PNAU: Past, Present, Future

Former Features Editor

How do you follow up ‘Chameleon’, one of radio’s favourite songs from 2016? With a nod to the past and a visit to another dimension, according to PNAU’s Nick Littlemore.

Speaking to Nick Littlemore from PNAU, it’s hard not to get caught up in his energy. His conversation tumbles from one topic to another in these rolling waves, sharing vast ideas and intimate memories with anyone that cares to listen.

The duo turned trio (thanks to the official addition of Nick’s older brother, Sam Littlemore) have been around the local Sydney music scene since 1999. But more recently has come the release of some of the most infectious music to hit radio’s airwaves. The nonsensical lyrics of both ‘Wild Strawberries’ in 2007 and ‘Chameleon’ in 2016 were somehow made radio-ready thanks to catchy beats and general summer vibes.

Yet it’s his long love affair with radio where our conversation begins.

When asked about whether or not radio still has a place for new music by an electronic artist like himself, he shares an incredible anecdote from his childhood that really establishes how he – and in turn his music – operates.

“Radio is something I grew up listening to and a lot of things I’ve discovered through the radio,” he told TMN.

“When I was about 10 or 11, I got my first cassette deck and I was able to record, so I would record triple j as I was falling asleep. And then in the morning, I would listen back to all the music that was being transmitted that I didn’t hear.”

“I discovered some crazy songs. This New York performance artist by the name of Karen Finley, I mean, it was more obscenities than I’d ever heard in my young life at that point!”

Littlemore believes that there was a magical sense to those late-nights, when things “seemed more taboo” and “you kind of had to wait, when it would go into Adult Only territory”. 

Not only is there this sense of magic and wonder that Littlemore brings to his music today, but he still believes in the power of radio to deliver unknown music to eager ears.

“I think it’s really cool, because [radio] reaches people who didn’t realise they were gonna be reached.

“It’s much more directive, even with brand advertising and all this stuff, where it all sorts of seamlessly turns up on your page. But for the most part, it’ll be a page that you’re already somewhat interested in, dance music, or whatever.”

“But on the radio, it could be anything. They could be playing a Slim Dusty record and then they play ‘Chameleon’ or an old PNAUsong, or one of my other bands. I love that.”

“I still get letters and messages from people hearing Empire [of the Sun] or PNAU many years after it first came out, and they’re so excited that they found them. Someone who listens to heavy metal, but this song came out on the radio and they went, ‘Oh, it wasn’t my style of music, but it really touched me and now I’m a huge fan’”.

Don’t be mistaken. A love of radio does not leave Littlemore in the past. Far from it.

While PNAU’s music continues to reference the warehouse parties Littlemore and bandmate Peter Mayes used to sneak out and attend back in high school, it’s more about being both present, and exploring the future, in this dimension and beyond.

“I like to come at it, anything, with the music that I create, I like to have a lot of elements from the past and from the future and everything in between.”

“I think, for PNAU, at its best, has always been a collision of colour and excitement and exuberance, however that manifests.”

Talking about the new album Changa, due for release on November 10, Littlemore notes that the previous album Soft Universe was far more introspective – a “red herring” in their musical career – compared to the upcoming release.

“We’re much more celebratory and it just makes sense. It synchronises well with our spirit. I’d love to be more intellectual, but ultimately, when we get in the studio, I’m like a child that wants to jump and scream and run around and that’s the energy that we put out that has served us really well and there’s nothing wrong with having a good time.”

As for the origin of the album’s name, Changa references an Australian-born smoking blend that “opens up doors to other realities”.

“I had the privilege of experiencing in the right setting. It’s been such an enriching experience to have these sort of waking dreams and come back from the other side… To come back with this sort of explosion in my mind, it felt pertinent in my mind.”

Littlemore may be a wordsmith, but when asked to summarise the new album in just five words, he is very precise.

“True hallucinations from mystic destinations”.

We’ll just have to wait and see what trip PNAU takes us on next.

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