Luke Steele (musician)
Steele fronts Empire of the Sun's performance at Wellington Square in 2008.
|Birth name||Luke James Steele|
13 December 1979 |
Perth, Western Australia
|Occupations||Musician, singer, songwriter, guitarist|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano, slide guitar, saxophone, synthesiser, bass, mandolin, lute, percussion|
Universal Music Group
|Associated acts||The Sleepy Jackson
Empire of the Sun
Jay-Z, Kanye West, Usher
Luke James Steele (born 13 December 1979), is an Australian singer-songwriter. Steele is the vocalist and primary songwriter of alternative rock band The Sleepy Jackson, and is also a member of electronic music duo, Empire of the Sun.
The Sleepy Jackson (1998–present)
The Sleepy Jackson formed in 1998 with a lineup featuring Luke Steele (vocals and guitars), Jesse Steele (drums), and Matthew O'Connor (bass). This lineup recorded a self-titled debut EP and a subsequent single, entitled "Miniskirt"—both recordings were independently released. In 2000, due to non-musical commitments, Jesse left the band following advice from his brother, Luke.
The void created by Jesse Steele's departure was filled by Paul Keenan (who later drummed with Eskimo Joe at their live performances). Along with numerous shows in its hometown of Perth, in late 2000 The Sleepy Jackson toured nationally with Jebediah. In March 2001, on the eve of the band's deal with EMI Records, the band toured with Magic Dirt and Motor Ace, with the addition of Ronan Charles on keyboards. Five weeks into the tour, with the band broke, exhausted, and sleeping in caravan parks, rather than enjoying the luxuries its touring partners were enjoying, O'Connor, Keenan and Charles quit, leaving Steele to complete the tour on his own. O'Connor passed away soon after, due to a workplace accident.
Upon signing to EMI, pressure was soon placed on Steele to produce a recording. The result was the 2001 EP titled Caffeine in the Morning Sun, which Steele recorded in Sydney with a collection of session musicians. In addition to playing solo, Steele recruited drummer Malcolm Clark into The Sleepy Jackson fold and, when some serious touring was required in support of the release, the services of Justin Burford (guitar) and Rodney Aravena (bass) were enlisted. In addition to The Sleepy Jackson, Steele's three colleagues were also playing around their hometown with Jonathon Dudman, under the name End of Fashion.
The Sleepy Jackson relocated to Sydney where they recorded another EP, Let Your Love Be Love, in late 2002. Songs from this EP and Caffeine in the Morning Sun were compiled together to form a self-titled mini-album for release in the UK market in February 2003. A period of extensive touring quickly followed, which saw the band playing in Australia, the United States, and Europe. The latter brought the band some very enthusiastic attention from UK music magazine NME. In between live appearances, The Sleepy Jackson worked on recordings that were to become their debut album Lovers. During a series of UK appearances in 2003, Burford and Aravena left the band. With a support slot for Silverchair's Diorama tour looming back in Australia, replacements were quickly sought. Clarke ironically called upon the only other End of Fashion member not previously part of The Sleepy Jackson, Jonathon Dudman.
The Sleepy Jackson released their second full-length album Personality – One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird in Australia on 1 July 2006, where it debuted at #10 on the ARIA Albums Charts the following week. Later that July, the album was nominated for a J Award by Australian radio station Triple J. With Personality's predecessor Lovers also receiving generous support from both critics and radio alike, the band supported the new album's worldwide release with a series of live appearances in select markets. Joining Steele and Clark were Dave Symes and Felix Bloxsom, who both worked on the album, and Lee Jones who was formerly in the Perth band Spencer Tracy. Bloxsom has since been replaced by Luke's brother Jake and Luke's wife Jodi, a.k.a. "Snappy Dolphin", which also brought a change from organic percussion instruments to computer samples backing the band.
In 2007, The Sleepy Jackson performed at the 2007 Big Day Out, the Southbound festival, the Falls Festival and the St. Jerome's Laneway festivals in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Also in 2007, Luke provided slide guitar to the song "Waiting All Day" by Silverchair on their fifth album Young Modern. Luke also appeared on the Pnau single "With You Forever", leading Nick Littlemore to state on Pnau's website "...working with Luke Steele... it was amazing, that inspired [me] to work on a separate project with him all together. It's another album we're doing." Steele and Littlemore subsequently formed the electroacoustic pop outfit Empire of the Sun in 2008.
The Sleepy Jackson are heading back into the studio to record their third album, which is still yet to receive an official release date.
Empire of the Sun (2007–present)
Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore met in 2000 after being introduced by Steele's A&R executive, Simon Moor, in a bar in Sydney. Both were at the time signed to EMI and had already been working on their own independent projects, however they instantly became friends and almost immediately decided to begin a collaborative music project together. Their first collaboration was "Tell the Girls That I'm Not Hangin' Out", which appeared on The Sleepy Jackson's 2003 debut album, Lovers. The pair only decided to get serious about making an album in 2004 when Steele went to Littlemore's studio north of Sydney and began writing material together.
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 organised meetings in Sydney where they decided on the album's musical direction and style. Eventually the pair went into the studio with Peter Mayes to record the final material, all of which was entirely produced by themselves.
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 released on 4 October 2008. Prior to its release six tracks were put up on the social networking site MySpace for fans to see.
The album debuted at number eight on the Australian ARIA Albums Chart and eventually peaked at number six. Their first single titled "Walking on a Dream" was released digitally on 30 August 2008. The single received airplay from many Australian radio stations and reached #10 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart, breaking the record for the longest time taken for a single to reach the top 10. It has also been released as a free single on 21 April 2009. The second single released off the album, entitled "We Are the People", peaked at number twenty-four on the ARIA Charts. In September 2009 the 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. It was then announced that "Without You" would be the 4th single for Empire of the Sun. Remixed for single release, the video was filmed in FOX Studios in Sydney, Australia and gained positive responses due to its changed tempo and emotion. The single was released in late September.
Critical response to the album has been mixed, generating a score of 60 on the review aggregator Metacritic. Martin Robinson in his review for NME described their debut as "silly but their songs demand to be taken seriously, just like Prince, Ultravox and Bowie. And yes, they're like MGMT – in that they're great." Under the Radar also rated it favourably describing it as "a highly visual experience".
However some critics were less satisfied with the pair's debut. Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian rated it 3 out of 5 stars, applauding the duo's unpredictability, but wished "they would calm down a bit". Popmatters were also underwhelmed by the album, claiming "Unfortunately, despite the well developed '80s image, the music emulated is not anything worth reviving."
The duo are set to release their second album, Ice on the Dune, in June 2013. Its release was preceded by a trailer directed by J. D. Dillard of Kelvin Optical, Inc. (a division of J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions). Lead single "Alive" was released on 16 April 2013.
Steele is a member of a musical family. Steele's father, Rick, is a blues guitarist and harmonica player, Steele's sister, Katy, is the vocalist of Perth indie rock band Little Birdy and Steele's brother Jake, who joined The Sleepy Jackson in 2008 playing computer samples, and played keyboards for the now defunct Perth band, Injured Ninja. Steele's other brother Jesse was an original member of The Sleepy Jackson.
In 2006 Steele became engaged to a magazine editor, Jodi (aka "Snappy Dolphin"), who also joined The Sleepy Jackson for the band's 2008 national tour. In October 2008, the couple had their first child, a daughter named Sunny Tiger.
Steele cites his musical influences as including The Cure, Elliott Smith, Paul McCartney, Michael Dempsey, John Lennon, Robert Smith, Brian Wilson, Carole King, James Taylor, The Four Freshmen, Kool And The Gang, Roger O'Donnell and Cole Porter.
Luke has collaborated in a number of projects and with other bands. The first notable collaboration was the band Nations by the River which he formed with Ohad Rein (Old Man River), Edo Kahn and Dove Kahn (both from Gelbison) during a Gelbison/Sleepy Jackson tour in 2003. They released an album, Holes in the Valley, on 7 June 2004 on EMI.
Steele's father, Rick, is also a musician and father and son collaborated on an album released in February 2008, titled Through My Eyes.
In 2008, Steele and Pnau's Nick Littlemore collaborated on a side project, Empire of the Sun, releasing the collobration's first single, "Walking on a Dream" digitally on 30 August 2008. The album, Walking on a Dream was released on 4 October 2008. Two further singles, "We are the People" and "Standing on the Shore" were released in September 2008 and June 2009. The B-side of the latter, "The Art of Driving" features Steele's wife Jodi on vocals.
Steele also spent time in 2008 recording with Daniel Johns of Silverchair at Johns' home studio in Newcastle. Although no plans have been made to release the recordings, it was revealed that the collaboration was named 'Hathaway/Palmer'.
It kind of started out a White Album thing because we don't have a band, it was acoustics. And from there it kind of went a bit haywire. It's pretty pop. I guess it's quite low down, there's country songs...—Luke Steele
In August 2008, Steele embarked on his first national solo tour, performing (in an intimate acoustic guitar mode) songs from both The Sleepy Jackson albums Lovers and Personality – One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird, as well as a selection of new songs from his current projects.
In an interview with Sunday Times, Steele described his plans for the future.
I've definitely got a lot of recording planned for this year . I've got about 75 sketches of songs which I think are pretty cool. I need to get more serious with recording. A Sleepies within the year and an Empire record after that. At 60, I want to look back at a solid body of work. You want to be remembered as an inspirational artist rather than someone who pumps out pop things to get on the next magazine cover.—Luke Steele
The Sleepy Jackson
- Lovers (30 June 2003) #21 Australia, #69 UK, #117 France
- Personality – One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird (1 July 2006) #10 Australia, #42 Sweden
- From Lovers:
- "Vampire Racecourse" (7 July 2003) #71 Australia, #50 UK
- "Good Dancers" (13 October 2003 – UK; 24 November 2003 – Australia) #71 UK
- "Come to This" (23 February 2004)
- "This Day"/"Come to This" (22 March 2004 – Australia)
- From Personality – One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird:
- The Sleepy Jackson EP (a.k.a. Glasshouses) (PMR 206C) (2000)
- Miniskirt (2000)
- Caffeine in the Morning Sun (12 November 2001)
- Let Your Love Be Love (4 November 2002)
- The Sleepy Jackson (self-titled EP; also released on double 10" vinyl as "Heart") (24 February 2003)
With Empire of the Sun
- Walking on a Dream (2008) #6 Australia, #8 UK
Awards and nominations
Empire of the Sun
The ARIA Music Awards of 2009 nominations were announced on 8 October 2009. Empire of the Sun received the most nominations of any artist, with a total of eleven. The winners were announced on 26 November 2009 with Empire of the Sun winning in seven categories.
|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|
|2010||"We Are the People"||Song of the Year||Nominated|
|Luke Steele, Jonathon Sloan, Nick Littlemore – Empire of the Sun||Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year||Won|
|"Walking on a Dream"||Dance Work of the Year||Won|
The Sleepy Jackson
- 2003 ARIA Award for Album of the Year (Lovers)
- 2003 ARIA Award for Best New Artist – Single ("Vampire Racecourse")
- 2003 ARIA Award for Best New Artist – Album (Lovers)
- 2003 ARIA Award for Best Rock Album (Lovers)
- 2003 WAMI Award for Most Popular Local Original Single or EP (Let Your Love Be Love)
- 2003 ARIA Award for Producer of the Year (Jonathan Burnside for Lovers)
- 2006 ARIA Award for Album of the Year (Personality – One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird)
- 2006 ARIA Award for Best Cover Art (Luke Steele and James Bellesini at "Love Police" for Personality)
- 2006 J Award (Personality – One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird)
- Collins, Simon (26 September 2009). "Man of Steele". The West Australian (West Australian Newspapers Ltd).
- "Empire Of The Sun: Interview". RTE. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 14 July 2009.
- "Empire Of The Sun: Interview". Prefix Magazine. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
- Kachor, Kate (29 September 2008). "Empire Of The Sun Release Tracks Online". elevenmagazine.com.au. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- "Empire Of The Sun - Walking On A Dream". acharts.us. 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- "Empire Of The Sun Biography". musichead.com.au. 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- "Empire Of The Sun - Walking On A Dream". acharts.us. 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- Empire of the Sun (2012). "Debut album". Empire of the Sun. Empire of the Sun. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- metacritic (2012). "Walking On A Dream - Empire Of The Sun". metacritic. CBS Interactive, Inc. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- "Review for Walking on a Dream". NME.
- "Review for Walking on a Dream on Metacritic".
- Lynskey, Dorian (13 February 2009). "Review for Walking on a Dream". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
- "Review for Walking on a Dream". popmatters.com.
- "Empire of the Sun Announce New LP, Share Epic Album Trailer". Pitchfork Media. 11 March 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
- "Empire Of The Sun To Release New Single ‘Alive’ Next Tuesday". Moshtix. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
- "Reach for the stars". The Age. 23 June 2006. Retrieved 20 September 2008.
- "Steele moving on". Perth Now (Sunday Times). 13 February 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2008.
- Smith, Aidan (23 July 2006). "World according to Luke". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 29 October 2008.
- Youngs, Ian (6 January 2009). "BBC Sound of 2009: Empire of the Sun". BBC News.
- Hanna, Jay (10 March 2007). "Steele moving on". Perth Now (Sunday Times). Retrieved 20 September 2008. More than one of
- Simon Collins (4 September 2008). "Smile...it’s Pnau". The West Australian. Retrieved 20 September 2008.[dead link]
- Jonathon Moran (15 June 2008). "Single Daniel Johns finds himself a duo". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2008.
- "Luke Steele talks up new project with Daniel Johns". Triple J. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2009.
- Kachor, Kate (8 July 2008). "Luke Steele names solo dates". Eleven magazine. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
- Hanna, Jay (21 February 2010). "Empire Building". STE (Sunday Times).
- 4 (Album notes). Beyoncé Knowles. Columbia Records. 2011. http://www.beyonceonline.com/us/albumcredit.
- ARIA Music Awards of 2009 - Winners & Nominees
- WALKING ON A DREAM WITH 11 ARIA NOMINATIONS! << Empire of the Sun
- ARIA Music Awards of 2010 - Winners & Nominees
- "APRA History". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 28 May 2010.
- "Nominations for Song of the Year - 2010". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 27 May 2010.
- "Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year - 2010". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 27 May 2010.
- "Dance Work of the Year – 2010". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 27 May 2010.