Interview :: Kevin Parker (Tame Impala)
January 31st 2014
They’re a bunch of down to earth boys from Perth, with two albums we love to the point of obsession – Lonerism and Innerspeaker – and so many awards it’d sound stupid to put them all in one sentence.
Tame Impala are currently touring nationally for the Big Day Out. Alex Eugene sat down with the mind behind the music, Kevin Parker, fresh after his Sydney set on January 26.
AE: So, how are you feeling after your set?
KP: Really good, it was really fun. It knocked my hangover right off.
Really, is that a good hangover cure?
It’s the best hangover cure. They call it ‘Doctor Theatre’. It means you can be feeling the worst you’ve ever felt, you can have the worst disease in the world, but as soon as you step on stage in front of a bunch of people that are watching whatever you’re doing, it’ll clear you right up. Of any ailment.
Wow. Is it an energy thing?
Yeah… it’s just this weird kind of adrenaline. Not full-on adrenaline, it’s not like you’re going bungee jumping or anything. But it’s just lots of people, seeing what you’re doing; it just has this effect on you. It’s the best hangover cure.
Well you certainly had an effect on the crowd, there were a lot of people dancing.
Yeah! We had some chicks on shoulders, guys on shoulders, beach balls…
Yep, it was all part of the psychedelic music effect… Going right back to the history of it all though, how did it all progress to where you are now? What instrument did you pick up first, for instance?
I was about 11. I started getting into Silverchair, Nirvana and stuff. My friend played drums, and I was gonna learn guitar so we could jam together. But I went to this music school where you could just try instruments and do whatever you want, and I was like “Nup, it’s drums, it’s gotta be drums!” I picked up a guitar and I was like “It’s alright…” but as soon as I sat behind some drums I was like “This is me.” So I played drums until I was 13 and then later started playing guitar cos my dad had one lying around… and I just went from there I guess.
What’s your songwriting process? How do you come up with something?
I don’t even know. Really, to be honest, I wish I knew so that I could write more songs. But unfortunately I haven’t actually nailed it yet. Its all just been… a fluke so far. I mean that from the bottom of my heart, so honestly. Like, if you told me to sit down and write a song I just could not, I couldn’t… if I had to force myself to write a song, I would hate it. Writing a song… it’s magic. The best way to do it is to just suddenly be in front of the speakers having just recorded something… I don’t even know how it happens. I’ve just been writing that way for years.
So you don’t need to get into some sort of zone?
No. The best songs that come are the ones that came out of nowhere. Just cos you were feeling a certain way, you know.
When you listen back to them do they remind you of how you felt when you first came up with the song?
Yeah definitely. I usually remember where I was … but sometimes I don’t remember writing it. A lot of songs I have I don’t remember actually writing.
How interested are you in other art forms? You’ve been involved with the CD artwork on your albums, which not all bands do.
I’m not a big visual artist. The only time I care about visual art is when it’s associated with my music. So when it comes to CD art, I’m as particular and as obsessed with it as I was with the songs, you know, just because I always feel like it’s important, if for nothing else, the colours of it. It ends up being what you visualise when you listen to the album. It’s like the image that you associate with the album … unless you heard it at a party or something and it reminds you of that party, or something else. But usually the album cover is the one picture you associate with the album.
That’s so true. Do you envision greater things for your music, like playing with an orchestra or anything like that?
I would love to, and I always sort of tell myself I’m going to, but that kind of stuff just… does my head in. The amount of possibility… my brain just explodes. Imagine getting an orchestra. Imagine writing all the parts for each individual instrument. You know, it just makes me go… *(EXPLOSION SOUND)*
You could just give them one of your songs and ask them to play along with it though?
Well, I would do that… but then I’d start going like, “Hey! What are you guys doing? Just do whatever you want, cool, whatever man.” All the time, you know.
You write all the music, but is there ever any collaboration with the rest of the band?
When we play live on stage, obviously it becomes a new thing. In the studio it’s just me, usually. Although a couple of songs on the last album Jay contributed to…but when we play live its always gonna be a different thing, a different beast. So we just approach it that way… we don’t feel compulsively attached to how they sound on the album, we just gotta make it something cool that resembles the song. Sometimes it comes out exactly the same, sometimes it comes out completely different.
Well I guess studio’s never going to sound the same as live.
Exactly. So you may as well abandon that altogether.
How did you find the other band members initially?
Most of them I’ve just known for ages, we’ve just been friends for years and years. Some of them I played with in bands, in pub rock gigs in Perth. It’s quite a close knit scene. If you’re into something, a particular world of music, chances are you’ll just slowly gravitate towards other people who are into the same thing. So we just kind of all found each other. Dom and I went to school together, we’ve been friends since we were like 13 or something. The rest of the guys just came together slowly.
How do you feel about going from the Perth music scene to international touring?
It’s fun because I’m with my friends. I don’t know what I’d do if I was a solo performer, that would just be weird for me. The only way I can cope, and deal with it in my brain, is that there are people I know intimately with me all the time. You know, we can laugh about it, not get freaked out by it.
Is there anything you can tell us about what you’re working on at the moment?
I’m always working, I’ve got a bunch of new things that I’m really excited about. I’m hoping to have it finished this year, but it probably won’t be released this year. Cos even if I finish it, there’s always more time ’til it gets released. So… we’ll see.