When Fleetwood Mac released Rumours in 1977, the band's lush instrumentals and melancholic harmonies reignited an obsession with bright, shining California pop. Decades later, modern folk bands like Mumford and Sons, Best Coast and Haim are still channeling the same bittersweet chords and joyful choruses.
Empire of the Sun is the latest group to pay tribute to Fleetwood Mac's lush legacy, but the Australian synth duo is far from folksy. It's better known for playing dance-music festivals in exotic Space Age costumes that feel, from a distance, almost like Cirque du Soleil. And yet, its forthcoming album, Two Vines, features a glistening collaboration with longtime Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham called "To Her Door."
"When you've got the undeniable, magical aura of Doctor Buckingham, things blossom," Luke Steele — one half of Empire of the Sun — tells NPR. Both he and bandmate Nick Littlemore consider Buckingham one of their heroes. "We jammed like we were in high school and it came together almost instantly," Steele says.
The song captures a couple's dialogue the day after a big argument. One partner wakes up surprised and anxious, Steele says, eager for reconnection. "He says, 'Hey, good morning, what happened, can I come around and talk?'" The lyrics convey that desire: "I feel better when we're together / I know it's simple but I don't care / I try to say the things to make up for the mess I've caused."
Sonically, "To Her Door" reflects Fleetwood Mac's warmest records — such as "Hold Me" or "Gypsy," which overflow with richness. Steele says that when he and Littlemore conceptualized a direction for this album, they were drawn to an image of vines that grew out of the ground and into cities, wrapping around buildings and cars until they overtook the urban world. Steele says he couldn't get the image out of his head. When they traveled to Hawaii to record at Honolulu's Island Sound Studios, where Kanye West recorded My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the tropical, breezy setting cemented the return-to-nature concept.
"In Hawaii, our hotel on the beach had a giant banyan tree that stretched from the lawn into the living room. It felt like being a part of nature again," Steele says. In an effort to carry that vibe into the studio, he opted to use more analog equipment to return to the way music used to be recorded. It helped, of course, to have Buckingham in the room, an old-school guy who, arguably more than any living artist, is responsible for that lush, breezy sound.
"That's why working with him was beyond words, really," Steele says. "You're not just working with a great guitarist or producer, you're working with classic heritage. He's not just a genius, but a genius of feeling. It's his gift. And I'm so grateful we got to share in it."
Two Vines comes out Oct. 28 on Astralwerks.