Cover feature Tame Impala: Slow and Steady Wins The Race
Having beaten down the self-doubt that comes with following up a crossover hit, Kevin Parker returns with Tame Impala’s long-awaited fourth record ‘The Slow Rush’. Thank god for label deadlines…
If you’re looking to describe the typical characteristics of a rockstar, the word ‘introvert’ may not immediately come to mind. Musical success often goes hand in hand with its fair share of bluster, the work of amplifying a persona just big enough to disguise the fragile ego that lies beneath. We all have our vulnerabilities; some artists just conceal theirs better than others.
Kevin Parker, however, has never been too bothered about artifice. An astronomy degree dropout and self-identified loner, he wears his awkward with a touch of pride. After all, it’s hardly held him back. As the man behind Tame Impala, his name has become shorthand for musical innovation and credibility, with everyone from Rihanna to Alex Turner clamouring for time in his studio. Award nods have followed him around the globe, including a Grammy win and 20 ARIA nominations (Australia’s biggest music accolade). Secure yourself the touch of his psychedelic hand and it can be safely assumed that you’re on the road to a commercial hit that won’t compromise on cool. It hasn’t always been an easy ride; festivals are rarely headlined by artists who balk at the idea of having their photo taken. But yes, he’s changing, and is finally ready to face the idea that people might be interested in what he has to say.
This is a good thing, because interview slots with Tame Impala have grown to be increasingly prized. We meet today in a high-rise hotel suite in the middle of Piccadilly. Kevin’s donned hotel slippers and ordered room service, and as we watch the Extinction Rebels march down the street below, he ponders aloud about getting involved in similar action back home in Perth. That’s just as soon as he’s finished up promo in Berlin and Paris, possibly via a detour through Sydney. It’s a remarkable schedule for a man that two years ago thought he might not make another Tame Impala record.
“Having done three albums that people liked, the idea of doing another one didn’t really seem like something I needed to do to make myself feel better,” he admits. “There were so many other things I wanted to do, so much that seemed more intriguing than making another Tame album. Things like DJing; I’d be at clubs watching DJs and thinking, ‘How do they do that?’. I just wanted a new skill to master, and have that be something that could take my time and effort and creativity.
“I guess I felt like I didn’t really have anything else to prove,” he continues. “The pressure of following ‘Currents’ was a lot; my inner teenage rebel kicks in when I have responsibility like that. My immediate reaction is like, ‘Get fucked, I’m not making another album. Fuck you, you can’t make me’.” He rolls his eyes. “12-year-old Kevin definitely came out…”
Packing the petulance of his younger self back into its box proved a not-inconsiderable challenge. “I was probably just feeling too good about myself, to be honest,” he suggests. “But last year it just felt right and like I wanted to again. I guess I realised that I was never going to get the kind of satisfaction out of working on other people’s music as I would with making Tame Impala, and making stuff for myself. I think I was right to wait. I honestly believe in my heart that I wouldn’t have made an album that was better than ‘Currents’ if I had dived straight back into it, or rushed it.”