Photo by Matthew Saville
After the release of the infectious Innerspeaker in 2010, it seemed impossible that Tame Impala could top such a stunning debut album. Little did we know that the band’s mastermind Kevin Parker was already hard at work on the follow-up album before their debut was even released. FPH had the pleasure of talking with Parker about Tame Impala’s latest album, Lonerism, comparisons to John Lennon, Parker’s love for astronomy, and we even got a little flirty with the frontman.
So, what is Lonerism and how did you conceive the idea?
It was never really conceived like other things are conceived, like children. It just sort of slowly conglomerated and sort of presented itself as a whole thing. It just kind of seemed right to call it that in the end. And the name kind of just describes it. I mean the word is literally meant to mean the idea of the loner as a way of life or like a concept in a way. But really, for me, the album is about the rest of the world and the outside world and other people. It’s really, in a way, not even about being alone physically at all; it’s about being around other people.
Do you have any plans to record an album as a full band as opposed to doing it all yourself?
I’d like to. I really would love to. We do that a lot. It’s not just Tame Impala. We have other bands; make other kinds of music, well, other types of experimental music I should say. That’s the thing though, we have a large circle of friends where we are all kind of musicians in some description, and it’s a very communal way of making music and Tame Impala is just a piece of the puzzle.
What influences the recording process for Tame Impala?
It’s hard to say. What influences it? Consciously, nothing. Just the atmosphere of recording music and the thrill of making something from nothing.
What movies or other visual art inspires you?
I’ve really been getting into the movies of Michel Gondry. You know, he did all of those surrealist movies you know. Have you seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Jim Carrey? And he has a few other crazy ones. He just has a really innovative way of making movies and it’s really inspiring. It’s mostly inspiring for film clips, but I guess it spills over into the music world.
What are you currently listening to?
Uh, your voice…
Oh, I’m sorry, such a terrible joke. I just had to mention that. Nothing really at the moment. I really have to force myself to listen to music. Today, I was at Nick’s [Allbrook] house and we were listening to E2-E4 which is this guy from the ‘70s who made this hourlong piece of music that is just really kind of like these gradual ebbs and flows or synthesized sounds and drum beats and stuff. It’s really this crazy thing. E2-E4, you should check it out. It’s really amazing.
I read that you started playing cover songs when you were in high school, specifically Rage Against the Machine songs. What’s your favorite Rage album and why?
My favorite Rage album has to be Evil Empire. I just think it’s like heavy, funky, and kind of the inventive one of their time. Like People of the Sun, he was using an Allen key on his guitar and doing weird stuff like that. That was a big one for me.
While in college, you studied astronomy. Where does your love for that particular field come from and how does it influence your music?
I’ve always been obsessed with stars, particularly, and all things kind of sciency. Sciency, but really kind of just space. I don’t know, for some reason, it’s always given me, even since I was a kid, since I was a teenager, it gave me this fulfillment in life that nothing else could. Working out what was going on in space and then looking into the sky and those dots corresponding to this fucking, crazy shit that was happening in this black abyss. So, trying to comprehend these crazy distances. Things are so far away that light itself takes years and years to reach your eye. You know, the speed of light is the speed that, like, when you stare at a window on the other side of the room the light from that window reaches your eye, and that’s how fast it is. It’s instant. But when you look at a star, the star’s light can take a thousand years to reach your eye. In the end, it sort of makes you imagine how far away that really is. It’s just mind-boggling. I don’t know. It’s always really given me a weirdly emotional outlook on life. Hopefully there is some sense in there somewhere.
Do you find that it influences your music at all?
I think it’s more of a coincidence that people who are into that kind of thing are into really spacey sounding music. It’s not like space rock really sounds like music that comes from space. For some reason it just connected. They’re just the way I think of those two things at the same time instead of some reason there’s a connection. Yeah, I think it’s just a coincidence–some sort of weird property.
I hear a lot of people say that Tame Impala is good to listen to on hallucinogens. What’s your view on hallucinogens?
Sure! If it makes the music better then that’s great. I think if you need hallucinogens to enjoy our music then you’re probably not really into it for the right reasons, you know. If you like music, if you like a band, or love a band, and you like to take drugs and listen to them and the music becomes even more powerful then that’s a really beautiful thing. But if you don’t like it unless you’re stoned or like tripping, then, you know, it’s kind of like the drugs are more important that the music. So, that’s how I see it. It’s an enhancer, not a required state to be in.
Have you ever taken hallucinogens?
Your voice sounds eerily similar to John Lennon’s. How much of your music would you say is influenced by The Beatles, and how do you feel about your voice being compared with his?
Consciously, none of it. I’m really not thinking about The Beatles when I’m making music. I love The Beatles. I respect them, but I don’t listen to them and I certainly don’t… I don’t even own any of their albums.
Yeah, no. Most of my friends are bigger Beatles fans than me. It’s totally weird. I can’t understand what is causing that [being compared to John Lennon] but I listen back to it as well and I’m like, “Yeah, that does sound like The Beatles.” There’s even a song on the new album that I was deliberately trying to not sound like them. I was actually trying to sound like The Beach Boys, because the song had kind of a Beach Boys quality to it. I was trying to sound like Brian Wilson, but ended up sounding more like The Beatles. I don’t even know what to do! It’s kind of weird. It’s a really bizarre thing, and I don’t know what’s causing it. I don’t mind it, because I hate the sound of my own voice. Naturally. I have a feeling that might be what it is because I add the same kind of effect they were adding to get the same kind of effect that they were trying to get. You know, it just so happens that if you want the vocals to have a particular effect like the double tracked with lots of delay with these kind of weird shimmering sounds it could be totally possible. Many people from different times, 50 years ago and to the future, we’re just trying to achieve the same thing. I’m just trying to get the best, emotive sound out of a voice.
Your father said to you, “If you do music as your job, as the thing that puts food on the table, then it will instantly ruin its magic. It won’t be mysterious and fun anymore. It would just be like work.” How do you feel about that now?
I think he was wrong, obviously. Because he was in a different part of the music world, he just played covers and never wrote songs. So, he was playing other people’s music and didn’t realize there was a whole world of creativity and originality. You can choose to get bummed out about music because you’ve come to analyze it too hard or you can just discover the infinite possibility. There are just so many things to discover and so many emotions to extract out of it. I don’t think I could ever run out of feeling like music is a mystery.
How much of an influence did he have on your interest of music?
Oh, completely. First bands I listened to were the bands he played on his car stereo and he played guitar constantly. He was always playing guitar around the house and singing. Trying to get me to play the chords to shadow songs he’d play lead guitar on. He was a musical person.
Have you ever had an interviewer wink at you?
I don’t believe so. You’re the first. I’m winking at you, too.