Tame Impala’s sophomore album Lonerism follows the path carved out by their debut Innerspeaker, where romantic psych-rock guitars, quicksand kick-drums and explosive synths lend themselves to some rather fantastical day-dreaming. But pay close attention, and you’ll find that Lonerism explores love, self-alienation and the accompanying seclusion in ways that sound remarkably upbeat. Hive spoke with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker about his own loner habits, the band’s interest in pop music and the notion of “people ambiance.”
Tame Impala often gets stamped with a druggy kind of association. Is that something that you’ve embraced or does it bother you?
Oh, no, it doesn’t bother us at all. I don’t like to think that there’s any connection between drugs and our music. Our music is pretty washed out and dreamy and so the sound of our music reminds people of that whole brain-trip thing, if only by association. The music has the same effect on people as drugs and so they draw parallels. It’s totally a compliment. It means that we’ve succeeded in making music that makes people feel weird.
“Solitude is Bliss” was one of your biggest songs off of Innerspeaker and the new album’s name is Lonerism. Would you describe yourself as a loner?
Yeah, I guess so. I guess my whole thing is that I’m trying not to be. But I think that I’m just trying to glorify being a loner for myself so I don’t feel so bad about it. I don’t know what it’s like for other people but for me it’s kind of like, um, difficult. You know, I love being around other people, but it’s really tiring. I don’t have the energy to be around a lot of people. It’s just easier to be alone.
Watch the video for “Elephant” below:
You record alone though?
Yeah, I always have. My recording process hasn’t really changed. It goes back to five years ago, 10 years ago even, where I just make music for me. That’s the thing about making music for other people, you have to please everyone. And if it pleases everyone it’s not going to be perfect for anyone. It’s never going to be exactly what you want either. Unless you do it alone and can take it in whatever direction you want.
What’s your interest in making pop music?
Not current-day pop. I am more talking about the “idea” of pop music. The innocence of a pop song really affects me because there’s nothing else that you think about when you’re listening to pop. There’s nothing really to take in except the melody, there’s nothing to think about. It’s the way it affects your brain, the same way that psychedelic music might. It can be something really beautiful and purified. I mean, pop music these days I can’t really speak for. There’s nothing on the radio that I’ve heard and thought I really liked. When we’re in the back of a taxi and we hear something on the radio that’s real, real Top 40 pop today, it’s mostly all pretty terrible in my opinion. I’m more talking about ‘80s Michael Jackson.
The titles of some of your songs like “Why Won’t They Talk To Me,” and “She Just Won’t Believe Me” imply that they’re about certain people or events in your life. Is that the case?
They’re meant to be as ambiguous as possible. They’re very rarely about a specific person. They’re mostly about an emotion I felt from, like, ten different people. Or someone I’ve met or something. Me taking my own experiences and turning them into a story in my head. A story happening to an imaginary person that I can kind of relate to. It’s totally about the feeling more than actual people.
Stream “Apocalypse Dreams” below:
But on “Keep on Lying” it sounds like you do have actual people.
Oh yeah! That’s a recording of people talking. It’s meant to sound like there’s this dinner party going on and music in the background. I think I would have liked to make the people talking louder but I wanted that to be the vibe. People ambience. For me it makes the listener feel even more alienated.
How do you create “people ambience?”
Most of the track is my Dictaphone actually. I kind of obsessively record sounds wherever I am. Like, if I’m at a train station, I’ll record the trains or a megaphone talking. I love ambient sounds. For me it’s like taking photos. I love the idea of recording a collection or a library of weird sounds of stuff. On that track there’s people laughing and stuff too. All of it was recorded on my dict-a-phone. At the start of the album you can hear someone walking, which is me sticking my recorder outside of a window of a hotel I was staying at. The street had a weird shape to it and it had a cool reverb whenever someone walked by. You see that run through the album. At the end of the album you can hear me walking from the carpark to my local beach in Perth. You can hear my walking on the tar and then the wind blowing and then finally the water where you can hear waves and a girl talking before it chops off. I guess it’s recording my being alone even though I’m not.
Lonerism is out October 9 on Modular Recordings.