BiographyTame Impala is an Australian rock band founded by Kevin Parker in 2007. The group began as a home recording project for Parker, who writes, records, performs, and produces the music. As a touring act, the project consists of Parker (guitar, vocals), Jay Watson (synthesiser, vocals, guitar), Dominic Simper (guitar, synthesiser), Cam Avery (bass guitar, vocals), and Julien Barbagallo (drums, vocals). Previously signed to Modular Recordings, Tame Impala is signed to Interscope Records in the US, and Fiction Records in the UK.
After a series of singles and EPs, in 2010, Tame Impala released their debut studio, Innerspeaker, which was certified gold in Australia and well received by critics. The group's 2012 follow-up, Lonerism, was also acclaimed, reaching platinum status in Australia and receiving a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. The band's third album, Currents, was released on 17 July 2015. The band name "Tame Impala" is a reference to the impala, a medium-sized antelope and the tension between wild and civilized tendencies.
The origins of the band can be found in the Perth music scene. Parker played in a number of bands, one being the Dee Dee Dums, a rock duo that consisted of Parker (guitar) and Luke Epstein (drums). Tame Impala emerged in 2007 as a Kevin Parker home-recording project in this period and he posted a number of tracks on Myspace. This brought interest from a number of labels and eventually, he signed a worldwide deal with the independent Modular Recordings in July 2008. To transfer these recordings to a live-stage, Parker enlisted the help of Dominic Simper (bass) and Jay Watson (drums) and began playing at some local gigs.
The signing was soon followed by the release on their self-titled debut EP in September 2008. Due to Parker's original artwork there was some confusion with the EP title and many believed it to be called "Antares Mira Sun". The artwork is an interpretation of a slide he saw in an astronomy lecture, which demonstrated the difference in size between the stars Antares, Mira and the Sun.
The cover art is meant to be a painting; an interpretation of a diagram, so those labels are just there to make the diagram make sense. But lo and behold, there were reviews coming out saying "And Tame Impala's new EP 'Antares, Mira, Sun". - Kevin Parker
Tame Impala attained the number 1 position on the Australian Independent Record Labels (AIR) Chart and number 10 on the ARIA Physical Singles Chart, with three songs, "Desire Be, Desire Go", "Half Full Glass of Wine" and "Skeleton Tiger" receiving national radio airplay on the Triple J radio station.
Tours in 2008 included supports for You Am I, The Black Keys, Yeasayer and MGMT, as well as performances at Southbound Festival, Meredith Music Festival and Falls Festival, as well as national headline tours in support of their EP. Tours in 2009 included a sold-out six-date "Skeleton Tiger" national headline tour and a five-date UK tour (including Nevereverland UK), as well as performances at V Festival and Groovin The Moo, and a stadium tour with The Living End and Gyroscope
Tame Impala appeared on Triple J's Hottest 100 list in 2008-their first appearance on the list- with "Half Full Glass of Wine" at number 75. The song is also on the Hottest 100 compilation album.
Tame Impala's first single, "Sundown Syndrome", was recorded at Toerag Studios in London, UK, with recording engineer Liam Watson, while the band was in the UK in March 2009. "Sundown Syndrome" was premiered by Richard Kingsmill on his "2009" show on Triple J on Sunday 10 May 2009. The song was released in July 2009 on vinyl, and digitally with a cover of "Remember Me" by DJ Blue Boy.
The band then headlined the inaugural "Rottofest" in August 2009, an annual comedy, film and music festival held on Rottnest Island off the coast of Western Australia.
Following Rottofest, they embarked on a national tour through September and October 2009 in support of the single. "Remember Me" appeared at number 78 on Triple J's Hottest 100 for 2009.
"Sundown Syndrome" was included on the soundtrack of the Oscar-nominated film The Kids Are All Right. "Half Full Glass of Wine" was used in HBO's popular television series Entourage as the closing song for an episode.
Tame Impala appeared at the Australian/New Zealand Big Day Out festival in early 2010, performing alongside bands such as Muse, The Mars Volta, Kasabian and Rise Against.
Tame Impala's debut album Innerspeaker was released on 21 May 2010. In the UK the official release date was 28 June, but iTunes accidentally made it available for purchase on 12 May. The album was released in the United States on 8 June to general and critical acclaim. Pitchfork named it Best New Music.
In an interview with Triple J talking about the album's recent nomination for the J Award, Parker stated that they have secretly been recording a new album. "Jay and I have been recording pretty compulsively and album number two is nearing potential completion already and I'm so excited about it that I'm having trouble keeping myself from telling you all about it". This came as a big surprise as this statement was released only months after their debut album, Innerspeaker, was released.
The band was busy touring during mid-2010, with its "Innerspeaker album tour" commencing on 13 May 2010, as the opening band for MGMT's 2010 American tour. The band returned to Australia to play at Splendour in the Grass festival, which was followed by a European Tour in July (including an appearance at the Reading Festival) and a national Australian tour in October. In November they returned to the UK and Europe for a fifteen date tour, including their largest London headline show to date which was attended by Noel Gallagher, Tom Meighan, Sergio Pizzorno, Noel Fielding, Alexa Chung and Alison Mosshart, the band then went on to the United States and Canada for twenty headline dates including sold out shows in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. They also received four 2010 ARIA Music Awards nominations which include, "Album of the Year" and "Best Rock Album" for Innerspeaker, "Best Group" and also "Breakthrough Artist".
On 29 November 2010, Innerspeaker won Australian youth-oriented radio network Triple J's highest honor, winning the J Award for Album of the Year.
On 7 December 2011, Parker began mixing the second Tame Impala album, Lonerism, with producer Dave Fridmann. On 2 March 2012, Tame Impala announced on Facebook that the new album was "finished, mixed, mastered, mooged, broinged, and beeped". Jay Watson expected it to be released in mid-2012, but it was released in October 2012.
Parker said that Lonerism "represents a departure from his previous work by incorporating an expanded sonic palette, more emotional song writing, and a more pronounced narrative perspective". It was created in a similar set up as Innerspeaker, whereby Parker wrote and recorded the majority of the album by himself at his home in Perth, Australia. Parts of the recording also occurred in Parker's home studio in France.
While in France, Parker produced and played on the self-titled dream pop album by Melody's Echo Chamber, the project of French singer Melody Prochet. As a result, one of the tracks on Lonerism is titled "Endors Toi", which roughly translates from French to English as "fall asleep". The album cover is a photo taken by Parker of the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, France, with additional editing by Leif Podhajsky, a graphic designer who created the album art for Innerspeaker. The image ties into the themes of isolation of Lonerism, with a metal gate separating the viewer from the people in the Gardens.
On 27 June 2012, the band released an album teaser on their Facebook Page. The band released the song "Apocalypse Dreams" for free download on 7 July 2012. The first single "Elephant" was released in July 2012. The album was released on 5 October in Australia, 8 October in the United Kingdom and 9 October in the United States. StillinRock described it as the best album of the year. The album features the songs "Apocalypse Dreams" and "Elephant", which are some of the first songs that Parker has co-written with Watson. "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" was released as the second single.
In November 2012, Lonerism won the 2012 J Award for Australian Album of the Year. It was the second time Tame Impala had won the award, after also winning it for their debut album Innerspeaker in 2010. They are the first band to win the J Award more than once. In January 2013, Lonerism was selected by Rolling Stone for the 2012 Album of the Year award after the band also won the award in 2011 for Innerspeaker. It was also announced as album of the year by UK magazine NME. Additionally, Lonerism was voted number one overall in Rolling Stone, Triple J, NME, Filter, Urban Outfitters, FasterLouder and Obscure Sound's 2012 Album of the Year polls. "Elephant" and "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" appeared at number 7 and 9 respectively in Triple J's Hottest 100 for 2012.
The band began an international tour in 2012 through 2013, supported by The Growl. During this tour, they played major festivals, such as Coachella, Sasquatch Festival, and appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
In September 2012, Tame Impala's first U.S. feature appeared on the cover of the publication The FADER, in its 82nd issue. "Elephant" was used in advertisements for the Blackberry Z10, in the second season finale of HBO's Girls, and in the film The Fifth Estate.
On 18 May 2013, it was announced via Facebook that Allbrook would leave the band to focus on other musical endeavors, and that Cam Avery of Pond and The Growl would take his place. Allbrook played his final gig with the band on their last Australian tour date of 2013 at Perth's Belvoir Amphitheatre, the same venue that Allbrook played his first gig with the band at in 2008. As a farewell gesture, the band played a cover of Outkast's "Prototype".
Alongside albums by bands such as Vampire Weekend and Nine Inch Nails, Lonerism received a 2014 Grammy Award nomination in December 2013 in the Best Alternative Music Album category.
It is believed that Parker started recording the follow-up album to Lonerism at the beginning of 2014, due to various Instagram posts that showed recording taking place at Wave House in Western Australia, where the debut album Innerspeaker was recorded. Prior to this, Parker had been touring with Tame Impala and working on other musical projects, including his disco-funk band, AAA Aardvark Getdown Services.
Parker said in May 2013: Right now, doing another album doesn’t excite me. 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 making music and listening to it. It’s 2013 and you can make music anywhere ... 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.
In May 2014, Parker spoke of his growing inclination toward the recording of another album in a triple J radio interview, explaining that: "I'm getting more and more sucked into the world of making an album. It's weird how it happens naturally, it's almost feels like a seasonal thing. I've started to think about tracklistings and all the things that come with an album." Describing the sound of the new album, Parker said "I'm gonna try to make it a bit more minimal this time; only use what's needed ... instead of a supreme pizza, where you just throw everything on". Watson added: "[It’s] probably gonna be less rock again and more electronic again, even more than the last one".
On 6 January 2015, Spinning Top Music announced that a new Tame Impala album will be released in 2015. During the same month, it was announced that the band would perform at the Boston Calling Music Festival in May 2015.
On 11 March 2015, a new song entitled "Let It Happen" was released as a free download.
On 5 April 2015, Tame Impala announced and released the album cover for Currents in a Facebook post. A few hours later the band released the first official single from the upcoming album on Facebook called "'Cause I'm A Man". Later that month, on 22 April 2015, Tame Impala officially released Let it Happen as the second single from the album. One week later, Kevin Parker held an AMA on reddit, where he provoked fans to ask him to release a new song, then responding with Disciples, which became the third single for the upcoming album Currents. On May 7, 2015 the band announced that the album would be released in July 17, 2015 and released the fourth single from the album, "Eventually".
During the same April 30, 2015 reddit AMA, Parker said, "Up until recently, from all of Tame Impala's record sales outside of Australia I had received.... zero dollars. Someone high up spent the money before it got to me. I may never get that money."
Parker's music is heavily influenced by late 1960s and early 1970s psychedelic rock, which is achieved through various production methods. Some favoured and often-used effects by Parker include phasing, delay, reverb and fuzz.
Parker's decision to make the music for Tame Impala in the studio by himself is a result of Parker liking "the kind of music that is the result of one person constructing an awesome symphony of sound. You can layer your own voice 700 times for half a second if you want, and I just love that kind of music". However, Parker has to translate his music to a live setting with the band, and the band doesn't play the songs until they have been recorded. "The only jamming that’s done as a band is done a long time after the song is recorded for the sake of the live environment. It’s good for us, because we can take a song that’s been recorded and do what we want to it: slow it down, speed it up, make it 10 seconds or 10 minutes long. It gives us a lot of freedom."
Experimentation with different effects pedals has led to Parker creating new and unique sounds. "If you make an effort to not put the pedals in the order you're meant to, then you'll end up with something new sounding. We don't have any things that we got from another planet or anything, it's the same things everyone else has used." "People have a distortion pedal and then a reverb pedal. A reverb is meant to make it sound like it's in a cathedral or something. If you put it the other way around, it won't sound like a guitar being played in a church, it'll sound like a church being stuffed inside a shoebox and then exploded. You can do different things just by treating things differently."
Parker also has a strong sense of melody in his music, having composed "excessively melodic music from about the age of 12 to 15". As a result of Parker's love of melody, he also has revealed that he has a "fetish for extremely sugary pop music" from artists like Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue.
In addition to a love of melody, Parker also loves "fucked-up explosive cosmic music" in the vein of The Flaming Lips, whom Parker collaborated with on the track "Children of the Moon" in 2012, for the release The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends.
Combining these two things, Shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine have influenced Parker's music with their contrasting combination of loud guitars and ethereal melodies. Parker has "always been in love with the wall of sound as employed by My Bloody Valentine" and he tries to capture that "melancholy dreamy feel". Parker tries to incorporate this balance into his own music. "If I was singing, I wouldn't be able to match the tone of the instruments, which is really crunchy. The instruments are quite sonically brutal, but the voice is really soft, and I think that kind of resonates with people. It's kind of like My Bloody Valentine, where it's really brutal sounding, but kind of beautiful at the same time". Tame Impala live drummer Jay Waston has described Parker's music as containing "shoegazey guitar sound, but not played in a shoegazey manner".
Electronic music is another influence. Parker has used rock instrumentation in an electronic manner, saying "The way we do music, it's organic, but it's meant to be quite repetitive and hypnotic, almost in a kind of electronic nature. Using our playing as though it was a living sample". A heavy feature on Innerspeaker is a pitch-shifted guitar tone that many mistook for a synth. Parker mentioned this by saying "I had a few obsessions when recording Innerspeaker. One was to make the guitars sound like synths and drums sound like drum samples and pretty much anything except guitars and drums. I'm obsessed with confusing people as to the origin of a sound."
Parker was inspired to take up various creative endeavors at a young age, "I used to draw a lot when I was very young, and I used to get the most immense feeling of satisfaction from finishing a picture and looking back at it, even though I wasn’t actually that good. When I started playing music I got the same feeling from making a song, even if it was just a few noises or drum patterns put together. It was all about the buzz from making something from nothing. Music always affected me greatly as a listener anyway, usually from listening to music in my dad’s car or listening to him play guitar."
Parker's process for making music is "I’ll have a sudden, spontaneous vision of a song, have all the parts mapped out in mind, and do my best to record it as quick as I can. I’ll find my eight-track and do a quick demo of just the riff, or a verse or a chorus. The song will go for like 30 seconds. I’ll have a whole bunch of them [demos] and then I’ll just choose which ones to make into full songs". For Parker, the music comes before the lyrics, "I usually write the lyrics after the melody and it’s timing have been decided. But the words have to be meaningful. I try to synchronise certain words with the best parts of the melody, but it can be really difficult and does my head in. I like to keep the meaning pretty open and ambiguous so that it’s not just me that gets something out of the lyrics. I usually write lyrics from a persona rather than tell a specific story." Parker also said "Usually I am sufficiently motivated to think of new songs everyday, but I usually forget them. I seem to get an emotional kick out of sensing feelings of general desperation or hopelessness, whether it’s me or someone near me or someone in a movie or anything. It’s really difficult to sit down and force yourself to write a song, and that forced nature usually comes out in the song so I just have to wait until they come to me."
Lo-fi music is also a favourite of Parker's, and he incorporated it heavily in the early days of Tame Impala, heard prominently on the Tame Impala EP. With the release of Innerspeaker, Parker went for a different approach to a lo-fi sound, aiming more for a more cosmic and sonic wall of sound, helped by mixer Dave Fridmann. Parker explained "It sounds more cohesive, like an organism. It has a different emotion to it, it brings out a different feeling when it’s absolutely blaring at you. I love that sound."
Parker has also stated that Supertramp, one of his favourite bands, are a major influence on the musical style of Tame Impala. Despite their difference in sound, he feels he is always somewhat "channeling Supertramp".
Kevin Parker – vocals, guitar and kazoo (2007–present)
Jay "Gumby" Watson – drums and backing vocals (2007–11), synth, backing vocals and occasional additional guitar (2012–present)
Dominic Simper – bass (2007–10), guitar and synth (2010–present)
Cam Avery – bass and backing vocals (2013–present)
Julien "Frenchie" Barbagallo – drums and backing vocals (2012–present)
Sources: Last.fm, Wikipedia
Tame Impala in the news
|Songs by Tame Impala|