Interview :: Kevin Parker – Mink Mussel Creek
May 19th 2014
It’s a band that no longer plays together, and an album that was recorded three years ago. But Mink Mussel Creek and their LP Mink Mussel Manticore – the first release for Spinning Top Records – sure are generating a lot of buzz.
This may be because the band features some of the biggest leg-ends running around the Perth music scene, including Pond’s Shiny Joe Ryan and Nick Allbrook, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. This may also be because the band has a built a mystique over the years, through tales of their live shows in Perth and through fuzzy bootlegs and demos. In many ways, this record has been a long time coming.
And it was worth the wait. Mink Mussel Manticore is an absolute carousal of unhinged madness, 7-tracks of stomping riffs and bustling breaks that will leave you confused and a little dazed, but thoroughly satisfied. For those who found the band’s earlier tastings a little too fuzzy: fear not. This record will fill your earholes with crisp, sweet sounds, whether blasting out of a pair of tinny earphones or a monster set of speakers turned up to eleven (please invite me ‘round any time you’re thinking of doing the latter).
I was fortunate enough to chat to Kevin Parker about the band’s history, creative differences, the recording process, and the meaning behind some of the track names (although “Hands Off The Mannequin, Charlie” unfortunately remains a mystery).
DN: Hi Kevin! What have you been up to?
KP: I just woke up. It’s earlier over this way so it’s not as despicable. I’ve actually been getting up pretty early recently, so that’s something.
So you’re back in Perth at the moment?
Yeah I’ve been back for a while. We’re not doing excessive touring this year like we have been in previous years, we’re having a bit of a chilled-out year. So I’ve just been at home, doing home stuff – stuff you do when you’re just in one city.
Now, I’ve been warned not to ask you about Tame Impala, which is good, because I’m really interested in Mink Mussel Creek and this record. How did the band come together?
I think the band itself is just, like, the musical output of a bunch of friends. I joined the group late, but when I met them I couldn’t believe how much of a tight-knit group they were, just as friends that did stuff together – drank and smoked and everything together. The music was just a result of that, really, which I completely admired. I’d never seen anything like it, you know? So I naturally wanted to become a part of it.
It sounds like you guys were quite prolific at one point. I mean, you played over 100 shows in 2007. You must have been generating a bit of buzz at the time.
Yeah. The thing is, we only ever played once out of Perth, which is sad because we don’t really get to do that much anymore. Well, we don’t play shows at all anymore actually. But we used to play all the time – whether it was a full-on gig with hundreds of people, or whether it was just a house party. We’d just play anywhere, basically. Anywhere there were, I don’t know, speakers… not even that sometimes!
You were originally going to record this album in 2008, right? But you had an issue with the producer?
Yeah I think we just weren’t the kind of band he was expecting to have to record, because it just wasn’t his thing. I’m trying to be polite here… but yeah, it just wasn’t his thing. So it never happened.
So that got put on hold, then Pond happened, then you released the Tame EP, then Innerspeaker… then you took time out for a bit and recorded the album again in 2011?
Yeah – funnily enough we actually recorded the album again [ourselves], which is the album we’re releasing. But we just never released it! We were just that disorganised. Even when we did record the album and did finish it, we still couldn’t release it because we didn’t know what to do. So now, yeah, this album is the one we just recorded on our own, by ourselves, and only for ourselves. In the basement of the place we rehearse at – it’s like a pub, our favourite bar – and for some reason it just took us this long to actually put it onto vinyl. And iTunes, I guess.
When you recorded this album, did you have to plan it out much? It almost sounds on the record that you guys just jam and go for it.
We just said to ourselves: “let’s just do it.” The whole “failed first album” thing died down, and we were playing shows, Tame were touring and other stuff. But we were all home and we were like, “let’s just, like, put it down. We have to.”
Did it feel good after working on Tame records, which seem like they’re pretty introspective, to just get behind a drum kit again and have a good time with your mates?
Yeah! I guess so. I mean, drums are my favourite instrument, but it’s not that it’s “the drums”. It’s not that I’m playing the drums, it’s just that I’m one piece of the puzzle, rather than the whole puzzle. I’m not even the leader; I’m kind of just sitting behind the drums shouting out suggestions like everyone else. It’s like being on a soccer team for once, after being a tennis player for years. It feels good to be a team player.
Was that therapeutic for you?
Yeah. It was just such a relief. It takes the thinking out of it. There’s no thinking; you just rely on the group dynamic to make decisions. It’s not just sitting in a room being like, “Aw man, what am I going to do?” (laughs)
You’ve mentioned in the past that you put a lot of attention into your own album artwork. I’m looking at the Mink Mussel Manticore artwork – it’s pretty interesting.
Yeah, I’m not actually sure, There was this guy and he was a fan of the band, I think. And he just gave us the picture and we all just thought it was amazing. For some reason it just fits Mink Mussel Creek because it’s a bit dark, but it’s got that childlike thing going where things aren’t necessarily proportionally perfect, you know? It just has a cool feel to it.
You just released “They Dated Steadily” as the first track. It’s a really interesting first single – one doesn’t normally release a fourteen-minute single as the first track.
(laughs) I think either we don’t even realise that it’s fourteen minutes, or we didn’t realise that that is probably not the most desirable aspect to have about your lead single. But that song is just kind of our flagship song, It’s a song that goes for fourteen minutes but for me it’s never felt that long… Listening to it is a different story! I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to it all the way through, but certainly playing it – it flies by!!
It’s a funny title too. When I’m listening to it I don’t think, you know stable relationship, settling down. It’s pretty chaotic.
Yeah I don’t know what Nick was thinking with that title! I’m not sure how it relates to the song, or even what it means. To be honest, I never even thought about it being a relationship thing, like “they dated steadily.” It seems more plausible that Nick was talking about rocks, like carbon dating or something… (laughs) I don’t know…
Mink Mussel Manticore is out now digitally through Spinning Top Records – with a double vinyl release in June.
Interview :: Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) at Big Day Out
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