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Coachella Band Preview: Empire of the Sun

The first weekend of Coachella is 3 weeks away. Yes three weeks is what separates us from the hot sunny Indio Desert, the greens of the Empire Polo Fields swarming with festival-goers, palm trees swaying to the cool breeze and rad tunes, epic sunsets over the mountains, and the sweet sounds of music from incredible artists entering our ears. I only have a few band previews left before the annual festival begins and time is of the essence so I better get to it.

Empire of the Sun is an electronic/alternative rock band from Sydney, Australia. The band formed in 2007 as a collaboration between Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore. Both had worked together on music for each other’s bands before forming Empire of the Sun. Those bands each performed different styles of music. Steele brought the alternative rock genre to their new band and Littlemore brought the electronic dance music. Their first album, Walking on a Dream, was released in 2008 with the first single of the same name debuting about a month before the album’s release. Both the single and album were charted in the top ten of the ARIA charts. Although their only intention was to create a studio album, they decided to do live performances in response to the album’s success. However the live shows did not include Littlemore, who decided to opt out of touring early on. By the end of 2009, the band received 7 ARIA Awards for the album including Album of the Year.

2010 was the year the band embarked on the festival circuit playing Glastonbury and Lollapalooza for the first time and by the end of the year Littlemore and Steele discussed creating a new album for the band. Production on the album began in 2011 and Littlemore stated he would go out and tour in support of this one. 2011 also involved a North American tour for the band, which included a stop at Coachella.

The duo released their second album, Ice on the Dune, in June 2013. The new album brought more touring throughout 2013 and into 2014. The band made their second stop at Coachella in 2014 and headlined the Sahara Tent. Their music was also featured in the film Dumb and Dumber To, which came out in late 2014.

The band continued to tour into 2015 while simultaneously working on their third album. Their third and latest album was just released this past October. 2016 also marked the first time that the band broke on to the Billboard charts. It was their 2008 hit “Walking on a Dream” that earned the band the number 3 spot on the Alternative Music charts after it was used in a U.S. Honda commercial in early 2016.

Their music, as I said, is a combination of alternative rock and electronic music. It can’t be described much better than that, although some may say the band fits genres like synthpop or glam rock. I feel like their sound has stayed consistent over the course of three albums so if you love the song “Walking on a Dream” or only know music from that album, you’re bound to dig some of their more recent stuff.

I discovered Empire of the Sun in 2011. There’s no significant story of how so I’m guessing it was through a recommendation from Youtube or Pandora because I listened to similar music on either channel. Of course the first song I heard was “Walking on a Dream”. Throughout the past few years I’ve heard their other stuff here and there and I’ve liked it. I’ve also heard the song “Walking on a Dream” multiple times in various circumstances throughout the same time period. It’s no surprise it’s their biggest hit. I never got into them as a band though. Nor have I been dying to see them live, but I’ll tell you why I would definitely check them out at Coachella.

Music festivals give you an opportunity to see bands live who you might like but not like enough to buy a ticket for a touring show making Coachella the perfect time for someone like me to check them out. Empire of the Sun does some pretty cool live performances too. The performances are as much of a visual art as they are a musical art. They wear elaborate costumes, have dancers or other performers, and display mesmerizing visuals often seen as part of electronic shows. They play Friday at Coachella. They’ve already headlined the Sahara Tent at the festival once before so that might happen again. As long as their set doesn’t overlap with some other great performers, it’ll definitely be a spectacle worth seeing. Here’s a few songs to know if you go:

  1. Walking on a Dream
  2. Alive
  3. High and Low
  4. We Are the People
  5. Standing on the Shore
  6. DNA
  7. Two Vines
  8. Concert Pitch
  9. To Her Door
  10. Friends

 

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Coachella Band Preview: Gryffin

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we’re a little over a month away from Coachella. One month. 30 some days. Can you feel the hype?! The time flies so fast once that lineup drops. That means there’s only a few more band previews left and limited time to listen to all your favorites in preparation for the festival. I’ve wanted to write this preview since January, but I’ve purposely held off so I’d have something to write about as the festival got closer. Out of the group of electronic artists performing at Coachella this year, there were two I was most stoked about. The first was Kungs, who I wrote about back in January (I was too stoked to save Kungs until now). The second is an artist known as Gryffin.

Gryffin, whose real name is Dan Griffith, is an EDM DJ from New York City. He’s also a talented instrumentalist. He started piano lessons at the age of 7 and played through high school, while picking up guitar along the way.  Gryffin attended college at USC and studied electrical engineering, but devoted his free time to making music. His intent was to make music for his friends to play at parties. He never expected to be making it for a career, yet here he is selling out tours and playing Coachella 2017.

Unlike most of the artists I preview, Gryffin has yet to release his first album. He is most known for his remixes and a few chart-making singles. There’s no doubt an album release is in the works for him especially with the original tracks he has dropped over the last year. One of his most well known hits and debut single, “Heading Home” ft. Josef Salvat, was released a little over a year ago. The song hit #1 on the Spotify Viral 50 Chart and also made the list of Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart and Dance/Electronic Digital Songs chart. Last spring, he embarked on his first North American tour and sold out every show. He dropped a second single, “Whole Heart” ft. Bipolar Sunshine, on August 26th, which also hit Billboard’s electronic charts. It sparked another 10 show North American tour this past fall. A week ago, Gryffin released his third single, “Feel Good” with Illenium ft. Daya, and it already has almost 3 million plays on Spotify.

Gryffin classifies his style of electronic music as melodic house because he likes to incorporate piano and guitar into his music. It makes sense given his musical background. That’s the cool thing about his live sets though. It’s a blend between electronic and instrumental performance. Along with DJ-ing at his shows, he plays parts of songs on guitar and piano. It adds new elements to the music that you don’t necessarily get listening to a recording. This is something that takes his live performances to a whole new level in the electronic music genre making his Coachella performance one that you don’t want to miss.

I first heard of Gryffin within the last year and a half or so. I would see his name listed on song remixes, but I never listed to any of them because I typically don’t listen to remixes (except the Matoma remix of “Old Thing Back” because #fave). It’s mostly because I prefer the original version of songs, or the ones I was first exposed to, which I guess is strange when I think about it because I love covers. I think that it’s more so with remixes where you can have a non-electronic song that is electronically enhanced. That’s what I don’t really like since I was never big on electronic music. I guess you can say that’s changed now, but I still prefer original songs. Just this past fall, I heard Gryffin’s original song “Whole Heart” playing in the background of an end of the season highlight reel video for the Washington Spirit of the NWSL. I really liked the song and added it to my Spotify playlists as well as to my iTunes. About a month later, I heard “Heading Home” and added it just the same. Just a few days ago I heard “Feel Good” for the first time and I’ve been so hooked on it all week. I had it stuck in my head yesterday. It’s a great song, and I believe it has a ton of potential to surpass the success of Gryffin’s previous singles.

Gryffin plays Saturday at Coachella. It’s his first Coachella appearance too. I expect he’ll play the Sahara Tent, but I don’t expect his set to be super late. As I said, his performance will be one you don’t wanna skip especially if you’re into electronic music. Even if you’re not, his hybrid live performance style might be something transitional for you. I’d love to catch his set if I had the chance. Gryffin doesn’t have many original tracks you’ll need to prep with, so I’ll include some remixes as well. Here they are:

  1. Heading Home
  2. Whole Heart
  3. Feel Good
  4. Desire (Years & Years) Remix
  5. Animals (Maroon 5) Remix
  6. Youth (Troye Sivan) Remix
  7. Talking Body (Tove Lo) Remix
  8. Clearest Blue (CHVRCHES) Remix
  9. Beggin’ For Thread (BANKS) Remix