They look like androids but sound like Prince, and spend their days travelling the world making mind-altering video clips. Empire Of The Sun are the southern hemisphere's weirdest new pop group.
Empire of the Sun video
"We're not in competition with other bands because we are not a band," says the whippet-thin man with ostrich-feather eye lashes and sleigh bells swinging between the folds in his tunic.
"We're anything we want it to be or anything anyone else wants it to be."
"It's never going to end - it's a never ending story," smiles the androgynous alien sporting an Afghan smock and ceremonial Chinese head dress. "It's not just the music, it's the whole empire."
Meet Empire Of The Sun, aka Australians Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore. Two multi-instrumental hippie androids embarking upon a global pop mission to collect love, peace, vibes, bongos, trinkets and "smells" from the four corners of the world and mesh them together into one inclusive spiritual, enlightening journey.
Envisage MGMT on a permanent gap year and you're somewhere close. But they're not just thinking about making the adventure their life. They're doing it.
"We're shooting different videos around the world so we meet these different cultures that are hundreds of thousands of years old," explains Luke outlining their costly enterprise. "In Shanghai we met the emperors, in Mexico we met the Aztecs - there's a lot to explore."
Indeed, next up they visit Iceland to meet "the Vikings" and Africa to get acquainted with "the nomads".
This isn't just about the air miles though. "Each place we go to we take knowledge to them and we take knowledge from them. Learning lessons along the way," says Nick.
There is, however, one more tangible aim. "We're basically doing a feature film. So each song has a different video shoot around the world and then…we find the right narrator for the empire and cut scenes in between," explains Luke.
Quite right - not a conventional band at all then.
Indeed, if the pair already look familiar beneath the lick of pale emulsion, pawn-shop leggings and talk of peace and understanding, that's because they are.
Luke and Nick in ceremonial dress before meeting Radio 1
Luke is lead singer of Australian rockers The Sleepy Jackson. He was previously seen firing band members in a way that would put Alan Sugar to shame in the early 2000s, and supporting the likes of The Thrills.
Although he'll admit, looking resigned, that the band are "still walking along", later on he says "they've had their day in the sun".
Conversely, Nick heads up Antipodean electro dance collective Pnau - currently touring the UK.
The practical answer would be that the pair met whilst producing and re-mixing material a decade ago. But…"we met on a plane," interjects Luke.
"Then the plane took off for some place in outer space and throughout the journey we surrendered to the fact that the pilot was going to another world."
Nick: "We knew it was going to re-link up at some point, whether that was in dreams or reality. Finally there was an opening in the sky and there was a chance to come together."
Since launching 12 months ago, Empire's colony is gathering pace quickly. Already released in their homeland, their debut record is due to hit shelves in the UK in February 2009.
"This has grown exponentially not just within Australia but around the world," smiles Nick. "These satellites of people having their own experiences with this song (first single, Walking On A Dream)."
Unsurprisingly, given its vivid portrayal of futuristic urban utopia and just plain weirdness, the clip for their first single Walking On A Dream has already taken on a life of its own.
When Luke says it's the Empire there is no limit to it. It's like the birth of a civilisation that's not based on money, greed and fear
Nick Littlemore, Empire Of The Sun
Nick: "Walking On A Dream is like Shanghai but clashed with somewhere from another planet or another time. Every song (of ours) has a place - whether or not we've found that place yet."
"We'd both flown in from other sides of the planet to meet in this hot, steamy, concrete animal of a city," he recalls of their visit to China. "We were just walking amongst the people praying with them. Kind of just screaming our joy out to the people."
Sadly, whilst plans for the Empire Of The Sun movie are firmly in place live dates won't be taking place for the moment. "That'll come in its due time," nods Luke.
"Maybe (you'll see us) at a press conference - Empire... demands a press conference"
"We want a proper '70s press conference with the analogue mics and everything," blurts Nick.
Wherever our next glimpse comes, be it Aztec Pyramid, Viking fjord or North African goat ranch - rest assured, it will be an eye opener.
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