Interview Tame Impala: ‘We’re Not The World’s Greatest Musicians’

Jordan Aylward finds out all about our number 11 Album Of The Year, ‘Lonerism’, from the band themselves.

‘Lonerism’ is the product of a man who draws from the past and propels it into the future, never once glancing at the present. Kevin Parker’s keen ear for melodies that hang in the air like a thick fog combined with his adventurous and occasionally outrageous production techniques currently makes him a force to be reckoned with in the rock kingdom. Lyrically, the album focuses on isolation, seclusion and unrequited love, but ‘Lonerism’ will welcome you with open arms, and you’re going to want to stay.

You’ve previously mentioned that you wrote the songs for ‘Lonerism’ first and then gave them that ‘Tame Impala’ sound, as opposed to just jamming out ideas and working on songs that way. Was this the case?
Kevin: Tame Impala songs are never really a result of jamming it out. It gets written as it gets recorded, I never really write a song before I start recording.
I bought this digital guitar the other day, y’know, and that just sits on the tour bus so if I have an idea that comes to me I can just turn on the dictaphone and record it, and that’ll be the idea. It’s 2012, you can do anything!

Apart from the older, more psychedelic influences that you are compared to so often, are there any less obvious influences that people may not know about?
K: Well, on an obvious level, people like Caribou and that kind of stuff. Daft Punk have a really amazing approach to music, their use of effects and filter sweeps and drum sounds, that kind of stuff, it’s so basic but so futuristic. Even people like Chemical Brothers. When you hear an electronic song and it has this kind of hypnosis but is emotional at the same time, it’s totally something that I take from.

You’ve just finished a pretty extensive European tour. What are your plans in the near future?
Jay: Seeing as the album only came out a few weeks ago, we’re planning on touring for the foreseeable future.

In terms of the live shows, ‘Lonerism’ takes on much broader soundscapes, particularly with the use of synths that were mostly absent on ‘Innerspeaker’. Does this result in material being more enjoyable for the band?
J: I definitely find the new stuff more stimulating to play live. There’s a whole lot of new sounds going on and crazy, fucked-up production on the album, which, when trying to put together live is a bit daunting, but it’s much more interesting trying to figure out ways to do that than learn the song on the guitar and have that be it and that’s your life for the next three years. The songs are quite hard to play. We’re not the world’s greatest musicians by any means, so it’s nice to be challenged and stimulated instead of getting bored.
Nick: When we say we’re not great musicians, Julian’s (the drummer) a beast.
J: Yeah, he’s one of the best musicians I’ve ever played with.

Kevin writes all of the music for Tame Impala, but when it comes to live shows, do the band get any say in the way things are performed/adapted on stage?
J: It’s very diplomatic, in that we get together and just blueprint how we’re gonna go about it. Kevin is very open to suggestions and we’re all kind of working towards the same thing. There’s no ego involved. It’s a comfortable process.
N: We’ll occasionally slip in a new jam or interlude, something like that, but asides from that we’re just all trying to realise what he’s already done, that’s the main goal.

What have you been listening to whilst out on tour?
N: Bo Ningen, Chelsea Woolfe…
J: She’s amazing.
N: Yeah she’s ace. Connan Mockasin. Umm, a band called Primitive Calculators.

Can you tell me more about them?
N: They’re a Melbourne band from the 70s. They come from the small band scene where people just start up stupid bands and take a load of amphetamines. Nick Cave got them to reform. They’re basically just super lo-fi with some quite nice songs.

You’ve reached a certain level of popularity over here in Europe that very few Australian bands seem to obtain nowadays. Do you think there’s a reason behind this?
J: I think it just goes back to Kevin’s fantastic songwriting and musicianship. I think it transcends the country or whatever. Whereas in Australia, there’s one particular radio station called Triple J, and because all the bands want to get played on the radio, they tend to make songs that sounds like all the other songs that are played on the radio. There’s a lot of awesome bands but they’re below that level, so they’re never gonna get found out.
N: There aren’t many bands that do something so fucked-up and original.

Do you have a favourite song from ‘Lonerism’?
N: ‘Whatever Happened to the Space Race’, or whatever it’s called.
J: Haha, ‘Nothing that has Happened…’. Yeah, I think that’s my favourite too.

Tame Impala’s ‘Lonerism’ is at number 11 in DIY’s Albums Of 2012. Find out more here.

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