“The next album will be about partying,” promises Kevin Parker, frontman of and mastermind behind Perth loner-rock five-piece, Tame Impala. “I don’t think I can do another album about solitude and loneliness.”
And fair enough. Parker’s last two albums about just those two things – 2010’s Innerspeaker and this year’s Lonerism – might have drained all the lonely out of him. And they have certainly given the 25 year old plenty to party about. The first record nabbed the band Triple J’s Album of the Year; the second was greeted with the equivalent of a resounding high five from the international music community – NME and Pitchfork frothed with excitement in their 9/10 reviews and it garnered tweet-approval from the likes of Mark Ronson, Grizzly Bear and Blur.
It’s reason to party, but no reason to gloat. “Even if we were still a band at home with only our friends in the audience I would still want to be pushing the boundaries, doing something crazy.”
Of all the bands flooding the Australian market at the moment, Tame Impala have been tipped to be the ones ‘most likely’ to break overseas in a big way. But that pressure didn’t weigh too heavily on Parker as he began work on Lonerism. “I didn’t feel the pressure to deliver the same thing,” he says. “And I didn’t feel the pressure to change – it was kind of just what I was loving at the time.”
For a while this took the form of moving away from thinking about the band entirely. “In the beginning I didn’t even think I was writing songs for Tame Impala,” says Parker, who does nearly all of the band’s songwriting and recording himself. “I was going to write these cheesy pop songs for R’n’B artists and give them to them.” Thankfully for us, he eventually “fell in love with the songs” he’d written and decided to put the Tame Impala name to them.
While they may bear the name, and play on Tame Impala themes – loneliness for one – the collected songs on Lonerism differ markedly from those on the band’s 2010 debut. Their signature Beatles-esque, dreamy, ’60s-inspired rock is infused now with more pop hooks and a liberal smattering of synth – it’s more 'playful' than purely psychedelic. The single ‘Elephant’, released in July this year, thoroughly shook off any expectations of an Innerspeaker redo; it’s bad-arse heavy beat paired with one-note stomping guitar riffs, signalling a foray into the realms of bluesy glam rock “For me there is a complete difference in the persona of each album,” says Parker. “Sometimes when you get into a niche you can’t break out of it... you have to open up the possibilities and not be afraid of trying new things.”
And it’s Parker who is doing the opening-up – he notoriously writes Tame Impala’s songs by himself (though drummer Jay Watson co-wrote ‘Apocalypse Dreams’), typically in about six hours, before subjecting them to a gruelling editing and refining process that can take years. With titles like ‘Solitude is Bliss’ and ‘Why Won’t they Talk to Me’, the songs that come out of it could read like a comment on the loneliness process.
Is his music is a sort of acutely tuned melancholia, beamed out to the world in a sonically pleasing package? “Kind of. It’s more like the recording process is just my niche. The studio is where I feel like I belong. I'm not much of a performer,” he continues, modestly, “I'm pretty boring to look at onstage.”
This time around, the group worked Dave Friddman, whose impressive credits include the Flaming Lips, MGMT and Ok Go. It's Friddman's musical know-how that had Parker flying back and forth earlier this year, recording in France and mixing with Friddman in upstate New York. “With this album, I was so obsessed with the sounds that I went there for two weeks... but then came back for another week and we remixed half the songs again.”
If Tame Impala is the band ‘most likely’, Perth might be the city most deserving of the same tag – think recent bands like Eskimo Joe, the Sleepy Jackson and now, Tame Impala.While Parker says he hasn't had much to do with those acts, the Perth music scene is definitely been a strong influence – and he flits between several bands there. “It's such a dense community of people always making music and not really bothering to draw lines between each band. It’s like one big blob of music that everyone’s contributing to.”
So Tame Impala, no longer just a solo recording project, is more of a congealed miasma of the musical goodness to be found in Perth? Parker muses, with a grin: “It is just like one of the little scoops from the proverbial music blob that is Perth.”
Tame impala play Groovin' the Moo: Bendigo Sat 4 May.