Interview: Tame Impala

Interview with Tame Impala

Tame Impala


Aussie psych-rockers Tame Impala are back with Lonerism, the follow-up to their universally lauded debut, Innerspeaker. Ahead of its release, we spoke to band leader Kevin Parker about collaborating with The Flaming Lips and the inspirations behind his “cosmic prog-pop”.

Questions and answers

Hey Kevin, how are you feeling about the release of Lonerism?

Excited. We finished it in March so it feels like we’ve just been sitting on it for so long, waiting for the time to come that the rest of the world can hear it. I’m really excited for fans to hear it.

Given the amazing reception Innerspeaker got, did you feel any pressure when writing Lonerism?

There was no pressure, really: it was just a case of doing what I love doing, which is recording music. Compulsively.

I actually began writing this album before the first album reached the rest of the world, because Innerspeaker was out for a good few months before people started to really pay attention. So I’d already started work before there was any pressure.

What did you want to achieve sonically with this album?

I think the same thing I always want to achieve: just to do something different from the last thing I’ve done. I wanted to open up the possibilities a bit more on this album. I think I felt I was restricting myself a bit on the last album, whereas with this one I felt there were so many more possibilities that I hadn’t explored and felt free to do whatever I wanted.

Certain tracks on Lonerism almost sound like a collage of sounds; how does the writing process work for you?

I just get in the studio and start recording instruments and see what happens. Usually, I have a vague idea for the songs, think about them for an hour or something, and then just try to record it the best that I can. I just get the music out of my head, basically.

How did the process of writing this album compare to that of writing Innerspeaker?

With the last album, I had everything mapped out before I started recording, so I knew how the song was going to end up sounding. But with this one, I’d just start recording a verse and the sound of that would dictate the chorus and the rest of the song. I had no idea what the album was going to sound like: it was a totally liberating experience.

Were there any specific musical reference points for this record?

Not really. I try to listen to as little music as possible when I’m recording. I find that listening to music clouds my vision. Y’know, influences are so subconscious, so I just try to ignore the music that I know and love and do what my gut tells me to do.

There’s a really retro feel to your music; do you listen to much contemporary stuff?

Not really, no. I mean, I don’t really listen to a lot of music at all, new or old. But I do love old artists from the 60s and 70s, like the Beatles and Supertramp and Todd Rundgren, and I also really enjoy modern day dance music, like The Chemical Brothers. Electronic music definitely informs what I’m doing.

Can you recommend one record that everyone should own?

I heard The Field’s Looping State Of Mind the other day and I love it because it’s this really hypnotic dance music but they make it naturally, with real drums and real guitars.

Can you tell us about the lyrical preoccupations on the album? Are you writing from experience or writing in character?

I kinda looked at the idea of someone discovering the outside world, from a child’s perspective; someone growing up and figuring out their relationship with the outside world, and all the situations that come from that.

I do write from personal experience, but I like to think of it as a persona; someone who’s quite like myself but not actually me. Because if I think about my own personal experiences, I feel too self-conscious. It helps if I pretend that it’s someone else.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

For a long time it was ‘Mind Mischief’ because it was the most spontaneous to make. I didn’t really think about it at all; it just happened in one night and it was finished pretty quickly.

My favourites tend to change from month to month and, usually, after a year of listening to a song over and over again, I tend to get bored of it. ‘Mind Mischief’ is one of the newer songs, so I’m still in love with it. It’s like a newborn baby, instead of a boring teenager. (Laughs)

So you appeared on The Flaming Lipslatest album. How did that come about, and how was the experience?

Well, we’d met each other a few times before, at festivals, so Wayne just asked if I wanted to be a part of the album. It was quite casual and very cool.

The whole process was really quick. There was this one day of crossover, right at the end of my studio session and right at the beginning of theirs, so I just went into the studio with them for about six hours. Wayne got me to lay down some vocals and play all this random, random guitar stuff over the top of the song and then he selected what he wanted.

They’re really efficient, actually. They’d pursue one idea, nail that, and move straight onto the next one. It was so much faster than the way I work; I’m so slow... (Laughs)

You were involved in the latest albums by Pond and Melody’s Echo Chamber too, weren’t you?

Yeah, I produced Melody’s record and I drummed on the Pond album. I’m not touring with Pond at the moment, I’m just the session guy, really. But they’re my best friends and we make a lot of albums together; Pond and Tame Impala are both part of the same community.

Do you learn a lot from collaborating?

Totally. I learn what it’s like to be someone who works with other people, basically. I’m used to working alone so I never know what it’s like to work with other personalities.

Are there any other projects in the pipeline?

I don’t think so, not at the moment anyway. I’m not the most natural collaborator, so it’s likely to be with someone that I already know, and that I have a relationship with musically. But I’d love to collaborate with someone crazy, like Aphex Twin. (Laughs)

Ok, what’s been the highlight your time in Tame Impala?

Playing Argentina was great. They’re really passionate about Tame Impala there and the crowds are pretty crazy.

But I think I just enjoy the fact it’s all one big rollercoaster, and that every day there’s something new and different. Also, maybe the fact that I don’t have to work in the daytime now? (Laughs) I don’t have to work in a bottle shop anymore, I can just make music.

What would you like to achieve ultimately?

I’ve already achieved it: I’m spending my life making the music I love and I don’t have to worry about anything else. I really couldn’t dream about anything better, really.

Finally, can you sum up the sound of Tame Impala in one sentence?

Erm, I would say... cosmic, prog-pop. (Laughs)