There is nothing left for Tame Impala to achieve beyond consolidating their success. They are a critical and commercial commodity, nationally and internationally renowned. This month (April, 2013) they are playing Coachella and Groovin’ the Moo both, not to mention another in a string of sold out east coast tours. Where their debut album, Innerspeaker, pricked a million ears, their sophomore, Lonerism, has put them squarely in the path of astronomical success. In the face of this plight, Kevin Parker, the group’s musical godhead, remains lackadaisical and unflapped.
‘I think these are the only times I think about [Tame Impala’s success]: when people ask me about it,’ said Parker. ‘I don’t really even know how much press there is about us, exactly what people are saying, because no one talks to me about Tame Impala… I never hear it, other than what our manager tells us, and even she these days can’t be bothered to tell us everything because we don’t really pay that much attention,’ he laughed.
When Tame Impala released their debut EP in 2009, the world of music journalism fell over itself to make the obvious comparisons – The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Doors. In an interview with BMA Magazine in 2009, Tame Impala’s Dom Simper explained, ‘We don’t even pretend to be anywhere near as influential or massive as them, it’s just kind of the music we grew up with.’ But much has changed since then. From being a band whose sound it became a pastime to place, Tame Impala’s scope of influence has become impossible to foresee. The idea is not one Parker likes to mull over.
‘Oh, god no,’ he started. ‘I mean, it’s the most flattering thing in the world to hear a band ripping you off. I know some people get pissed off by it, but if I ever hear an artist and I can tell they’re using a phaser pedal the way I do, it’s a massive compliment. It makes you feel like you’re making an impression, having an impact on people, which is really humbling, flattering… It makes you realise that the legends of music and history, y’know, they were just guys as well – it wasn’t godlike, it was just what they were doing… You get more of a perspective of how this kind of thing happens, how rock gods are made, and how many rock gods are just dudes.’
The tone of Parker’s open musings seemed ill-befitting of a rock god. Home, it seems, provides him a counterbalancing normalcy. ‘In Perth we’re virtually unknown. There’s not one part of the day when I feel like a rock god. The only time I feel like a rock god is when, like, after a show in some American city there’s a horde of people outside waiting to get autographs and photos. In that kind of moment you’re like, “Weehh, we’re a pretty big deal”.’
Mere days from a plane trip to California for the world’s most renowned music festival, Coachella, Tame Impala were on the doorstep of perhaps the world’s best opportunity to feel like a big deal. ‘I enjoy it for its proportions,’ Parker observed hesitantly, ‘but we all look at it and go, “Fuckin’ hell”, y’know? We kind of just—not laugh at it, but it’s like visiting Niagara Falls, something you just marvel at. You don’t really feel like you’re a part of it. We’re just players on a stage.
‘I think we stick to ourselves a lot of the time,’ Parker went on, ‘because there are a lot of hilarious characters in that world. There’s everyone – there’s the clichéd overzealous gig promoters, people that would be a hilarious character in a TV show. You meet them everywhere in the “rock world”,’ he laughed, ‘so we just kinda sit there and laugh at these people from the other side. We generally spend most of our time laughing.’
What many musicians look at as the best chance to find creative counterparts, Parker sees as something too unreal to be taken seriously. Last year, in a sea of people who would kill to collaborate with Tame Impala, Parker lent his hand solely to one hidden gem of a release by French songstress Melody Prochet: Melody’s Echo Chamber’s debut self-titled LP.
‘I did want to get into producing and I still do,’ explained Parker. ‘But unless it’s really organic, it’s difficult for me to get excited about that kind of thing, just because—well, I guess for me it’s really important that a) I love the music, and b) that I’m friends with them already and I know them, because music is such a personal thing.’
The same goes, it seems, for Tame Impala’s onstage patter. Organic – and fun for them before the audience. ‘We do so many things now that could barely be called music,’ laughed Parker. ‘Like playing with the oscilloscope during a gig and stuff like that. We spend a lot of time doing weird stuff like that that’s not really—obviously it’s usually musical, but it’s rarely just playing songs on the album. And a lot of songs we’ve changed anyway, made them more satisfying to play live. Because it doesn’t always work like a studio concoction so we’ve gotta mould things the way we want.’
Back before the release of Lonerism, Parker forecast ‘more candy pop’ in their then unreleased album. When asked for a fresh forecast, Parker’s brevity abandoned him: ‘I feel like I’ve got a lot of ideas at the moment, but I haven’t actually had the nerve to sort of like, plot them out physically in the studio. I’m dying to try these new things – they’re gonna be totally crazy. They’re crazy in my head. I don’t know if they’ll end up sounding crazy in physical sound form,’ he demurred, ‘but we’ll see, I guess.’
True to form, Parker remains disconcertingly grounded – not oblivious of his trappings, but unconcerned by them. Strange that from such a level head comes so brilliant an array of creations.