The Songs That Inspired the Empire of Australia: Part One

Music has been an important process of my writing process for years, and the genesis of the Empire Universe is no exception to this. Here’s a summary of the music that helped spawn the Empire of Australia.

Your Ex-Lover is Dead

Stars are a band that I just keep coming back to because there simply are not enough superlatives out there to describe their breathtaking work. So, it’s no surprise that one of their songs would be at the top of the list.

For me, Your Ex-Lover Is Dead is haunting, telling the story of a pair of star-crossed former lovers who run into each other and end up being re-introduced by a mutual acquaintance.

God, that was strange to see you again
Introduced by a friend of a friend
Smiled and said, “Yes, I think we’ve met before”
In that instant, it started to pour
Captured a taxi despite all the rain
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain
And all of that time you thought I was sad
I was trying to remember your name

Stars, Your Ex-Lover is Dead from the album Set Yourself on Fire

A duet, it’s dripping with pathos as one of the pair struggles to remember the name of the other and they each remember the events that brought them together in different ways—each realizing that the missed connection is heartacheful for both of them.

It’s nothing but time and a face that you lose
I chose to feel it and you couldn’t choose
I’ll write you a postcard, I’ll send you the news
From the house down the road, from real love

There’s one thing I want to say so I’ll be brave
You were what I wanted, I gave what I gave
I’m not sorry I met you
I’m not sorry it’s over
I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save

Stars, Your Ex-Lover is Dead from the album Set Yourself on Fire

This song forms the initial kernel of the heart of the Empire Universe’s chief protagonist: Sarah Taylor. Like Your Ex-Lover Is Dead, Sarah is mournful for something lost that she doesn’t quite grasp or understand. She feels a sense of deep longing but for what she can’t tell.

The Conductor (Thin White Duke Remix)

The repetition of the word “control” that is spoken at the beginning of this remix, repeatedly, is the burning heart of another Empire Universe character: The Rabbit.

To say this song is about control would be a vast understatement—perfect for a character who delights in controlling those around him and forcing them to do horrible things to others and themselves. The idea of a conductor, the controller of a symphony, is something that became a literal facet of The Rabbit’s personality. He controls people using music—walking around and using music to get those around him to do his dark deeds as he enacts his evil agenda.

God’s Away on Business

He’s a complex character, so obviously he’d get more than one song to inspire him.

In this case, Tom Wait’s marvellous God’s Away on Business was another inspiration for The Rabbit.

I’d sell your heart to the junkman
Baby, for a buck, for a buck
If you’re looking for someone to pull you out of that ditch
You’re out of luck, you’re out of luck

God’s Away on Business by Tom Waits from the album Blood Money

The One That Got Away

Once the idea for a parallel universe became the dominant overarching structural framework of the Empire of Australia world I started to gravitate toward music that asked “What If?” and one of the most popular examples from the time that a lot of this was germinating was Katy Perry’s The One That Got Away.

For me, it really boils down to these lines:

In another life
I would be your girl
We’d keep all our promises
Be us against the world
In another life
I would make you stay
So I don’t have to say you were
The one that got away

Katy Perry’s The One That Got Away from Teenage Dream

The idea of the multiverse, as postulated by Hugh Everett, was that there are an infinite number of parallel universes, each one representing an epically small “What If?”. To use the example from Katy Perry’s music video:

  • What if the rock hadn’t fallen in the road to make him swerve?
  • What if he’d braked instead of swerving?
  • What if she’d run after him to stop him leaving?
  • What if he’d had a flat tire that had prevented his leaving?
  • What if he’d gone for a walk instead because he forgot his keys?

In the multiverse there are an unlimited number of these scenarios: in fact, all of them occur. What potential for a writer!

Shiver Me Timbers

Tom Waits is one of the lodestars of the Empire of Australia project.

This is Eleanor the First’s song—the song that inspired her flight from a loveless marriage to Louis the Seventh into the arms of the Sea (and a Viking pirate).

And many before me, who’ve been called by the sea
To be up in the crow’s nest, and singing my say
Shiver me timbers, cause I’m a-sailing away

Shiver Me Timbers by Tom Waits from the album The Heart of Saturday Night

Eye In The Sky

The figure of Toshe Marinos came later to the project as I needed a twin for Jasper Taylor’s character. Toshe is the cold, calm, collected binary to Jasper’s hot, insane genius. In the end (?), it was Toshe that survived while Jasper burnt out in a glorious flame—leaving Sarah to be essentially raised by Toshe.

Ultimately, this song speaks to Toshe’s ability to understand the world around him and those who might try to undermine him. But while the Rabbit is overt in his tactics of control, Toshe is nuanced. Maybe not subtle to have an army of drones and an aggressive AI surveying the world around him for information, BUT he is nuanced and measured in how he uses the information he has. He waits for others to make the first move before dominating them. At least, that’s how’s he’s mostly operated in the past.

Other Music That Inspires the Empire of Australia

There are two other artists that are at the tippy top in terms of the original genesis of the Empire of Australia Universe. They are Regina Spektor and The Decemberists.

I’m a huge admirer of Regina Spektor’s work and I think she’s probably one of the best songwriters of the last two decades. Specifically Us, On The Radio, Fidelity, Back of a Truck, How, All The Rowboats, and The Grand Hotel are amongst the songs that keep drawing me back and serve as constant inspiration.

The songwriting of Colin Meloy and the Decemberists is absolutely top-notch. Favorites include The Infanta, The Legionaire’s Lament, Severed, Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect, The Perfect Crime 2, and Annan Water.

More Music Soon

Music plays an integral part in the Universe of the Empire of Australia. As such, I’m going to make posts like this a regular feature to promote some of the amazing music that is so inspiring to the work of creating a parallel universe.

More soon!