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Friday, February 22, 2013

Tame Impala: rock 'n' roll is an attitude

Kevin Parker, far left
  • Kevin Parker, far left

There's a song on Tame Impala's first record, InnerSpeaker, called "Solitude is Bliss," in which frontman Kevin Parker sings, "I don't care what I miss/company's okay-solitude is bliss." Parker furthered that sentiment with the group's 2012 follow up, Lonerism. Each song stretches out and arches like a house cat with full reign of an empty house. The lyrics, however, though ranging in scope, mostly close in on themselves through such lines as, "He's got friends but you get the feeling that they wouldn't care too much if he'd just disappear." This result is a trick: poppy, laid-back psychedelic sounds accompanied by lyrics that are like gravel in your mouth. In "Solitude is Bliss," Parker goes on to write, "There's a party in my head and no one is invited." But by the looks of it, unleashing the party via Lonerism has lead to sold-out shows across the world, including one in Athens this weekend. CL talked to Parker about solving the problem of figuring out rather he's a social or antisocial person, the new sound of rock 'n' roll, and why he claims to not sound like the Beatles - yet owns all of the same gear.

So I heard that you guys had the equal number of NME nominations that the Rolling Stones have.

Kevin Parker: [Laughs] Is that right?

It is right.

I didn't actually know that.

You really didn't?

Not at all.

Well, how does it make you feel?

Good, I guess? I mean, the Rolling Stones are very clearly over the hill. They're not exactly the Rolling Stones that we idealize. They're kind of the Rolling Stones of 2013 - I mean, it's not really the same ball game. So to me it's like, whatever. I don't really feel like making the comparison.

So a lot of people are saying that your band is kind of the new of rock 'n' roll music, or psychedelic music, but I'm wondering what you think is really the new sound of rock 'n' roll? Like, what is the new sound? Is there a new sound?

Well, rock 'n' roll is probably like Odd Future, or someone like that, because rock 'n' roll, if you take away the "fuck you" attitude towards the outside world, you don't get much. Or, well not "fuck you." But if you left it to just the music, the music doesn't have much to stand on. Rock 'n' roll is kind of an attitude and kind of a vibe. That's really all it stands on. If you strip back everything from every band at the moment, no one is really doing the rock 'n' roll thing. I think if you look for the rock 'n' roll spirit, you'll find it in hip-hop or people that really aren't successful. Because rock 'n' roll really isn't about success. The rock 'n' roll spirit lives in bands that are just doing it for themselves in shitty little clubs or pubs, or in their back yards all over the world. The bands that are really well known are not really rock 'n' roll. Mick Jagger was like a cosmetics-obsessed guy. Like, he was obsessed with hair and makeup. And the Sex Pistols weren't even punk at all. The rock 'n' roll spirit is a kind of dream, and it's kept alive by people that no one knows about. [Laughs] I'm sorry if it seems like I'm not going anywhere with this.

Not at all! Okay, so I was looking at the album cover recently. The person taking this picture is behind these iron bars and isolated from this huge group of people lounging in the sun, and it really struck me in the gut when I truly saw it. How did that cover come about?

It was kind of a really lucky break because I had an idea of the picture, but I had no expectations for it. I had just bought a new camera, and I'm not even a photographer. It's known for its kind of crusty way of taking analog pictures. Anyway, I went to that place because it was the first day of spring in Paris. Or, well, not technically the first day, but it was the first sunny day after months and months of cold weather. There's always this day in Paris, the first sunny day, and everyone just hangs out and is happy to be alive. All the anger and hate and busyness that underline the world in Paris, up until that point, just suddenly vanishes and everyone is happy to just be chilling out and being social. And I just took a picture of that scene, and it fit the album. It was so blissed-out, but it was behind bars.

This album deals a lot with sadness. It's a very poppy album, but it deals a lot with isolation and loneliness and things of that nature, and it's called Lonerism. But obviously this album is like your baby. Are you a loner?

In the end, I don't know, because the album is about becoming a loner. But the reason it's being sung about so much is because the person in the story is trying to fight it. They're trying to deny it or trying to fit in. It's about trying to not be a loner as much as it is about actually being one. It's about trying to discover other people and trying to establish connections and slowly realizing that it is not your place in the world to be a part of the rest of the world. It's about realizing that it's your destiny to be a loner. The last song is meant to be about disconnecting with the whole thing. I think, for me, the battle goes on. I sort of had this idea that if I made an album about it, it would solve my problem as to whether I'm a social person or an antisocial person. It didn't really solve it in the end. I'm still wondering, myself, and still really trying to prove to myself that I can be a social person.

What new unknown bands are you listening to now?

This guy from Canada named Mac DeMarco who is really good right now. I thought I was done with simple music, but this guy just reminded me that music can be straight from the heart and really touching.

What's one question that you always expect to get asked but never do?

Ooooh, that's a good one, actually. I guess that would be, why do I own all of the gear of the Beatles but claim not to sound like them?! [Laughs]

It was an accident. Or maybe a subconscious accident. I claim that I'm not trying to, but I wouldn't claim that I don't because it's really not up to me, it's up to people who listen to it.

What's your favorite color of pants to wear?

Turquoise.

Beautiful.

Tame Impala plays the Georgia Theatre with the Growl on Sat., Feb. 23. Sold Out. 8 p.m. 215 N. Lumpkin St. Athens, Ga., 30601. 706-850-7670.

Tame Impala also plays the Tabernacle on Mon., June 17. $25. 8p.m. 152 Luckie Street. 404-659-9022.

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