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Empire of the Sun Hit Hot 100 With Eight-Year-Old Song, Plan New Album for September

A popular Honda Civic ad made the nearly decade-old "Walking on a Dream" the band's first U.S. pop hit

Those parsing the lower stretches of Billboard’s Hot 100 this week will come across an unexpected sight: Australian space-synth duo Empire of the Sun. Though the band has managed a number of blog-conquering underground hits since their 2008 breakthrough — including “Walking on a Dream,” “We Are the People,” and “Alive,” all of which were Top 25 hits in their home country — they’ve never before cracked the pop charts in the States. But the really surprising thing is that it’s not a new single that marks their first appearance: It’s “Walking on a Dream,” the band’s debut single, finally charting after eight years.

How did this happen? Well, the answer will be unsurprising to anyone who’s sat through seven straight hours of nationally televised football these last few playoff weekends. Those viewers have undoubtedly braced the Honda Civic commercial “The Dreamer” a countless number of times: a (literally) imaginative, visually stunning ad soundtracked by, of course, Empire’s “Dream.” Increased exposure of the track has led to increased digital sales — moving nearly 30,000 last week units, according to Nielsen Media, good enough to climb to No. 30 on the Digital Songs chart — and, in turn, a place on the Hot 100, where it debuts at No. 82 this week.

“I’ve been getting phone calls, mums at my kids’ schools [talking about it],” Empire of the Sun co-founder Luke Steele says of the song’s recent exposure. “And then, [the label], they’re getting excited when Shazam is like, ‘[It’s the] number-five song…’ It’s amazing how many people haven’t heard that song, you know.” The song’s path to success isn’t unprecedented for Steele’s band, though. “We had another song, ‘We Are the People,’ that was used in a Vodafone ad in Germany, and it turned up a number one in Germany,” he recalls. “You can never underestimate the power of pop culture.”

Now that the band has finally cracked America — which Steele calls “the big mountain” — they’re ready to capitalize on their success with their upcoming following up to 2013’s Ice on the Dune. “The third record, we’ve been working on for about two years,” he says. “The timing is, like, immaculate. We’re going to the studio next week to have a big band listening session… it’s pretty exciting.”

Steele says that the band’s album is being planned for a September rollout. “I think now that this has happened, it’s going to be probably, definitely September,” he says, laughing. “The company’s gonna be like… ‘Guitars down, headphones off.’”