FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Life and Death and Tripping Balls: Talking to Tame Impala Fans in a Cemetery

Is Tame Impala good music to have sex to? Take shrooms to? Eat charcuterie to? Duh.
August 7, 2015, 2:30pm

All photos by of Tame Impala by Rosette Rago.

The rest of Los Angeles, nay the world, may have been poised for the first live stream of the long-awaited album Compton yesterday evening, but in Hollywood's most famous graveyard, everyone here forgot about Dre. “Ohymygod, is that Dracula's grave?” screams one Tame Impala fan, as a sea of Aussie psych disciples enter the cemetery during LA's magic sundown hour. One particular clique of Kevin Parker lookalikes runs towards a tombstone that says HITCHCOCK. “Ugh, it's not the Hitchcock,” says one Kevin to another, disappointed, then looks over towards RAMSAY. “Hahahaha, there's Gordon!”

Advertisement

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the eternal home to the deceased likes of filmmaker Cecil B De Mille, soul singer Mama Cass, playwright Arthur Miller, Breakfast at Tiffany's star Mickey Rooney, actress Jayne Mansfield, and stylist L'Wren Scott. It's also where Twin Shadow recorded his recent record, and it's a choice venue for Saturday night film screenings and the odd live music event. Plus Halloween parties, where apparently its a time-old tradition to get drunk and urinate on the Ramones' graves. Last year, I came here to watch Lana Del Rey perform. As she told an anecdote about how grateful she was to play a show in this place of personal sanctuary, a destination where she'd sit on the graves of her muses and ponder her next creations, I wondered why more cemeteries are not used as a means of joyful celebration.

Unlikely Australian rock stars Tame Impala must feel the same way. Kevin Parker—the only man in LA wearing a scarf in the August heat—pauses during tonight's show for a moment's reflection. “I don't think we could have picked a better fucking place for us to do a show,” he says. “I had no idea this place existed. I knew cemeteries existed, obviously! You guys having a good time?” The crowd respond positively, albeit after a three-second, chill-induced delay. “That just shows that in a place of such mourning and misery there can be so much love and giving and positive vibes, y'know?” And mushrooms. Lots of mushrooms.

Advertisement

Though some revelers have alternative methods of getting their multi-sensory experience of Tame's funk-driven new album Currents here, it's safe to assume that most are of the fungi persuasion. One audience member lends me a pair of Buddy Holly style specs. “These are my diffraction glasses,” he says. “I prefer them. There's no hangover like with psychedelics, and you don't get a blue day afterwards.” I peer at the sunset through the warped lenses and begin walking towards the candy floss sky. “Trust me, don't wander around a cemetery taking peyote or mushrooms unless you purposely wanna see God or something,” he adds.

Tonight's gig takes place among lavish mausoleums, lit up with purple neon light. The band have brought intense kaleidoscopic visuals with them that begin with a contorting tie-dye bulls-eye, prompting the girl next to me to shriek: “Ah! I'm never taking acid again!” Kevin Parker begins proceedings with the quiet shamanism of "Let It Happen," goading the crowd to just embrace this weird psychedelic séance (psych-ance?) and let the magic unfold. Even between-song guitar tuning trips most people out, as reverb echoes off the tombstones. Eventually the tie-dye gives way to a pattern that reminds me of my living room rug from IKEA, which is now moving behind the band like a magic carpet. "Can you call your mom and tell her I want one of those for Christmas?" says one bystander to another in a mental state somewhere between "present" and "Syd Barrett circa A Saucerful Of Secrets."

The Kevin Parker doppelgangers make their own spaces in the grass and do the robot to new disco-infused numbers like "The Less I Know the Better" which contains flashes of Michael Jackson's "Rock with You" and Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive." The whole audience turns into a pack of gyrating disco zombies, as though Thriller or an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is being brought to life. Even Kevin Parker starts dancing. “You guys ready to get down?” he says. Will he moonwalk? Not quite yet. During "The Moment" he abandons guitar, and shimmies around the mic like the younger nephew of Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie. "This is the most fun I've had in ages,” he tells the crowd. “I've been dreaming about this day for a long time.”

Advertisement

Swelling moments come with "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards," new anthem "Eventually" as Kevin punches the air during the chorus, and, of course, "Elephant" which he pre-empts with: “Here we gooooooo!” One recent review of their third album complained that the “elephant in the room” was the lack of an anthemic "Elephant" on the record. Tonight proves that you only need one "Elephant," otherwise you turn into a one-riff pony. Tame carve a sonic journey of loud and quiet, climax and silence; they're not a show-off band, which only makes their approach to recreating those complex records live even more commendable. It's the newest tracks that get the most fervent responses. ''Cause I'm a Man'" is swept up in the arms of the ecstatic crowd. One long-haired teen looks onwards at Kevin for four songs, not moving a muscle, just staring with eyes filled with wonder, like he's witnessing greatness. Kevin Parker recently told MOJO, “It's harder to reach people's hearts than it is to reach their brains.” Tonight Los Angeles gave Tame Impala more heart than they'd bargained for. As Dr. Dre would say: It's California love.

Continued below.

Names: Jack, Hunter and Shaun

Ages: 19, 18 and 17

Location: LA

What brings you to a cemetery to watch Tame Impala?
Shaun: It was so spontaneous. My friend called me this morning with four free tickets from my ex-girlfriend's mom. Yeah.

Hunter: This cemetery is so existential.

Advertisement

Jack: I'm digging that pyramid grave over there, it's kinda cool. I like that one.

Shaun: It could be a pharaoh or something buried in there, hey?

Which dead celebrity would you resurrect to go to a Tame Impala gig with?
Jack: Probably Jim Morrison.

Shaun: I dunno, man. I can't just put a name on it like that. There are just so many people that belong at a Tame Impala show. I'd probably pick someone who has had a heavy influence on Tame Impala. Maybe John Lennon or something. Or Brian Wilson's career. Ha!

Are psychedelics a good idea at a Tame Impala show in a cemetery?
Hunter: Perfect. Jack: Great idea!

Hunter: If you're doing psychedelics at a Tame Impala show, you're definitely going to have an existential death experience. Just being in the sunset here, it's a very awe-inspiring way to see Tame Impala. It's about death and acceptance of it. I don't feel any heaviness about death. It's a beautiful…

Jack [to Hunter]: She asked about psychedelics, dude.

Have you all just indulged in some psychedelics yourselves?
Shaun: We may or may not be on them.

Would you have sex while listening to Tame Impala?
Shaun: Oh yeah, certain songs. Definitely.

Which songs?
Hunter: Certain songs off Lonerism. "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards."

Jack: "Nothing So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control" is a good one.

Hunter: Kevin Parker's lyrics are incredible. I'm hoping to just have a moment where I'm totally immersed in the experience and I just forget myself. Yeah.

Advertisement

How do you dance to Tame Impala?
Hunter: You can't ask people how they dance to anything. You just vibe with it. Whichever way your body moves, let it move! Don't resist it.

What does Tame Impala mean?
Hunter: An impala is a deer-like animal. Taming the impala… I don't know. It's interpretive symbolism, no? It could be a literal thing. Take the name as it is. Maybe they came up with it when they were tripping. It could be some kind of symbolism about the experiencing of taming your own self. Keeping in control in overwhelming experiences. Taming the environment around you. Just living life the way you wanna live.

Names: May and Kate

Ages: 31 and 33

Location: Glendale, LA, and LA via Arkansas

What brings you to a cemetery to watch Tame Impala?
Kate: We've been coming here for eight years to watch movies. I'm a Cary Grant fan.

Who's the best dead celebrity buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery?
May: The Ramone guy.

Kate: Jonny or Joey?

May: Are there two Ramones here? One of them.

Who would you like to see resurrected to be in the crowd at a Tame Impala gig?
Kate: Jimi Hendrix. That'd be awesome!

How do you dance to Tame Impala?
Kate: I'm a swayer. I'll be swaying to "Cause I'm A Man."

What is in your picnic hamper here?
Kate: We're very classy Tame fans. We have a blanket with food—a chicken sandwich and some chips—and some more bottles of wine. We have prosecco. We're prepared.

Where is the best place for listening to Tame Impala?
Kate: I always listen to them in my car.

Advertisement

May: While stuck in traffic.

Kate: We don't drink the wine in the car, though.

Currents is about Kevin Parker's breakup with his girlfriend. Do you have any break-up advice for Kevin?
May: I'm going through a breakup. Benadryl, whiskey and Vicodin. On top of prosecco.

Names: Billy Chew and Tyler Hamilton

Ages: 30 and 29

Location: Boston and LA

Who's the best dead celebrity buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery?
Tyler: I don't know if this is true but I think Colonel Sanders is buried here. The founder of KFC. Don't you guys think that that's cool? He kinda looks like an undertaker. I guess he is an undertaker… of chickens.

Who would you like to see resurrected to be in the crowd at a Tame Impala gig?
Tyler: “Walt Disney. I think Walt Disney knew how to get down with psychedelics.”

Where is the best place for listening to Tame Impala?
Tyler: “On a two-lane desert highway with cacti, palm trees and sunset.”

Would you have sex while listening to Tame Impala?
Tyler: “It depends on what mood you're in and how you wanna get down. The answer is yes.”

Which is the best epitaph you've seen tonight?
Billy: We walked past a tombstone that just said RISK and we were both like, Word. Seeing interesting names on tombstones: I love it.

Tyler: I started to have a real fondness for cemeteries when I was in school and read this book about Coco Chanel. It detailed her time spent as a child in Victorian cemeteries. She would go and hang out with the dead people because she had no friends and they had no friends.

Advertisement

Tyler: I don't wanna get morbid here but when you live in a city as densely populated as Los Angeles you're always within a few blocks of someone dead. We're always around dead people.

Names: Jed and Troy

Ages: 27 and 28

Location: LA

What brings you to a cemetery to watch Tame Impala?
Troy: Tame Impala!

Do you like cemeteries?
Troy: Yeah. There was a cemetery down the road from my parents' where I'd always play. I learned how to drive a car there.

Come to think of it, a cemetery is an opportune place to learn how to drive…
Troy: It's pretty good, except I was with a cousin who tried to get me to do doughnuts. I'd knock into a giant mausoleum. The benefit is that everyone is already dead so…

Jed: Whoa, what if you died in a cemetery?!

Which dead celebrity would you resurrect to go to a Tame Impala gig with?
Troy: Jim Morrison. He'd like this. Obviously John Lennon would dig this shit. This is his speed.

Do you think psychedelics are a good idea at a Tame Impala gig in a cemetery?
Jed: Yeah we forgot our acid though.

Troy: Dude, this is Noisey. Tell them we remembered our acid.

Jed: We remembered it but not all of us wanted to do it.

Troy: Well, it's a school night.

What's the best way to dance to Tame Impala?
Jed: On acid.

Troy: There's a lot of head-nodding.

Where is the best place to listen to Tame Impala?
Jed: My desk. Troy: When you're laying on a rug in your living room.

Is it good music for having sex to?
Troy: Yes! There's a lot there. The key to sex music is: no bad tracks.

Advertisement

Right. Every song is a banger…
Troy: Exactly.

Who would be the weirdest Hollywood celebrity sighting at a Tame Impala show?
Troy: I'd love to see Gary Busey up in the pit.

Jed: Or Mel Brooks.

Names: Domino, Jengo, and Drew

Ages: 24, 21, and 30

Location: London, Ohio and LA

What brings you to a cemetery to watch Tame Impala?
Jengo: It's magical and spooky and the mausoleums are ridiculous.

Do you have any favored tombstones in this cemetery?
Domino: Toto. There's a statue of Toto.

Jengo [to Domino]: Oh my God! I thought you meant the band Toto. The one who had that song "Africa."

Domino: No! The dog, Toto.

A friend interjects: Does anyone have any moon rocks? Has anyone done them before?

Jengo: We're being interviewed!

Do you think psychedelics are a good idea at a Tame Impala gig in a cemetery?
Drew: I've never done them.

Domino: They're great and amazing. I haven't done them in a long time but they definitely open your mind.

Jengo: They open your mind up so much. If you're a person who works in an office and you take them while you're sat next to a plant you will be like, Holy shit you're alive. And then you realize that everything is alive. That's great. But then if you're a gay and you have a girlfriend and you take mushrooms with her it's not a good idea.

Care to expand?
Jengo: Yeah well my girlfriend turned into a snake and that was the last time I had a girlfriend.

Is Tame Impala good music to have sex to?
Domino: I haven't done that yet but I can see it working.

Advertisement

Jengo: I tend not to listen to music while I have sex because I end up singing along.

Domino: Me too! I do the same exact thing. It gets weird sometimes.

Jengo: [Sings] Because I'm a man, woman! It takes your focus away.

Domino: Johnny Cash Live At Folsom Prison is great to have sex to.

Jengo: The Pixies is really good to have sex to, and Iggy Pop "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

Domino: Nina Simone—"Silk & Soul" is very good, too.

How do you dance to Tame Impala?
Domino: Head thrashing.

Jengo: You strut and you just don't stop.

Currents is about Kevin Parker's breakup with his girlfriend. Do you have any break-up advice for Kevin?

Domino: Date me.

Name: Warren

Age: 44

Location: LA

What brings you to a cemetery to watch Tame Impala?
Warren: I've seen many shows here and the atmosphere is alive. B-boom tsh!

Who is your favourite buried person in this cemetery?
Warren: My friend Joy's grandfather is here.

Which dead celebrity would you resurrect to go to a Tame Impala gig with?
Warren: Andy Kaufmann would have a good time here.

Currents is about Kevin Parker's breakup with his girlfriend. Do you have any break-up advice for Kevin?
Warren: I'm single at 44 so I will not give him any relationship advice.

Where is the best place to listen to Tame Impala?
Warren: Driving down PCH north into Malibu, not in a convertible but in an old 1972 classic car. Wind coming in, you're cruising, you lean back.

Do you think psychedelics are a good idea at a Tame Impala gig in a cemetery?
Warren: Probably. But I'm just drinking wine tonight. And I've got a picnic: charcuterie, Nutella, sparkling and flat water, chicken, pesto pasta, brie, goats cheese, hummus, pita… Please help yourself.

Eve Barlow is a Scottish transplant living in LA. Follow her on Twitter.