Tame Impala: shy psychedelic expressionist types from Down Under
Tame Impala’s hazy, fluid sound draws from psychedelia and space rock. Far out. But Kevin Parker still finds it hard to perform in front of friends and family, he tells Siobham Kane
From early incarnation the Dee Dee Dums, under the guiding hand of the gifted Kevin Parker, Perth’s Tame Impala have evolved into the band whose two records, Innerspeaker and Lonerism, have excited huge critical acclaim.This is wholly down to their hazy, fluid sound,which draws from deep-set influences such as psychedelia and space-rock, peppered with electronic flourishes and a refreshing flair for the unexpected.
Hearing your father play Sleepwalk by The Shadows was a very formative experience for you. Was it then you knew that music could translate pure emotion?
Yes, from an early age I remember my Dad playing - he always had a guitar around the house. He had more courage than me to sing and play around the family, whereas I never could. I could never do a solo gig in my life. I admire people who have the guts to do it, but I just need the support of a raucous band behind me. I get more nervous playing for two people than 200.
It’s only been quite recently that I felt my own music could be enjoyed by others – up until then I thought I shouldn’t waste other people’s time with my stuff.
That personal journey can be traced from your first record, Innerspeaker, which was quite visceral, to 2012’s Lonerism, which was somewhat more introspective.
Oh definitely. I only had the guts to sing
about what I am really feeling with this last album, whereas before I was being a lot more vague with my lyrics, and not really wanting
to shoot straight at the target. With
Lonerism, I felt that if I was singing about something meaningful to me it would be meaningful for others – and have some
weight to it. I had to swallow my insecurities, and felt if I could muster up the confidence to bare my soul it would be more original. A lot
of music ends up being quite beige because people don’t want to express themselves wholly.
In your first band, the Dee Dee Dums, you won the National Campus Band Competition. Was that very helpful at that point?
Definitely, but I think most of the support we have comes from peers, and like-minded people, which there are a lot of. The band competitions don’t really add to the community feeling – it adds to a competitive vibe, but early on, band competitions were the only way to get an audience.
You produced Melody Prochet’s Melody’s Echo Chamber record last year. That must have been satisfying.
It was. Up until then I had never had the luxury of being a producer. With Tame Impala I am an artist and producer at the same time, which can be a burden, as you have to make technical decisions at the same time as artistic. We did a tour with her other band [My Bee’s Garden] and we were talking about doing stuff for a long time, and then we ended up being in a relationship, so it worked out well. [Laughs]
It meant you got to spend some time in Paris, which must have meant something to you as a Serge Gainsbourg fan.
That’s very true. I do love Paris; it is an extremely beautiful city, but it can be quite depressing, because when you scratch below the surface there is a lot going wrong. There are a lot of homeless people, and there is a lot of Parisian angst. Parisian music audiences can also be extremely cold, particularly for bands that are French.They love foreigners, but are extremely cynical about their own.
You’re a Phil Lynott fan, perhaps you might cover Thin Lizzy at some point?
I love Thin Lizzy. They were awesome. I know a good few Thin Lizzy songs, and we were singing The Boys are Back in Town this morning, I kid you not. So I wouldn’t put it past us to cover them – it may just happen.
Tame Impala play the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on Wednesday 21st