Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker: “I’m just happier on my own”

On tour in the US with Kevin Parker and his band

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While he’s waiting for the waitress to bring him another New Zealand Donkey, Parker considers a question about how it works with Tame Impala when he’s recording an album. Does he play them tracks as they are completed or is there a grand unveiling of the whole thing when it’s finally done?

“It depends how confident I’m feeling, which is seldom,” he says. “So on a rare day when I’m feeling good about the songs I’ll sheepishly play them some. It’s a terrible time for me. Jay especially is brutal when he thinks something’s not as good as it needs to be. I take everything they say into account, massively. Theirs are the opinions I value most. I’m super-anxious when I play them something for the first time. I pretend I’m not, but I’m fucking hanging on their every word.”

When it comes to teaching them the songs ahead of touring, does he expect them to replicate exactly what he originally played?


“That wouldn’t be interesting or fun. And it’s always got to be fun. Sometimes I can be a bit of a Hitler, but we never forget that we’re basically friends making music together. We never lose that vibe. There’s no point in getting stroppy with anyone. If getting the song sounding immaculate and exactly like the recorded version is at the cost of not having a good time with your friends, it’s not worth it. The way we play a lot of songs live is very different to the records, almost as if they were different songs, written in a parallel universe because it feels better with five guys in a room playing them that way. In the studio, it’s a different environment altogether. One guy in the studio with all the time in the world to work on the music is totally different to five guys onstage playing live, and comparing the two is absurd. We just accept they’re two different things and just get on with it.”

“In the early days, we were a lot more precious about wanting to be considered valid members of the group,” Jay had told me before the band’s set at Coachella. “Now we don’t give a fuck. It’s easier to play something the way Kevin wants to hear it and, more importantly, it sounds better that way.”

The question begging to be asked about now, the waitress making her way back towards us, a tray full of drinks, is if Parker thinks Jay, Dom, Nick and Julien are good enough to play his music live, why doesn’t he use them on the albums?


“It goes back to me needing the outlet of doing stuff on my own,” Parker says, probably hoping this is the last word on the subject. “Playing live for me is about having fun, putting on a good show, sharing a great musical time with your buddies. I’m more protective of the music in the studio. That’s when I need to be by myself. I’ve just grown up that way. I’ve done it like that since I was really young. I’ve just done everything myself. I think it has to do with a certain purity of vision. When you’re on your own, you become every instrument. You’re playing with different versions of yourself. And when it all comes together, it’s a lot more satisfying. I love band music. I love the sound of people working together because you can hear all the different personalities. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s just not what I want my records to sound like. Tame Impala would sound totally different if more than one person made the records.”

And what about the next album, you wonder, hoping for a breeze to blow in from somewhere and suck the heat out of the suffering air. What will that sound like? It turns out there may not be one.“Right now, doing another album doesn’t excite me,” he says. “There’s something narrow-minded about thinking an album is the only way you can put out music, especially in the world we’re in at the moment. Anything is possible. There’s so many people doing interesting things with the internet and technology, there could be so many ways of listening to music and also making it. It’s 2013 and you can make music anywhere. We’ve got laptops. You can make music anywhere. I just recently caved in and bought an iPhone and I’ve been downloading all these musical apps and I can control my recording programme from my iPhone pad and that’s fucking blowing me away. There are so many possibilities, my brain is overloading on them all. I just need to wait, think about things a bit more. Then I’ll know what to do next.”

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