Luke Hemmings interview

LUKE HEMMINGS is on the precipice of his late twenties. From his adopted home of Los Angeles, in front of a wall plastered with colourful posters, the 27-year-old Australian musician reflects on the life transition, and what growing up means to him. “When you’re coming into your late twenties, you’ve got to look back to look forward,” he says.  

After all, it’s been over 10 years since he burst onto the world stage, as the boyish lead vocalist of Australian boy band phenomenon Five Seconds of Summer, and a great deal has happened between now and then. Emo music isn’t the cultural juggernaut it once was; One Direction, whom 5SOS toured the globe with in 2013, have disbanded; and, most importantly, Hemmings has started making music on his own. 

“This whole process of making something on my own has helped me understand myself so much… Since I was 14, 15 [and] in the band, so much of my identity is tied to that. Even having the confidence to make something on my own that I really love, it was already a massive win despite what anyone else thought of it or if anyone even listened to it, whatever the measures of success are.”

Hemmings is talking about coming of age in general, but he’s also talking about the guiding instinct behind his new EP, Boy. Out today, it is the Sydney-born singer-songwriter’s second solo body of work, after his debut solo studio album When Facing The Things You Turn Away From was released in 2021. While the album saw Hemmings process a decade spent largely on the road, and the experiences that came with it, on Boy, the artist embraces his introspective voice, reflecting on existential themes such as life, love, change, the tyranny of distance and the inevitable loss of youth. 

It’s a sonic landscape he didn’t want to make as “tough” as his debut album. “I wanted to refine [the sound] a little bit,” he says, citing LCD Soundsystem, Julian Casablancas and the Cocteau Twins as bands he was listening to while writing. “I wanted it to feel a bit more lush and cinematic. That’s where that sonic landscape came from.”


He’s been teasing the EP since early March; first came lead single Shakes, and then Close My Eyes, which was the first track he wrote for Boy. With two tracks as more than enough sustenance, Hemmings’ fans have been immersing themselves in the world of Boy, drinking in every new visual, soundbite and song title reveal. Call it lead-singer syndrome, but when Hemmings announced he was going out on his own, 5SOS’ fanbase, which exhibits the caring protectiveness we associate with K-pop armies of today, followed without question. 

Of course, there was pressure. With each of their first three albums, 5SOS topped the Billboard 200. They won an American Music Award, a handful of MTV VMAs and their streaming numbers are well into the billions. Commercially speaking, the band – which also consists of guitarist Michael Clifford, bassist Calum Hood and drummer Ashton Irwin – are one of the most successful Australian musical acts in history, not to mention one of the most popular.

So, for Hemmings, going solo didn’t come without its fair share of fear. 

“The scariest thing was playing live on my own,” he admits. Two performances at the Fonda Theatre in LA last year – a storied venue that’s hosted the likes of The Rolling Stones, Radiohead and Stevie Wonder – stand out as the moment the solo life really sunk in. But he’s taking it in stride. “[It’s] helped me get better as a writer and a musician, down to playing shows on my own and doing interviews on my own,” he says, gesturing to our conversation. 

But the support has been forthcoming, and not only does Hemmings feel the love, but it also propels him to continue creating. You can see it in the time and care he gives to crafting his own musical worlds. “I wanted to build a universe around [Boy] to get lost in,” he says. “It’s not enough for me to just give something to listen to and expect people to understand the full depth of it. To be able to give them a visual. . . It’s part of the fun for me.”

In the music video to Shakes, we find Hemmings in a montage of liminal spaces: a hotel room, an airport terminal, an elevator, a car. These transitory spaces are ones he knows all too well from years spent on the road, touring the world. Each montage, he explains, belongs to one of the seven tracks on the EP – each track has its own visualiser. One particular shot shows Hemmings sitting on a windowsill, knees to his chest like Scarlett Johansson in Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film, Lost in Translation. “[That] might have been too on the nose,” he laughs. But his visual references go deeper than what we see; in the film, Johansson’s character is also reckoning with a similar melancholia specific to growing up and feeling emotionally disconnected. 

On Benny, Hemmings explores this disconnectedness further. Named after his brother, the track embodies the feelings of emotional and physical guilt that come with living away from his family in Australia for several years now. “There’s this guilt, sadness, helplessness and hopelessness that you can’t really overcome,” he describes. “It’s difficult to remain [abroad] and give your support emotionally and physically if you’re not there, for the good and bad.”

But he’s excited to return home, and have his family be part of the audience when he plays in Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on June 14. “I’m really excited to play there,” he says, “I haven’t played there since I was a teenager.” Sydney is just one of the 20-city stops on his headline tour, appropriately titled Nostalgia For A Time That Never Existed. Kicking things off in Paris on May 4, he’ll travel across Europe and the UK and then onto North America, before being treated to a homecoming in Australia, finishing off in Brisbane on June 16. 

‘Nostalgia’ is the key here. Hemmings is specific in considering the energy each venue will bring to his music, and the mood it will evoke. “I’m excited to play at Brooklyn Paramount [in New York],” he says. “It’s a newly refurbished, old, beautiful building. I just love old architecture, they don’t make them like they used to.” 

And what can we expect from his tour wardrobe? “I just did a fitting. Oh, what should I give away?” he says with a big grin. “There’ll be some custom stuff, a custom suit and trying to keep it in the world that we’ve built. It’s gonna have really subtle changes and really big makeup looks. I’m always wearing a glittery thing, dark makeup, and I want to keep that going as the tour moves on.”

With such clarity of voice and vision, Hemmings’ second coming as a solo artist feels self-assured. While scary at times, that’s what he’s found most liberating: making a lyrical and visual leap that’s free from expectations, while using the solo space to “talk about however I’m feeling, from my exact perspective.” 

He might be on the precipice of his late twenties. But it’s a precipice he’s no longer afraid to leap off. 

Boy is out now. 

Luke Hemmings will be touring Australia from June 12 – 16, as part of his Nostalgia For A Time That Never Existed world tour. Buy tickets for Brisbane and Melbourne shows here, and Sydney show here.


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