Tame Impala and Me: An Interview with Kevin Parker
One of my few memories from being 18 years old (which was 2006 sometime) is watching a band called Mink Mussel Creek play at Mojos Bar in Fremantle, WA. Somehow my best friend at the time, Tanya, knew one of the guys in the band or something, I don’t remember exactly, but we were there because the band had a good reputation, and I had just moved from my teenage home in the hills (Kalamunda!) to North Perth, and wanted to go out on the town (so like, get on the train for half an hour to the coast) to see a cool band. This gig, and the people involved, set in motion the path my life would take from thereon in.
I went to many Mink Mussel Creek gigs after that. As many people from Perth reading this are aware, a Mink Mussel Creek live show is a force to be reckoned with. That band was/is fucking GREAT. Over time, I got to know the guys in the band a little, met and partied with their friends, they met our friends, we all met each others friends, I took a whole bunch of photos, then they all spurted off their side projects that all our mutual friends were into: The Dee Dee Dums, Whalehammer, Taco Leg etc… They then started playing in friend’s bands, then various members of all of these bands formed other bands, and members of these bands were always shifting depending on the availability of the musicians. At this time Tanya and her housemates were throwing houseparties/gigs because live music venues in Perth were pretty boring, as well as being few and far between, and then The Dee Dee Dums changed their name to Tame Impala, and by the time I moved into that house on Charles Street, the number of people attending the gigs at this house far outweighed the number that could reasonably fit into the large, double garage holding backyard. Tame Impala got signed, POND were formed, then I followed Tame Impala to a few WA festivals, and then I completely lost track because I moved to Melbourne and remained in touch through only facebook, myspace, and the occasional text message from overseas (thank you Dom for the photo from backstage at the Flaming Lips playing at the Japanese festival), which is how I found out that Joe started playing bass in Cease (all of these boys (and a few girls (maybe the whole of the Perth music scene))) are going to have such a comprehensive allmusic.com listing one day when it is all properly documented).
To be perfectly honest, I fell in love with Kevin Parker the first time I saw him smash that drum kit at Mojos when he was playing in Mink Mussel Creek (to be equally as honest, I later fell in love with Nick, Jay and Dom (oh, lord, Dominic’s hair!) in all different kinds of ways). When Kev asked me to take some promo photos of his band just after they loaded their gear in to my backyard (was I even living there at the time??) for my housemate’s(?) birthday party, I was very eager, and just as equally inexperienced. The shoot was less than average. I gave it a red hot go regardless, and, bless them, they came back for more when they found out some record labels had found their Myspace page and had all started a bidding war. Maybe it was my winning smile. Maybe it was because they didn’t know know anything photographers. Then, when they picked Modular as their ticket to ride, they asked me to shoot again, and I did my first proper-professional-label-paid band shoot for Tame Impala. It’s funny, I do a google image search for the band now, and photos from all three shoots come up in the first few result lines. These two are my favourites from that time period: this one (http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Music/Pix/pictures/2009/2/23/1235393509931/Tame-Impala—002.jpg), which was kind of planned planned, and this one(http://jelliat.deviantart.com/art/Tame-Impala-Shoot-Sep-08-2-97632131?q=&qo=) which was not.
Ever since then, I’ve been a photo groupie for Tame Impala; full time while living in Perth, casual while living in Melbourne. The last time I saw my boys was at the Pond show at The Worker’s Club in Fitzroy, Melbourne, and I took of photo of Kevin and I in front of the mirror in the toilets (he has since implied to me that this particular photo may not be one he approves of), just before he and Jay took over the DJ desk, and then we all had a great little lock-in dance party to loads of Ratatat blasting over the sound system. That was six months ago, and while they’ve been off touring the USA and Europe, I haven’t heard a word…
…until now. I asked Kevin a few questions to update me (and you, dear reader) on what’s been going on since I spoke to him last, and then some other questions because I missed him a whole bunch, and just wanted to know how he’s going, you know?
You guys toured Australia with MGMT in 2008, and I remember you saying they were rad dudes. How was it to tour their home country with them this year? Did you all get along swimmingly again?
Yeah it was pretty awesome. I get the feeling bands’ first tours of America are playing to like 7 people in shitty sports bars across middle America crammed into a hire car. Well, we didn’t have a tour bus like the mugumuts, but we were completely spoilt in other areas. We would just rock up to each amazing 3000-seat ballroom/theatre each night and play to about 1000 excited MGMT fans who were extremely nice to us, then go and get some catering buffet, watch a million kids lose their shit to Electric Feel and then retire to their tour bus and either stay there and wake up in the next city, or stumble back to our hotel room.
What was your favourite city to play in and why?
They kind of all blur into one. There was one Texas show I remember being significantly awesome, but I don’t actually know whether it was Austin or Houston. I’m thinking Austin. It was an outdoor venue and it was about 400 degrees.
What did you eat while in America?
Corn chips and salsa. Next question. (T’s note: from my limited knowledge of road trips and petrol station food, I believe this to be completely true, because it is the only good food at truck stops. I also acknowledge just how boring it would be after one week, let alone talking about it 3 months afterward. Sorry Kev. Bad question.)
How long did you spend at home before going to Europe? What did you get up to?
I can’t actually remember exactly. Maybe a month? Jay and I started the next Tame album properly. I think POND played a few shows, who I’m playing drums for live at the moment. It was good to be home though. Someone remarked when we got home the other day how much Perth resembles L.A./ America. Which now I realise is kind of true. It’s quite spread out and with mostly 1 and 2 story buildings, compared to Europe cities, which are column town.
What were the festivals you played in Europe like? My English friends tell me that they’re far more drug-fuelled than anything they’ve experienced here. And from what I’ve seen from photos, they appear a lot more colourful. How did the crowds, and their reaction to your music, differ from Australian audiences?
The European festivals were pretty awesome; that is Amsterdam, Belgium and one other I can’t remember off the top of my head. Leeds and Reading were a bit of an anticlimax to be honest. The weather just made them so bleak! And people didn’t go as nuts as they did in Europe, for all the bands I saw for that matter.
I noticed something about European festival audiences compared to Aussie festivals actually. In Australia, the crowd is saying “Give us your best sing along that we already know and play it the way we know it so me and my mates can cheers to it and swing our singlets around”. In Europe they’re saying “Just play the lead melody over and over for about 20 minutes and we will love you, or don’t, and everyone will still have a great time and we love you.” (Holy shit. That sounds far more satisfying than anything I’ve seen in this country.)
This winter has been the wettest Melbourne has had for about 10 years, and I’ve known throughout it that a lot of my friends were in Europe chasing the sun. You lucky bastards. I miss the sun. How was the weather?
It was OK, it got hot sometimes but rarely aussie-summer-hot. My friend said I had gotten a tan when I got back so I guess it was pretty good. One day in London the sun came out and then- oh no wait- it disappeared again.
Saville (Matthew Saville, Perth photographer extraordinaire) was with you guys for the US tour. Me equals JEALOUS. Dibs coming on tour at some point. Did he come to Europe too? What are the pros and cons of having a photographer friend around all the time?
Sav didn’t come to Europe unfortunately.
Pros: Someone is there to document everything visually and when a magical moment happens somewhere you can bet they’ll be snatching it, rather than not having a photographer when a magical moment happens and someone goes “quick someone take a photo” and everyone looks around for a camera and the moment passes by. Another pro is that you have another friend on tour with you and thus a greater entourage. Also, there is nothing better than reliving the tour in half an hour at a later date through the right arrow key on someone’s computer ( I’ve seen it happen via my own computer, it makes for hilarious times).
Cons: You can bet that if you find yourself in a particularly unflattering situation that that’ll get snapped as well. Also I get edgy when I see Sav pick up his camera, but it’s OK cause he always gives me a second to adjust my hair. There I said it. (Kevin, I’m sorry I always snap either just before or while you’re adjusting your hair. I can’t promise I’ll never do it again.)
So you’re home now. Then you’re going to NSW, then back home, then you kick off the Australian tour. THEN you go straight back to Europe until November. Are you sick of it all yet? How are the boys handling it? I’ll be in Perth for a few days over Christmas so I will give you hugs then if you need one.
I swear most other people know our touring schedule better than us. Hahaha, Jay cracked the shits during a BBC6 interview the other day because the interviewer announced we were coming back in September and he Jay didn’t know yet and he wanted to be home then hahahha (The BBC guy probably looked at all the things posted on the internet, just like I did. Dawwwwwww Gumby).
Yeah I don’t know, sometimes I feel like I can stay on tour forever and just float around in our little space ship that is our touring party, and sometimes I want to split the band up and run home and never come out of my house ever again. Which sounds a bit cliche, but it’s crazy how much you just DON’T CARE ANYMORE sometimes. When there are so many professional people working on your thing with so few of them that actually get it and turning it into a business operation you just want to give them the finger by sabotaging everything, and then you realise you’d only be ruining your own career so you don’t sabotage anything and you just end up feeling powerless. It’s not all bad though. I met a nice girl in Paris. I also ate an awesome banana in London. Lalala lal al al alal al al. (I’m going to give them, especially Jay, the biggest hugs in the world when I get back to Perth. Maybe not so much Kevin, sounds like he got enough hugs in Paris. Hot dang.)
Can we also please go to the beach together? I miss Perth beaches.
Yeah defs, but give it a couple of months. (Duhhhh) Hah, in an interview the other day I got asked to name Perth’s 3 best attractions; my answer was Leighton beach, Swanbourne beach and City Beach beach. HA! Aren’t I hilariousss? (Maybe a little.)
Um… But I would definitely say exactly the same thing about Perth. All I can think about at the moment is summer and sun and the beach and the bikini I’m going to buy as soon as I find the right design in olive green, and how good it’s going to feel when I dive into the surf. And in this bikini- this December- I will be dancing through the waves of the Indian Ocean at least twice (four days home!), hopefully with Kevin and crew, and I can’t wait. I also look forward to going to The Bakery again, with it being all revamped and ever’y‘tang, with all tthe music and the sweat and the Coopers Green that I remember so fondly from the last time I was there.
As for the rest of Australia, they will see Kevin, Jay, Dom and Nick play their various instruments throughout October for their spring tour in October. It’s going to be a good’n. And while my current home city isn’t ideal (in terms of sun, or lack thereof- I would not be surprised in the least if the sky is still raining come October-, I’ll take (photos of) what I can while they’re here. Watch out for me, I’ll be the one with a nose ring and a camera. Lolz!
As a side note, I’m also very much looking forward to seeing Felicity Groom again. She is an amazing woman, with a voice that could melt glaciers.
Heck, Australia needs them all! Bring on the heat. Welcome the sun. Spring cleaning of the soul while the sun is out, yes please! Tony Abbot is not our Prime Minister! Yay!!