To many non-Australians, this chart-topping dance music duo might be better known for their side project Empire of the Sun, for which they join forces with The Sleepy Jackson’s Luke Steele. Pnau, however, are a force to be reckoned with in their own right. With fourth album, Soft Universe, hitting the shops next week, and some Aussie gigs the week after, we felt it was time to call up Peter Mayes (pictured left)…

Why do you do so many side projects?
It’s a really different kind of headspace when you’re working on somebody else’s music. You’re actually very precious when you’re working on your own stuff, and I think in some ways you don’t take as many risks as you might. Maybe I’m just talking rubbish! It’s just a different attitude, a different headspace. When you’re working on your own record there’s a lot of internal pressure from yourself, so it’s really nice to have the variety.

Excited about playing shows in Oz?
Definitely. It is the ultimate test to play your songs live to an audience who hasn’t heard them before. It’s really exciting for us. Ha, sometimes I get goosebumps thinking about it.

Can we expect more Empire of the Sun?
We’ve already started work on the next record, I’ve actually been working on a song today. But with touring and so on, we’re just doing it sporadically.

You and Nick seem to be very different characters…
Well, we’ve known each other for so long, so we just have a connection that runs from our childhood. In some ways we are quite different people, but I think in a creative team that’s important, if we were a duplication of each other I guess we’d work a bit faster, but it would just be like one person working more efficiently. I’m not really intense, but I’ve grown into somebody more aware of the technical side and production, and Nick is more of a bigger picture man, but sometimes it totally flips, Jekyll will be Hyde and Hyde will be Jekyll. We’re still great friends and enjoy working together. Our manager calls it a bromance.

What’s the story with Elton John?
Well, his company are managing us and he’s really helped us with the record. He was basically touring Australia and, through a strange course of events, we somehow went to see him at his hotel and just chatted. He said to us, “I’d like to do anything I can to help you”. We were just like, “wow”. Obviously it’s incredibly flattering and a huge honour. He’s an incredible human being, you know it’s quite daunting to think you know someone like that, but at the same time he doesn’t make a big deal out of that, he just makes you feel like one of his friends.

Any fave places in Sydney?
Definitely the harbour. I remember a friend having a boat and we’d go out on it all the time. You just see the city in a completely different light. You realise when you leave that very few other cities have that. That and the food and of course the weather. It’s a really good city and a beautiful place, we always enjoy playing there.

And the rest of Australia?
I guess places like Byron. It has something magical about it, and you’ve got the hinterland. There’s so many natural things in Australia. I just really like sunshine and water, even though my skin can’t handle it at all. It’s just a totally different lifestyle to what we have over here [in London], but they both have their strengths and their weaknesses.

Pnau play Sydney (July 27) and Splendour in the Grass (July 29-31). To win a double pass to their Sydney show, click here