Untamed solo therapy
THERE are moments in Tame Impala songs that sound as if every instrument is woven together, pulsing as one. The synergy of guitars, keys, bass and drums, all accompanied by hazy Lennon-esque vocals, is the work of Perth visionary, Kevin Parker.
For a shy songwriter who grew up in self-imposed social exile, Parker put his soul on the line for Tame Impala’s second album, Lonerism.
Despite it being a record of uplifting psychedelia, there is no mistaking the desolation in lyrics such as ‘‘I’m so alone, nothing for me, I guess I’ll go home, try to be safe’’ – from one of the album’s stand-out tracks, Why Won’t They Talk To Me?
For Parker, the making of Lonerism was a therapeutic way of exorcising some demons.
‘‘I became obsessed with the idea of exposing my inner self and from the first words it felt very liberating,’’ Parker says.
‘‘This album was all about shedding my doubts and insecurities and facing up to the fact that I’m a little socially inept.’’
The multi-instrumentalist wrote and recorded every lyric, note and beat at his home studio in Perth.
He mixed the record in New York with producer Dave Fridmann, who has worked with two of Parker’s favourite bands – The Flaming Lips and MGMT – before presenting the record to his band.
Despite the critical acclaim of Tame Impala’s debut album Innerspeaker, named album of the year in 2010 by Rolling Stone magazine, Parker was nervous how the follow-up would be viewed.
‘‘Sometimes you can write a song and you think it’s going to be the next Thriller and then the next day you’ll write the most unimpactful hogwash,’’ he says.
‘‘There was no prediction on how the album would do so I guess I put my expectations somewhere in the middle.’’
Parker, who previously talked up his loner credentials in the hit Solitude Is Bliss, was unsure how his bleaker themes would sit with fans.
‘‘I did worry that the album was so self-deprecating that no one would be able to listen to it. It’s not going to make anyone feel good if they can relate to the words as they’ll just be reminded of their own issues,’’ he says.
Parker need not have worried about his sense of alienation catching on. Released last October, Lonerism received rave reviews and became the first Australian album to top NME’s album of the year, while at home it scooped Rolling Stone album of the year and Triple J’s J Award.
Taking its crescendos and sunburst choruses on the road, Tame Impala sold out London’s Brixton Academy, dazzled at last year’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago and more recently performed to 50,000 fans in Mexico.
Now back in Australia, Tame Impala are fronting their biggest headline shows and entertaining fans at the Groovin The Moo festivals, a series of homecoming concerts Parker describes as ‘‘a weird cross between the gigs we used to play and the ones we’re now experiencing on a much bigger scale’’, before another tour to the US and Europe.
Looking ahead, Parker has several possible directions for a third Tame Impala album (and as such will not rush back in the studio).
For now the 27-year-old is enjoying the camaraderie of being in a touring five-piece, an environment which is easing his sense of isolation – until the next record at least.
‘‘I like the freedom to take an idea to its most extreme and I can only do that on my own,’’ Parker says. ‘‘It’s like jamming with yourself. It’s all one brain.’’
– ROSS PURDIE
Tame Impala are fronting their biggest-ever headline shows to promote new album, Lonerism.
Lonerism is out now. Tame Impala and Midnight Juggernauts play the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday.