In the aftermath of was what a mammoth year for Tame Impala – touring the globe, appearing at the Rolling Stones-headlined Glastonbury Festival, a performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, winning three ARIAs, and their recently announced Grammy nomination in the Best Alternative Album category for sophomore psychedelic rock/dream-pop release Lonerism – Kevin Parker is speaking from his bedroom studio at home in Perth. “It feels good to be back home,” he says.
2014 is shaping to be another very big year for the band, having received the highest of musical nods – a Grammy nomination alongside the likes of Vampire Weekend, Nine Inch Nails and Arctic Monkeys, with whom they’ll be playing in May after performing at Big Day Out. But do the growing global attentions afford them more or less creative freedom? “That’s the thing about going through the stages,” Parker explains. “As one door opens, another door closes. [The small pub stages] can’t really happen again.” Perhaps his success and the construction of the lonerism image alienate Parker. “In a way,” he says, “but I don’t like to think my life is a slave to it.”
Lonerism, released in late 2012, is a brilliantly lush and synth-laden album, delving into the psyche of a self-confessed loner over a poppier melodic base. Looking back, Parker says the record only took thematic shape halfway through the recording process.
“[Lyrically] from the beginning I didn’t know what I was doing, putting words and phrases and emotion that fit the music. There was no master plan in the start – halfway, I realised what was the running theme.” While some would interpret the term ‘lonerism’ to mean being alone without feeling lonely, Parker says it’s about the opposite – the feeling of loneliness amongst a room full of people.
It’s a similar phenomenon to what one experiences at a Tame Impala live show. Watching them recreate those huge, multi-layered psychedelic grooves seems incredibly personal – any one member of the audience is almost isolated, as if the band is playing to them directly. Having spent over six months mixing Lonerism himself – its overall production stretched to two years – Parker points to the feeling that makes him happiest about touring the album. “When we’re on tour and there are fans, you can just see it on their face that you’ve really got them attached. You realise that it’s affected them in a deep way. To see the result your music has [on people] is the pinnacle of what it’s about.”
But what has the album taught Parker most about himself? “It’s taught me that whilst [making music is] therapeutic, it won’t fix your problems. It’s like taking Panadol. At the time it seems like it’s fixing a problem.” He adds, “I’ve become more free and open to expressing my emotions.”
The five members of Tame Impala’s live incarnation are known for their numerous, equally brilliant side projects falling under the psych-inspired umbrella (Pond, GUM, Allbrook/Avery) and Parker already has a new project in the works. “I’m currently working on another band I’ve started – like a weird, super-repetitive Kraftwerk, but with disco,” he says.
Having previously confessed that he is a devotee of sugary pop, we may even see Parker one day following Sia Furler’s lead and writing hits for some of the world’s biggest pop stars, on top of all the music he already creates, performs and produces. “That’s my fantasy. That’s the dream, writing super pop hits after doing the hard yards. You’d just observe them being performed by others and watch the songs grow like they’re your children.”