Frontman Luke Steele Explains Empire of the Sun's Road to Success in 60 Seconds for this Installment of Made in a Minute
There are few axiomatic givens in life, but "never judging a book by its cover" is one entry-level truism that's always worth keeping in mind—especially when it comes to culture, when figuring out who enjoys what isn't as easy as stereotyping people by how they look. Just because someone has tattoo-covered arms and hair down to their butt doesn't mean they can't get sad to "Hold On, We're Going Home." Similarly, just because someone is swathed in gold chains and the shabbiest chic this side of Derelicte doesn't mean they're not harboring a secret metalhead past.
Sure, if you looked at Empire of the Sun frontman Luke Steele's art school haircut you wouldn't imagine that the band's glitzy, glammy affirmation pop shown off in shouting-at-the-sky songs like "Applause" and "We Are The People" was born from an early love of "Enter Sandman." But it's where he comes from, and it's proof of how we soak up and reinterpret cultural influences into something that's both unrecognizable and totally unique. "I was really into Metallica. Me and my friends would always have competitions of who could play the Kirk Hammett solos the fastest," Steele says while mimicking a machine-gun riff.
And how do you go from stenciling pentagrams in your Trapper Keeper to decking your face in makeup as you prance around a stage in full operatic costume? "I kind of look at it as like a library in your head. You listen to this and it's all interchangeable." It's our mind's natural shuffle function, taking us from one place to the next depending on what fits the mood.
Even Steele is astonished at the natural transition. In one moment, he's a pimple-faced teen debating ...And Justice For All vs. Master of Puppets—in the next, he's taking a deep breath before performing to thousands. "We did a French TV show which is kind of like the Letterman of France," he says, "and I'm looking at the guys and thinking 'How did we get here?'" But if you can remember how implausible it seems that you went from there to here—and that you did it anyway—then anything is possible.