Homegrown electro legends PNAU have returned to Australia to play shows with Sir Elton John as well as headline a massive party in Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve. We caught up with Peter Mayes, one half of the duo, who spilled the beans on brand new Empire of the Sun and PNAU records, as well as what it’s like working with a knighted pop music icon.
Where are you and what are you wearing? Well, I am in the backyard of a friend’s house in Sydney and I’m wearing blue jeans that are getting really tight – I think they are shrinking. I’m wearing some Nikes and I’m in a plain old white t-shirt. I’m in my ‘working in the studio’ clothes (laughs). I could have dressed better but I just figured no one was going to be seeing me today. If I had of known you’d be asking, then maybe I would have dressed for the occasion (laughs). You’d be surprised how many artists have actually been in their underwear when we’ve asked that question. You know what, I cant lie. I’ve definitely done that before and probably done it a few times (laughs).
Congratulations for winning GQ’s band of the year award last month. Thanks man, it was a really fun night actually. What was so fun about it? Well, like any awards ceremony, they plug you with free alcohol, so that’s always fun (laughs). Usually the food at those kinds of things is pretty shit, but the food at that one was really good (laughs). But yeah, it’s an awards ceremony; you rock up, get drunk, eat food and make a fool of yourself. Well that’s what we do anyway (laughs).
How has it been working with Sir Elton John? What can I say? It’s been incredible. He found us about five years ago now in Sydney, and since then our life has completely changed. To have someone with that breadth of talent in your life is irreplaceable. He has been such a great help to us. He’s a guy that’s been through everything, you know? He’s always got great advice and he always knows what to do. He has helped us through so many difficult moments in our career. He is very open, loving, helpful and yeah, he’s an amazing person to know.
What’s it like touring with Elton? Do you find that you have to be a bit reserved when he’s around? No, not at all. He’s also a man that’s seen everything and he never makes you feel like you’re the kid and he’s the big superstar. He’s a really easy guy to hang out with.
It’s been well over a year since the release of Soft Universe. How did fans react to it differently than its predecessor? Umm, I think in general we didn’t really have the best reaction to that record. Some countries like Italy have really loved it though. But yeah, I think as artists it was something we really had to do. We’ve always been developing our skills as songwriters and we always wanted to do a melodic record where Nick (Littlemore) was out front, leading the vocals and the record. You have to keep building on what you know and learn along the way, otherwise you just get boring. So we feel that we need to do something different every time and the new record we are working on is different again.
A new PNAU record? Yeah man, it’s only early days as we have been really busy finishing the new Empire of the Sun record. That has pretty much been the focus of the last year, apart from doing the Elton vs. PNAU project of course, and we also did a lot of work on the Mika record earlier this year. We’ve been pretty busy (laughs). We did a few co-writes and co-production on that one for Mika. But yeah, Empire has been a hugely important project in our lives. Obviously the first Empire record was really successful all over the world, which is such an amazing thing to have as a creative person. So we have been taking this new Empire record really seriously and have been putting a lot of effort into it.
When will we start seeing some of the material from that? Well as I said, it is almost done but in terms of release, I have no idea. That part of the process is pretty much out of my hands (laughs). There’s a whole world of managers and record labels that make those decisions for us and we just don’t get involved.
PNAU is headlining the New Year’s Eve gig ‘On The Harbour.’ Are you excited? Always excited to be playing in Sydney and even Australia for that matter. We always feel like we have to put on a great show because it is our hometown and everyone has been so supportive over the years. It’s our hometown, these are our people so we like to make a huge effort for our live show, so that we can give them a great experience. So yeah, expect a big night.
PNAU will be bringing in the New Year on one of the best stages in the world: Sydney Harbour. The event has almost sold out, so get in quick.
What: New Year’s Eve ‘On The Harbour’
When: Monday, December 31
Where: Cargo Bar, Sydney
Who: PNAU, AJAX, YesYou, Elizabeth Rose, DJ Flagrant, SOUSUEME DJs, Emoh Instead (What So Not), Kristy Lee
To get you in the mood, stream PNAU’s Soft Universe: