Tame Impala - interview

Tame Impala - interview

Kevin Parker is a perfectionist. But often perfection needs a guiding hand. After recording every note on his band Tame Impala's debut album Innerspeaker, Parker sought the help of super producer David Fridman (Flaming Lips. Mercury Rev, MGMT) to open the record up and let it speak.

At such an early stage in their career Tame Impala have covered territory bands could only dream of. In the midst of their Innerspeaker Australian album launch tour, we talk to Parker about creativity, gearing up to tour with one of his favourite bands for the second time, and learning to back themselves as artists.


The last time we spoke to you, you'd just played the Laneway festivals - with great success. Since then you've gone on to record your debut album and tour the world. Tell me a bit about how things have changed for you personally in the last year.

Personally I think I've become a whole lot more comfortable with myself as a musician and a songwriter I guess. We've all got a lot more comfortable with ourselves; I think back when we started touring we were really unsure as to how good we were. We'd always listen to other peoples opinions of us, and take them [on board]. Now we're really quite convinced that there is no right way to do it - we're just doing what we want to do. Now we're a lot more immune to other peoples opinions.

How did the recording of Innerspeaker differ from the EP?

It differed in that it was the first time that I've recorded something with the intention of recording a whole release with [this] many songs on it. A package. In the past I've just done songs one by one for the sake of doing them, so it was kind of a challenge - encountering all those things that make up an album.

Was there more pressure, being the debut and all?

I guess there was, but I don't know if I felt it at the time. We were quite separated from the outside world. The only pressure was to make an album as good as my friend's albums. All my friends make music and Tame Impala is just one little blip in the scene of ours. I was just concerned it wasn't going to be as good as theirs.

Does it feel like a solo project more than anything?

Yeah, Tame Impala has always been a solo project. It has two halves: one half is the recording side which is very calculated and pieced together, and the other side is the live side, where we take what's been recorded and turn them into live songs. It'll be less of a solo project in the future, cause Jay and I are writing songs together and cooperating.

Tell me a bit about the sounds of the new record and what you were trying to capture.

At the start I wanted it to be lo-fi and gritty, but at the same time arranged in an electronic manner. So it's less like a band recording in a room. Things come in and out - a drum beat sounding more like it's been sampled for example. It's funny how your objectives change throughout the project, though. In the end I think I was a little disappointed that I didn't make it as face-punching as possible.

You can hear little bits and pieces jumping out through the record. Did working with David Friddman help bring this to life?

Definitely! I was trying to mix the album myself and it slowly dawned on me that I didn't have the expertise to make it sound the way I wanted it to sound. So Dave really opened the album up completely. He was [already] one of my favourite mixing engineers so it was a complete fantasy to go to his little log cabin in the woods..

You have such a large hand in the production - is it hard to bring in an outsider?

It was and I wasn't instantly keen on the idea of Dave doing it. I was torn completely in half, because on one hand he's my favourite mix engineer in the world. But at the same time I was so steadfast in doing it myself. I was too stubborn and had my head up my arse. The other guys suggested Friddman should do it and it was sort of a no-brainer.

Tame Impala - 'Solitude is Bliss'

Last time we spoke to you you were talking about doing the album launches in parks. I noticed this didn't come into fruition?

Yeah, it is actually going to I think, on the next tour. Our manager was trying to hook that up. This one was always going to be indoor venues, but she keeps telling us the next one is going to be all out outdoor venues. I just hope the weather is good enough.

Just have all the shows in Perth and Queensland.

(Laughs) Exactly! We probably won't make it to Melbourne…

You were also discussing a double album…but this didn't happen either?

It was going to be - all up until the night we got to the studio and got drunk and realised we had nowhere near the work ethic required. [This] single album nearly killed me.

Do you feel that there are certain aspects of personal creativity that get shelved the more you become a working, touring band?

Ummm not really. I know what you mean, but it's funny how the more embedded in the scene you get the more you realise how you can actually inject your own personality into things. Especially when you're headlning…it's almost inspiring to think about what you can do.

Is there a compromise which needs to be made by signing to a large label?

Not at all. I'm continually surprised with Modular's open-mindedness.

You're just abut to embark on US tour with MGMT - that's the second tour with these guys. They must be fans?

Yeah, they really like us I think. We got on really well when they came out the first time. They obviously think our music compliments theirs nicely. And they know that we're not as good as them, so we're not going to blow them off the stage.

Is it difficult playing shows like that, where you know the audience wants to see MGMT right away?

Not usually. Playing a support show is one of my favourite things to do because there's nothing to lose. You can just get up there and do your thing then watch your favourite band afterwards. Sometimes the crowd is just literally standing there for the next band to come [on]. We've had some bad ones in the past.

What did you think of their new album?

Oh man, I love it. I think it's amazing - we're all really big on it. Their songwriting is just on another level from most [other] peoples, and given their headspace I think they've done the right thing and written music they want to write.

In your press release it states that you're "one of the most exciting bands on the planet". What would you say it is about Tame Impala that might substantiate that?

Nothing! (Laughs) I wouldn't say anything like that. That's a claim that's way too big for me to substantiate.

Nick Holt

(Pic: modularpeople.com)



May 20 - The Gov (with The Silents and Like Leaves), Adelaide, SA
May 21 - The Forum (with The Silents and The Sun Blindness), Melbourne, VIC
May 22 - InnerSpeaker Instore - JB HIFI Bourke St ALL AGES, Melbourne, VIC     
May 27 - Metropolis Freo (with The Silents and Wolves At The Door), Fremantle, WA

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