Tame Impala : big interview with Australian tripped out groove band
Following up on their wondrous debut with new album ‘Lonerism’ Tame Impala are about three quarters through a world tour that’s seen them take in most of Europe with the US up next. Its in between touring both continents the Aussies swung by Blighty to play what group creator Kevin Parker claims to be one of the finest shows of the tour up to now in Manchester, and its the night after at Sheffield’s Leadmill that LTW got a chance to put the questions to him like covering new and old influences, recording in Paris and his pop album that’d be ideal for Kylie, its all here….
Tame Impala was built from your first group right, The Dee Dee Drums
Yeah sort of, that was one of the bands that was kind of an incarnation of Tame Impala before we were Tame Impala if you like. Dom was in it and I was in it but Jay hadn’t joined yet, you know like there’s been a band for years but it hasn’t always been the same line up or same kinda music you know, the name just changed every few years or so. Some songs were within that same area of what Tame Impala is now but after a while I felt that the group needed a name change purely because the sound and line up had changed so much.
Sometimes when you hear a bands name for the first time it can sort of sound out-of-joint but down the line the name Tame Impala,
in a odd way really suits what the group do, though I can’t explain why
That’s great, and yeah I do know what you mean,…the name ‘Tame Impala’ is just a reference to the African animal really, from a perspective of coming into contact with a live one, one that you’d come across in nature and having this real brief, unspoken moment but with some level of communication between yourself and this wild animal. Then the next minute its gone returning to where it came from.
So what initially got four guys from Australia into psychedelia, was there some sort of scene going on where you came from
Well we’d all been part of a scene back home floating around in different bands anyway and sort of eventually found each other, we had these same tastes so we just gravitated together and ended up living with each other. We had a whole bunch of groups between us, it wasn’t like Tame Impala was our one band more like just one of them that we were playing in. As a scene- it was more like a collection of a few other bands around Perth that were also playing experimental psychedelic stuff.
In the UK psychedelia is very much tied to its time and place (commercially speaking), 1966 with The Mothers of Invention ‘Freak Out’ or 1967 and the release of ‘Sgt Pepper’, how much of that era has influenced or been a part of what Tame Impala do today
The only thing I know is that I don’t think about the 60’s or anything like that in terms of making the music, for me its about just making sounds that I love and songs that I love. The idea of bringing back the 60’s or whatever is totally redundant idea, you know I just don’t see the point.
So you’ve never really been into the more, lets say traditional side to psychedelia, like as a kid finding ‘Piper at the gates of Dawn’ for example
I couldn’t name one song from The Piper at the gates of Dawn, I like some of those albums but they’re not my favourite albums. I remember the first time I heard Sgt Pepper I was expecting some thing more and wasn’t really impressed by it.
Growing as a teenager I listened to Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, Marilyn Manson, Korn and other stuff.
So what was it that turned you on to psychedelia then
Well my friends listened to a lot of Jefferson Aeroplane and Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin. I mean I love the Beatles, don’t get me wrong Abbey Road is one of my favourite albums but I’m the type to love a song by a band and hate the rest of the album, Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins is one of my favourite albums in the world and I haven’t even heard the rest of their albums you know, I’m not the type of guy who goes out looking for music, I kind of wait til its been injected into my head by someone else.
Was there any pressure then on you putting the follow up to ‘Innerspeaker’ together after a really successful start and the fantastic reviews the debut got
Er,..not really strangely enough, I think it was because the second album was written before most people had heard Innerspeaker, You know it took a little time for people to start listening to the first album, for a while it was just like this ‘Australian album’ and really it took ages until we needed to go overseas to tour it because no one else really cared about and it was in that time that I started recording Lonerism because I was just really excited about doing new things and doing what I hadn’t of done on Innerspeaker. New equipment, new recording methods and a new approach really, I was just so excited about it I didn’t even think about any pressure until much later when I started to finish it and my brain exploded with doubts and questions as it does.
Yeah, I guess there’s some thing in that but at the same time they’d be just as many people who love Kasabian who don’t like us and think that were rubbish, and like wise with some of those who like us wont like Kasabian, I don’t think its as clear cut as that because everyone hear’s different things in music and if its our kind of really washed out dream pop melody that some one might like about Tame Impala, Kasabian doesn’t have much of that- its more kinda fist pumping stuff, not all but its less washed out than Tame Impala. And so if that’s what some people are going to like about Tame Impala it will probably be the same reason they don’t like Kasabian, I don’t know…for me its too complex to measure as in that simple.
A legit question, do hallucinogenics play any part in the development of the music within the band, I ask because psychedelia as a genre if you will, has always been strongly attached to it
Not integrally, not as in a core element to what we do, the way I see it is if you take drugs or smoke weed or what ever to enjoy the music more then that’s a great thing you know, getting a different or better experience is fine but if you need drugs to enjoy it, like if you only enjoyed it when your stoned then you’ve got to question why that is. Like I say its cool as an enhancer but I wouldn’t say its required as a necessary thing. We have done acid a few times but never to make music too.
I understand that you actually lost the demo’s for Lonerism from your bag some where between Amsterdam and London, though you did retrieve them in the end didn’t you
Well we thought they were lost but they actually turned up in Jay’s bag, but for two months I was just like “well any day now they’re just gonno turn up on YouTube” but we didn’t actually loose them as such. In fact I was so excited about the new songs and the demo’s that I didn’t really care if people were going to hear them, it was more like “Yeah, great” and it was only a couple of months after the first album came out so there wasn’t that much interest at that time. Though I did have a giant hole in my bag which things like my toothbrush would fall out of but fortunately the demo’s weren’t one of them, it was a thought but we had them all the time.
I also came across a quote of yours which I wasn’t too sure of at first, “I’ve got a whole album waiting for Kyle Minogue, that sounds like a joke but I actually do. I have seven songs ready”.
Yeah that’s right…it’s like when ever I have a idea for a song I just record as quick as I can there and then on a PC or Dictaphone, you know what ever’s laying around at the time and just sing into it then try and record it later on. Some of the things I come up with are just too sugary or cheesy for anything Tame Impala could ever do and I could never stand up and play those songs in Tame Impala because its just too pop, so instead of throwing them away I might as well keep them all together til I have a whole album worth of material for some to hopefully sing, present it in a different light…, I love a good pop tune..
Lonersim was recorded in Paris, what took you there to record rather than back in Australia or the maybe here in the UK
That was because my girlfriend lives there so it could of been anywhere, if she was from say Outer Mongolia I’m sure I would of found a studio there, and yeah I totally loved the place. It just sort of became my second home really as I stayed there for a year.
The art, the culture and everything else Paris has to offer
Yeah, Paris is like the exact opposite to the city I come from in every way, Perth is an extremely isolated desert-city on the side of Australia, on the beach, really hot and spread out. Its people have a pretty casual attitude to life. Perth is also quite new and uncultured or rather we don’t have much culture in Perth, you know they discovered the city like last week but in Paris you walk down the street and see a church that’s something like a thousand years old its extremely beautiful, its also extremely dense and the people are quite, well can be up-tight. The Parisian attitude is quite a cliche but its a big city and in any big cities people are up tight and can be a little obsessed with themselves. So yeah its just the opposite.
So on this tour and playing the new material whats been getting good responses
The singles I guess, Elephant goes down pretty well and people seem to get into that.
You said that Lonerism is a departure from the last album explaining the new album as “more emotional song writing, and a more pronounced narrative perspective.”, in other words would you say Lonersim is more of a personal album that Innerspeaker
Definitely, I think I had more confidence to write about what I wanted to write about with this album and not write about what I thought was cool for this genre. Like the last album I kinda like felt I had to put it within the boundaries psych-rock – but that’s not to talk down the first album its just I thought I’d write about what seemed right on this album which is usually pretty exposing.You know people always want to put the things they cant say in real life into music because its an outlet for it, like not having to talk about it but still getting it out.
How about sound wise and recording, did you have a bigger budget on this album
Lonerism actually cost a lot less to put together than Innerspeaker, I just used my own gear for this album in my bedroom and didn’t really use anything else. Plus I used a whole bunch of synthesiser that I hadn’t used before, synths from the 80’s and stuff like that. I was recording on Ableton which is like which is a DJ programme which was to give it this electronic edge, a lot of the way electronic music is made is so repetitive and hypnotic so I wanted to try and get that into the music even more this time. So the recording method has been the use of more synths, more pop music, I mean I’d personally would call this album a pop album. The melodies are all there and for a minute I thought we were going to go into that Kylie Minogue album because if you take the melodies of these songs and put them in a real commercial pop atmosphere they’d almost be more at home there, that how I see it anyway.
I Just got this new camera and I was snapping around the place and I was actually looking for a spot to take that photo. All the parks in Paris are beautiful and they all seemed to be surrounded by these massive fences so I just thought it would be a cool thing to get a picture of this crowd on the other side of the fence, and especially that day as it was one of the first days of spring and everyone was just piling into the parks and sitting about having a great time. It felt like there were a million people in this park, a real fun, summer Utopian scene which is guarded by these huge iron bars- as if looking into that world but from the outside, which is kinda like what I saw as ‘Lonerism’, that’s what the image is trying to say.
Right now your touring the album and have been playing all over Europe
Germany, France, back to Germany, Austria, most of Scandinavia…yeah we’ve been on the road for a bit now, oh and Holland, nearly forgot Holland
Is that a favourite tour date, Amsterdam
Yeah we’ve been there before, in fact we went for a walk round and made a visit to one of the coffee shops, if nothing else but for the novelty you know, its just so surreal to be buying weed in a cafe. I suppose the novelty would wear off if you lived there, its the most touristy thing you can do- but we still do it (laughs).
So how are you all feeling up to now, this far into the tour
Great, I mean it depends who you’re with and I’m with my best friends, there isn’t much else I’d rather be doing because its reasonably comfortable, sleeping on the bus is quite fun you know, its different. We just resign ourselves to this way of life when its happening, I mean I haven’t had a shower since yesterday and I smell terrible but once you embrace the filth its OK, you just have to embrace the filth and everything is easy after that.
How about last night, you played Manchester, good gig?
Manchester was great, I think it was the best that the sound has been on this tour, great atmosphere, they went crazy…we had girls on shoulders last night (Manchester) which is a first I think. Its some thing you just normally see at summer festivals ‘girls on shoulders’ which is a bit sexist to use as a term I suppose, but still nice to see.
Are you a band that play to the crowd or to yourselves; what is the relationship between you and the audience playing live?
I don’t know man, I mean were definitely aware of the audience and how much they get into it, whether it affects our playing or not I don’t know. Its such a weird thing the relationship between the musicians and the audience. It’s like a big conversation because you’re feeling that they’re taking from your vibe and you’re taking from their’s, basically I just try and have as much fun as possible and not be too self couscous. I used to be really self conscious on stage, like an icicle on stage frozen with fear with all these faces watching me but one day I just realised that there’s no point worrying about that and just have fun and after that it just became a whole lot easier, just started to be myself on stage.
…and before you go Kevin, for you, what makes a good Tame Impala gig?
A good gig is where we play sufficiently groovy enough so to us it sounds, or rather so it doesn’t sound so ‘rock’n’roll’, as say AC/DC. I mean we love to turn the guitars up to 11 but we don’t want it to sound like Metallica you know, its kind of a weird balance between crazy rock’n’roll and it still being like Lazer-beamy or weird, if it sounds weird and the people in the audience feel like there on drugs but they’re not really then that’s mission accomplished.