While fans have been holding out for the collaboration for a decade now—Steele first let slip in a 2008 interview that the pair were in the studio together—it was only around two years ago that they really committed to bringing DREAMS to life, going to work on a set of songs that were a far cry from the “acoustic guitar” jams they started out with back in ‘03. “We decided to start finishing an album for real. And we realised that we wanted to make a record that was something we’d listen to when we’d hang out with our friends and party—something that has Berlin electronica but also has guitars and great melody. A hybrid of all our favourite sounds.”
The first taste of that cocktail of influences, ‘No One Defeats Us’, arrived in early April, just a couple of weeks before their Coachella show. Luke describes it as a “warrior mantra”, and the song that best encapsulates their vision as DREAMS. “We needed a song that was so strong, so representative of what we were talking about,” he says. “That was the song that really started the record.”
The video for ‘No One Defeats Us’, which features Johns shirtless, clad in a faux fur jacket, tripped-out contact lenses and swinging a baseball bat around, made it clear the duo aren’t dulling down their eccentricities yet, either. But despite being two of Australian music’s biggest personalities, passions in the studio never hit boiling point between Steele and Johns.
“Funnily enough, we don’t really clash that much because we’re both very open to possibilities,” Steele says. “And we’ve both been through so much, this isn’t our first rodeo.”
It’s obvious they both have a relentless desire to create and reinvent. Between them, the pair have sold 15 million albums, scooped up over 30 ARIA Awards, and been part of half a dozen different projects—but neither Johns nor Steele want to slow down. As Steele puts it: “Dan and I, we’re still so hungry as artists”. What they’re making now, he tells me, is the sort of music that could only come from a lifelong friendship. They’re songs that could never have been made by either of them solo: they’re built on the chemistry of collaboration.
“It has nothing to do with either one of us alone,” he says. “It only has to do with us together.”
DREAMS will play their debut Australian performance in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall as part of Vivid LIVE.