Despite experiencing London’s typical gloomy drizzle, PNAU’s Peter Mayes was very chirpy and pleasantly chatty – even when facing back to back interviews, a mere two hours sleep and no break in sight for the supremely talented Aussie.
Pnau’s fourth album Soft Universe is out now, complete with Sir Elton John’s (metaphorical) stamp of approval. The duo met with one of the world’s most incredible musical minds regularly for guidance. “The great thing with [Elton] is he doesn’t try and push you in one direction or another. If he thinks something’s not working he’ll tell you in the same way as if he thinks it is,” Peter recounts. “He’s a pretty priceless perspective to have.”
Pnau’s latest LP is more of a traditional pop album, with carefully structured songs. Some orchestrated ballad-type numbers feature, thrown in amongst the synth-laden serotonin-releasing tracks that stay true to Pnau’s musical reputation.
It’s no secret Nick Littlemore was in an emotionally dark place post-breakup while writing this album. Once your ears drift past the melody filled, toe-tapping tunes you find some serious, heavy lyrics with a painful undertone. “I think both of us have always really liked the juxtaposition of darker lyrics and brighter music,” Peter says of the conflicting emotions between melody and words. “If you have a whole bunch of darker, emotional lyrics and then you write darker, emotional music it’s almost too indulgent. No one really gets anything out of that. But if you have something that’s darker, or more negative, and turn that into a positive then it seems like a more noble cause.”
The duo are set to grace Canberra’s crowds at Foreshore 2011, sporting a fresh performance; “Expect a very intense musical experience. It’s a whole lot of fun, but really something to remember. It won’t be like the last time we played… it’ll be more of a live band with a lot more people on stage.”
Peter and Nick are physically continents apart, with Nick based in New York and Peter staying closer to their London studios. It’s not an issue as Peter explains “regardless of where you’re actually living you’re never really there that much… we’re always all over the world anyway. We very often live in very different locations, but with Skype and everything you always seem to keep in touch”.
Although the two are infamous for their side projects (Empire of the Sun, anyone?), with Nick currently working on a Cirque Du Soleil album, Peter says those tracks probably won’t feature at Canberra’s biggest summer dance festival. “It’s definitely not boogie music,” he laughs, before adding, “We do like to do a bit of everything and have a lot of things on the go at one time.” They sure do, and their next performance is guaranteed to be worth experiencing.