July 2013

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Before meeting him for the first time recently for the feature in this month’s issue, I read a lot of interviews with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker in which he was variously cast as a brooding outsider, a sullen introvert, generally moody, an outcast, someone on the edge of things, inclined to solitary misery.

In at least one magazine article, the words “tortured” and “genius” appeared in close proximity to describe him. I kept imagining him in the studio, sitting in a sandbox, like Brian Wilson, sadly damaged.

Of course, Parker turned out to be nothing like the lonely soul of journalistic legend, a view of him that had evidently been encouraged by not much more than a song he’d written called “Solitude Is Bliss” and the titles of Tame Impala’s two albums, Innerspeaker and Lonerism. He barely recognised this version of himself, and neither did his Tame Impala bandmates, Jay Watson and Nick Allbrook, who also happen to be two of his oldest friends.
“Kevin is one of the least troubled people I know and not tortured at all,” Jay told me, backstage at the Coachella festival, out there in the California desert, where Tame Impala were playing the weekend I met them. “It’s funny how people want people in bands to be like cartoons. Like, Nick Cave’s The Devil. Kevin’s The Loner. It’s all kind of true and all kind of bullshit, really. Everybody in a band becomes a generic personality eventually, even the most amazing and talented people.”

“He’s not done too badly out of it as an image, though,” Nick said, tongue somewhere close to his cheek. “Almost as well as Jethro Tull did with their woodland aesthetic.”

Jay and Nick, of course, have their own band, Pond, who last year released their fourth album, Beard, Wives, Denim, which Kevin produced and drummed on. I saw them at last year’s Great Escape festival in Brighton, when they were truly mind-blowing, a head-spinning mix of Hendrix, MC5, early Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, loud enough to wake the long-time dead. “Kevin’s always had a knack for writing catchy songs,” Nick said. “We’ve always been more interested in making people’s ears bleed.”

It turned out they have a new album – Hobo Rocket – set for June release and have also already written its follow-up, the wonderfully titled, Man, It Feels Like Space Again. How would they describe Hobo Rocket?
“Half an hour of pummelling feedback,” Jay said.” If you liked the live show, you’ll love it.”
Tame Impala’s schedule means they won’t be able to tour behind the album, which turned out to be not much of a problem for them.
“We’ve thought of a way around that,” Nick said. “We’re going to film a set of us playing the whole album in our garage with a flag from a different country behind us for each song. We’ll put it up on YouTube as Pond’s 2013 World Tour.”

I was thrilled to hear there was a new album due, but just as eager to find out more about Pond backing former Can singer Damo Suzuki last year in Perth. “It was absolutely fucking awesome,” Jay recalls. “One of the guys wanted to rehearse, but you’re apparently not allowed to rehearse. He hates it. We barely even had a sound-check. He just turns up and does his thing. Kevin was playing drums with us that night and he said, ‘Why don’t we do that thing we were doing at the sound check?’ Damo was appalled. It all had to be entirely improvised.”
How did he come to be in Perth, which is a bit mind-boggling in itself? “He’s been to Australia a million times,” Jay says. “He’ll go anywhere. All you have to do is book him, pick him up somewhere and cook him dinner.”

“Actually,” Nick says, “he cooks you dinner. He’s a better chef than he is anything else. That’s no blight on anything else he does. It’s just that he’s an amazing fucking chef. Tempura watermelon for entrée, that sort of thing. It was fucking incredible.”


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