Well, it started like a normal request.
In anticipation of the new album, ‘Two Vines’ (Out October 28 via Universal), we reached out to EMPIRE OF THE SUN’s inimitable Luke Steele. We offered him a chance to reflect on the inspiration for some of their earlier songs and on the general scope and trajectory of the ensemble and their overwhelming success; especially on the inevitable ‘Walking On A Dream’
What we got back was something else entirely. In the essay recorded below, Emperor Steele provides both a glimpse of moment, and a survey of a lifetime. While abstract in its nature, there seems a deliberate coyness in the evasion of the discussion of the music.
This story therefore, might appear as an allegory for a variety musical themes: the ephemerality of fame, pressure to capture the essence of past success, how to stay true to oneself as an artist. He talks about truth getting in the way of art, so perhaps this offering is something outside of ‘truth’, which he feels will offer a more complete understanding. It is compelling to try to read between the lines and attach some kind of moral significance to the music that inspires us to move in such a primal way. The result of this kind of reading may be ultimately inconsequential, but we offer it here for the reader to develop their own story, interpret their own truth, and most importantly, walk on their own dream. (NBHAP’s Jesse Freedman)
Often, it can be said that truth gets in the way of art; that the way an artist perceives the world is incorrect. For example, if an artist were to witness a crime, she or he wouldn’t be a good witness. I have been fortunate enough, a few times in my life, to be struck by something out of the ordinary. I do not wish to take credit for these moments and though I’ve tried in vain, I’ve never been able to repeat them. I’ve seen psychics, mystics, shamans, and many others in an attempt to bring on visionary experiences, but truly these must come when they choose to. The story behind the songs are vague at best in my recollection. Whilst I could honestly tell you what I believe to be the truth, it’s not in my best interest to do so. I would prefer instead to tell you a different story. What follows is an account of mine which I believe to be true but other witness’s versions vary immensely.
Once I caught a flight domestically whilst I was on tour. It was the afternoon and the sunlight bled through the window. I was hungover. Remembering it now, I had gone on after the concert and drunk well into the a.m. Now sedated on over-the-counters I sat huddled against the muggy window of seat 16J, sweating a little as often happens when I’m mid-flight. Those micro sweats like pin pricks all over my body. My head still waiting for the second wave of codeine to take its gooey hold. I surely smelt of last nights umpteenth cigarette; that all too familiar haze. Whilst I sat there slouching low and useless, just behind me and to the left, in 18B, an entirely different journey was taking place …………..
The story of Eliot Coleman
Fascinated by death – the lifelessness of it – escaping its inner mechanism; passing sweetly after trauma like smoke up the side of a building. Fogged on a cold day. Ambling like a spy in a dusty trench coat, the passenger in seat 18B left this earth. It was a flight like any other: that same daily struggle and routine. Traveling alone never gets easy, but there’s a way about it; a kinship like a second skin albeit a dirty one. Like unwashed thrift clothes. Time is an elusive mistress. Something we let slide so easily and then revisit. Try as we might our whole lives; to conjure, capture, and remember. On this particular day Eliot Coleman in seat 18B was idle. Quietly amused, he felt like a tourist in his body. Youth and strength had vacated long ago. He now felt weightless, wrapped in loose track pants and soft shoes – the kind they sell in strip malls. The colors always undecided, halfway between beige and grey or brown. Though Eliot had lost his youth, he was still able and independent. It was he who had dressed himself earlier before catching the yellow cab in the heat of the morning. A man of many talents yet master of none. A notable batsman whom it was said on a number of occasions could have ‘gone on.’ Yet life took over: or indifference. He’d had many jobs but never a career. Some women but little love. On one awkward night he’d lay down with a women some years his senior: she, a relative novice, determined. He, a lonely hunter on a one night stand. The result had been a child, a boy, whom he’d hardly known.
Capote talks of the stillness of other rooms, like my grandmothers house, the night of her husband’s death. She’d woken and heard his presence. Many have said they feel a presence – not my gran. She had been woken by the sound of cluttering. The shaking of things – her precious things – that which had annoyed her. For it was a regular occurrence during his life. He was a nervous man; an anxious, creative, driven, and misunderstood man who suffered the curse of poor schooling. Those rare trinkets that she’d collected over the years, some as old as her great great grandmother began to shuffle in the tall glass cabinet. The good silver, the memorial plates, wedding gifts still held close to her heart some fifty years later as well as countless artifacts from friends lovers and family. She knew and my mother too that it was him – that it was his ‘checking on her.’ The final farewell. But I talk of this hushed state. The other times when there is no sound, no movement at all, even on those hot days when the air is like butter or Pouilly-Fumé. A yellowy sickness, when nothing moves. Like the dead sea. Inertia. A slow train at a closed down station.
Old man pisses himself and dies cold on a hot plane. The stewards play it down. The life of a simple man is swept away. The horror of death barely visible on his face underneath two complimentary blankets. The egg salad sandwich – half eaten – remains more in the mind of the first aid paramedic than the life of Eliot Coleman. An extraordinarily ordinary man. Find something of grace in him. Of purity, selflessness, or peace. In those dying moments, even humor – that rare freely open commodity – exists in all of us. He in death becomes what he never could in life: still. Once described by a girl as a shaky lover. Something he never forgot.
Written by Luke Steele