Seventies rock and being a professional hippie

Empire of the Sun's Luke Steele invites Rolling Stone to his dressing room before his performance in Dallas, Texas.
Chad Wadsworth
April 8, 2014 1:00 PM ET

After spending most of 2013's Ice on the Dunes exploring a world set in the 31st century, Empire of the Sun's Luke Steele is pretty done with the future. These days, he's all about the past

"It's funny, all the music we've been making at the moment really sounds like the 1970s," he tells Rolling Stone, a smile flickering across his face. "I'd say it's taking cues from 10cc, ELO — you know, all the greats."

See photos of Empire of the Sun's rock & roll spectacle in Dallas

We caught up with the singer in a suite at the Bud Light Hotel in Dallas hours before the band took the stage, though the frontman was already in full regalia — embroidered robe, gold chains, and eyeliner (he looked a bit like Ming the Merciless, to be honest) — and the air was heavy with Nag Champa smoke. It was a scene that recalled a dressing room from glam-rock days gone by, or perhaps a darkened dormitory, either of which seem to suit Steele these days.

"You always have to keep reminding yourself of when you're 15," he says. "I used to have this room in my parents' house, we'd call it the dungeon, and I'd sit there with my four-track for hours and hours. I realized pretty early on that in a day of working you can always accomplish some kind of art. I'd work on patents on about five to 10 different things at once, writing songs, playing songs, recording spoken word, making field recordings down at the beach. I'd build up catalogs. And that's what I'm doing now."

Steele didn't mention his Empire of the Sun partner Nick Littlemore much while discussing the new album but he downplayed the notion of a rift between the bandmates. "The band is so unpredictable. One person needs to be in New York where it's raining, someone else needs to be in California where it's sunny. We're kind of funny that way, and it's frustrating at times," he sighed. "But it's all really on God's timetable; it says in the Bible you need to be sharp, like a sword. You have to be ready. You've gotta be, like, a professional hippie. You need to make music because you love it."

Not surprisingly, Empire of the Sun don't even have a tentative date to begin recording their new album, though Steele said they've already got something in the neighborhood of 40 tracks to choose from. Of course, some of those may end up elsewhere — like on the soundtrack to the upcoming Farrelly brothers' flick Dumb and Dumber To, which EOTS are curating.

"I met Jim Carrey the other day! He was so cool," he laughed. "I gave him a copy of our last record on vinyl, and he freaked out. It was crazy, man. He was telling me how he'd just spent four grand at Amoeba Records. It was kind of inspiring, actually."

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Song Stories

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Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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