February 27, 2013

Tame Impala’s one-man revolution

When Kevin Parker penned the lyrics to “Bliss Is Solitude,” he really meant it. A multi-instrumentalist, Parker is the driving force behind the Australian indie band Tame Impala, whose sophomore album, Lonerism, continues a short but burgeoning career that embraces, among other things, the joys of self-reflection. The follow-up to their acclaimed 2010 debut album, Innerspeaker, Lonerism explores themes of paranoia, anxiety and isolationism, all set to a psychedelic stoner-rock backdrop. 

Following the dissolution of his former band The Dee Dee Dums, Parker founded Tame Impala in 2007. Hailing from the isolated west Australian city of Perth, Parker’s musical accomplices form a loose collective to support each other’s various musical projects. To put the band’s collective identity and apparent malaise into context, Perth is located approximately 1,400 miles from the rest of Australia, making it one of the most remote cities on Earth, at least in terms of proximity.

But Parker doesn’t see any of this as relevant to his band’s sound, focusing instead on the positive. Of his hometown, he notes, “It’s really cool … it’s really ‘casual’ is the word that springs to mind, because no one is terribly desperate to make it big, which seems to be the vibe of a lot of bigger cities. There are a lot of venues. There is no best place. Playing a gig is playing a gig. Sometimes there are people and sometimes there are not. People are generally pretty experimental.”

In fact, despite the appearance of melancholic imagery in Tame Impala’s lyrics and song titles, there lies an undeniable optimism that reflects this attitude of finding the silver lining. For Parker, Perth isn’t that far removed from Louisville in that it remains relatively secluded from outside influence. Musing on this similarity, he notes, “Yeah, I think it’s a real parallel. Some cities that are somewhat disconnected, for whatever reason, they all have these qualities for doing things as they do things in the city. People making music in a big city have this draw for competing with other bands. In small cities, there is more of a communal thing going on … Stars of music kind of fester in that circle.”

Of Perth, he acknowledges, “I don’t think that it’s anything to do with the kind of place I come from. Perth, for example, there are so many types of music that get made in Perth. There’s disco music, and party music, and electronic music. I think it’s a coincidence. There are different types of people in every city. It’s not like there are so few people in Perth.”

Essentially a solo act, Parker composes and performs the majority of all Tame Impala songs, bringing in friends along the way to help with the touring details. Given his logistical constraints, where would you even start?

“It all starts with an idea, really, whether it’s the simplest of chord changes or ideas, or a riff that I suddenly think of, and then I’ll think of the rhythm. It’s a basic song idea. I’ll try to record that as accurately as I can. I never really feel like I’m recording a song. I record and write while I’m doing it.” Parker adds, “Usually, it starts with organ and some vocals, or a guitar and some vocals. I start with the melody and some chords.”

Dedicated to his craft, Parker says, “I’ve just got a home studio set — just ways to record. It can start with any instrument, it really can.” Acknowledging his inner music nerd, he adds, “Processing the drums is probably my biggest obsession. Playing the drums and making them sound like a cross between a hip-hop record and Led Zeppelin. It’s kind of a paradox.”

It’s this gleeful admittance of nerdiness, this acceptance of the unknown in trying to create something fresh, but equally refreshing, where Parker really shines. This is what Tame Impala is really about: exploring the previously unexplored, but accessibly, and having that make sense. And Louisville is fortunate for the reminder of how potent we can be when unified, as purveyors of our own, and not of others. 

Tame Impala with The Growl

Saturday, March 2

Headliners Music Hall

1386 Lexington Road


Sold out; 9 p.m.