Interview: Tame Impala's Kevin Parker

The frontman of Aussie's psychedelic rock band, clues Marta Salicrú in on the singular way he sees – and hears – music

We’re waiting backstage at Hamburg’s Mehr! Theatre, at the door of the dressing room overseen by a middle-aged (or older) blonde woman. She’s trying to find Kevin Parker, Tame Impala’s frontman and the one who makes the band’s records alone in his studio. He’s nowhere to be found. Gulp. It turns out he had stayed out late the night before. Gulp again.

Thankfully, we’re soon invited onto the tour bus where Parker isn’t hiding the fact that he’s nursing quite the hangover. ‘The dressing room is too far,’ he says with a heavy-lidded smile. We feel like we’re invading his privacy. But between sips of water, Parker is lovely and communicative. Clearly, the fact that Tame Impala’s latest record Currents can be found on many a ‘Best albums of 2015’ list hasn’t gone to his head – unlike that hangover.

'I’m the last person you should ask what Tame Impala sounds like'

How did you decide on including pop and electronica on Currents?

The moral of the story is ‘evolving artistically’. For me, it’s [about] confidence: realising that I didn’t have to stuff myself in a box and that I can embrace all the things I love, even if I think I don’t belong in that genre. 

You said being more open has made you realise how your audience can relate to you. Tell us more.

The music I fell in love with as a kid is [the kind] that made you realise you’re not the only one feeling that way. That’s when you know you have a good song: something extremely personal but completely universal at the same time. That kind of paradox is what makes music something that can bring people together.

Is ‘The Less I Know the Better’ autobiographical?

All my songs are, in some way. That one is about seeing your crush hook up with someone else. It’s a childish emotion, an immature teenager thing but when it [happens to] you, it cuts deep. I like that: finding a childish emotion and convincing people that they’re real emotions, that it’s an adult thing, too.

'I decided to stop hiding behind my hair and staring at my shoes.'

Do you think Currents is very psychedelic in spirit?

I’m never really sure what constitutes psychedelic and what doesn’t. When we were making Lonerism, I thought that’s it, I’ve finally gotten rid of the psych sound. Then when it came out, people were like ‘that’s a great psych album!’ I didn’t think so. It’s something I can’t avoid even when I try. It’s in my DNA.

Do you feel everybody’s mistaken?

I’m the last person you should ask what Tame Impala sounds like. Everyone else will have a clearer idea. I can’t separate it from my thing, from it being my child. If you ask a mother to describe her child, she’ll say, ‘Oh he’s beautiful, he’s different from anyone else.’ So I feel the same way about my music.

The confidence you were referring to before, it shows on stage now.

I decided to stop hiding behind my hair and staring at my shoes. I watched a video [of my performance] and thought, ‘This is boring, like come on, do something!’ I don’t know what it was, but I felt like it’s now or never. One day I’ll be old looking back and it’s like being terrified of regretting not trying something. It’s that fear of regret.