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Interview: Tame Impala

Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker explains his secret source of inspiration and how standing in front of a “really really big” crowd keeps you anything but grounded.

Jayne Robinson

Date published: 27th Aug 2010

It’s always those things that you can never retrieve that you yearn for the most. Kevin Parker begrudges the ‘completed song’, because after all the blood, sweat and scrutinisation you’re no longer left with an amazing creation, rather something your bleeding ears can no longer bear to acknowledge. Every listen, after it’s pressed and released, is peppered in flaws and shrouded in self-criticism.

I would “pay any amount of money” to hear one of my songs for the very first time, admits the Tame Impala front-man and lyricist. However, to hold the diligent mind of the creator rather than the uninhibited outsider’s perspective is both his fortune and his curse. But with his mum as well as the rest of the world tuning in, the trio from Australia are most certainly making global waves.

The band’s 2010 debut InnerSpeaker was released to high appraisal and their European August tour was a sure-fire success. After playing a sold-out show at London’s Cargo, Perth’s Tame Impala went on to Belgium, Germany and Paris and will be playing at the UK’s Reading and Leeds festivals.

In a frank interview Kevin Parker explains his secret source of inspiration and how standing in front of a “really really big” crowd keeps you anything but grounded.

One thing you learnt from producer David Fridman (MGMT, Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) while he was helping out with the record?

That 'weird' is 'good'.

Does the music or lyrics come first?

The seed of a song is usually a mutant combination of the two, after that it's a race for each to evolve faster.

Your favourite band at the moment?

Since last night, The Hollies. I usually just cash in on Jay's favourite new band though.

And not so favourite?

Datarock. I get it, I think, but I think the point of their music is for people like me not to get it.

Is there a point to sites such as Last FM who supposedly pay the artist per number of songs played? Have Tame Impala benefited from any of these sites?

I didn't know that happened, I don't think I've been to that site. I wonder if they've paid us before, that's assuming they've played our songs.

One source of inspiration?

Crying members of the opposite sex. Try it, it works. 

Kevin, do you like to write things down to inspire the song writing process? Or is it less calculated than that?

There's as little writing down as possible. Other than writing down the odd lyric so as not to forget it, I don't think I really benefit from seeing songs in words or chords or whatever.

During the creation of the album was there anything you shut yourself off from or specifically avoided that may hinder the writing process?

Yeah most of the outside world I guess. The internet and other people's opinions is a good start though.

Can you listen to a song after it has been pressed and released? Do you listen to InnerSpeaker?

It's one of the only bummers about recording music, that you'll never get the same buzz from a song again once you've scrutinised it in some way. I can listen to InnerSpeaker but I need to be alone or I start hearing the flaws again. I would pay any amount of money to hear it for the first time.

Was the environment that you recorded the album in a high priority?

I like to think we can make whatever music we want where ever we are, but it definitely makes it easier when the music is the soundtrack to a nice place, rather than trying to use it to escape.

You’ve said there have been times where you’ve reflected on the concept of staying grounded in the somewhat surreal life that you lead. Is there a moment that comes to mind where you realised you weren’t acting grounded?

Well, a really really large audience is a very difficult thing to act grounded in front of, I'll say that. Remembering big festival shows is like remembering a big night. It was fun but hell I said some stupid things.

Best decision you’ve made today?

Doing magazine interviews instead of cleaning my house for rent inspection. 

Worst?

Going another day without a shower.

Are your parents your biggest fans?

I always thought that was a cliche, but I'm almost positive my mum is our biggest fan. She leaves weird abstract messages on our facebook. 

Interview by: Jasmine Phull