Please Don't Call Tame Impala's Kevin Parker a Perfectionist

With the announcement of their first national Australian tour in three years we spoke to the Tame Impala frontman about nangs and escaping to his home town of Fremantle.
August 24, 2015, 5:09am

Image: Matt Sav

This article originally appeared on Noisey Australia.

Two common misconceptions surrounding Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker is that Perth’s geographical isolation shapes his musical approach and that he is a perfectionist.

The 29-year old musician, songwriter, and producer doesn’t buy into either.

‘When I’m overseas and people ask if Perth or Australia’s isolation affects the music I have to shut them down because the idea that the music you create is affected by where you are geographically irks me. For me music comes from such an internal place,” he explains on a call from his home in the port city Fremantle.

Tame Impala’s much lauded third LP Currents is all about the internal. An introspective break-up record it has Parker at the creative controls that includes composition, recording, and for the first time, mixing. With a busy few months road-testing Currents material at festivals including Splendour in the Grass, Coachella and Lollapalooza, the band have just announced their first national Australian tour in three years.

Noisey: The thought of people in Singapore and Kentucky driving around and listening to your track “Nangs” makes 15-year-old me smile.
Kevin Parker: Ha! The first thing my friend said was “Man you totally nailed the nang experience”. I listened back to it and there’s this backwards sounding reverb breathing sound then this "wooh, wooh, wooh". I did that only so it would sound cool. It’s been a while since I’ve done nangs.

I’ve noticed that a lot of your press refers to you as a perfectionist. This can also have negative connotations.
Yeah I’ve noticed that too but I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. If I were I think the music would sound a lot different. I feel people calling me a perfectionist is more them processing the reason why I produce music the way I do. “Why does he want to do it all? He must be a perfectionist.” For me it couldn’t be further from the truth as I think the music has to have an element of chaos. I’ll record a drumbeat and it will be out of time. I will hit the side of the drum a heap of times but if it has the right vibe I will keep it right to the end and won’t re-record it. I’m a perfectionist more for feel rather than musical technique or perfection.

Do you enjoy the time you spend in Fremantle?
Absolutely. Big cities and happening places are very alluring and intoxicating when you are there. You can be like “Man I can turn into one of these people so easily." Obviously those feelings grow old pretty quick for me so coming back to Fremantle is so much easier to slot back into the Freo pace. It’s a cliché but it works for me coming home to the good old county town.

The local football club is doing well this year too. Do you follow football or the Dockers?
The other guys in the band are into it more than me but I do follow it. When we are overseas and there is an important game on back home we try to watch it but often it is on at 4am or something. Sometimes we stay up. We stay up however we can. It’s kind of funny drinking and getting on it and then going back to a hotel to watch a football match at 4am.

Fremantle is also where you do all your work.
Yeah for me it’s the hub of activity. Even this house I’m in now I’m going to bash all the walls in and make it one big studio. It’s also a good place to remove myself. Whenever I’m in Melbourne and Sydney or really any other part of the world it’s all go. If I lived on the East Coast I feel the label would have me doing radio appearance all day every day. Here the only person who asks me how tour was is the lady who I order coffee from in the morning. She’s like “How was tour? I saw you in the newspaper.” And I’m like, “Yeah it was cool”. For the people around here I’m the resident rock star. The dude with long hair who plays in a band.

When I was in Perth I noticed the price of coffee was pretty high.
Yeah it is. Blame it on the mining boom here if you want. Everyone seems to blame everything else on the mining boom but coffee is expensive here.

Is the price of a cup of coffee the new barometer on the cost of living?
Yeah it’s the new litmus test for the quality of life.

Do you have any songs about location or place?
I totally don’t (laughs) I don’t know why that is. For me music has come from such an internal place. The closet I get to songs about location is an instrumental on the first album called "Jeremy’s Storm" which is about a storm that happened near my home. But it’s an instrumental track so I’m going to go ahead and say not really – ha.

Noisey presents Tame Impala iAustralia tour 2015:
Nov 7 – Melbourne Saturday, Sidney Myer Music Bowl,
Nov 11 – Sydney, Sydney Opera House Forecourt,
Nov 14 – Perth Belvoir Amphitheatre,
Nov 18 – Adelaide, Thebarton Theatre
Nov 21 – Brisbane, Riverstage

Tickets for all shows go on sale August 31.