Kevin Parker: Getting to know Tame Impala

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By Minah Thomas-Proust

After four years of near-silence, Tame Impala, or the one-man band of Kevin Parker, has returned to the sphere of alternative/psychedelic rock with two memorable singles. “Patience” and “Borderline” were released back to back in March and April, sparking a current of excitement for longtime fans of the Australian music project.

Tame Impala’s Beginning

Parker, the multi-instrumentalist and the brain behind the act, started his journey in 2008. It began with the debut of his self-titled EP, Tame Impala, after signing a record deal with Modular Recordings. The project gained recognition on the Australian charts, specifically a number one position on the Australian Independent Record Labels (AIR) Chart and airplay on national radios. The recognition sent the act on support tours for The Black Keys and MGMT. It also sparked their own sold-out headline tour to promote their seventies era-inspired EP.

Innerspeaker & Lonerism

His debut album, Innerspeaker, reached national acclaim and was nominated for four ARIA Music Awards for “Album of the Year,” "Best Rock Album," "Best Group," and "Breakthrough Artist." Songs on the album, “It Is Not Meant To Be” and “Solitude is Bliss” reflect Parker’s laid-back, introspective lifestyle and his obsession with synthesizers that remains to be a key part of his style in his projects.

Lonerism won the 2012 Album of the Year Award by Rolling Stone and was followed by an international tour with performances at Coachella and Sasquatch Festival. His accompanying bandmates include Dominic Simper and some members of Australian psychedelic rock band Pond: Jay Watson, Cam Avery, and Julien Barbagallo (whom he still tours with).

Tame Impala's success was recognized by a Late Night with Jimmy Fallon appearance, a cover on The FADER, and a 2014 Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album category. In a 2019 interview with Beats 1 host Matt Wilkinson, Parker said he would dedicate the album to his younger self as a teenager. "I’d give him a signed copy of the album, saying ‘Don’t worry, you got out the other end.’”

Currents Era

When Mike Greenhaus, a writer and editor-in-chief of Relix Media, asked Parker about the iconic third album, Parker says his core inspiration was Fleetwood Mac. “I heard one of their songs, and it was just so pure, clean and throbbing at the same time. I wanted to see if I could make a song where I didn’t just fill every little crevice with a sound effect or drum fill.” And he did what he set his mind to.

Currents was released on July 27, 2015. Ever since, it has acquired adoration and a cult-following all over the world. It is a more synth-pop album and is very distinguishable from his earlier rock-influenced sound. The songs are catchy but still contemplative and moody, with steady melodies, groovy bass hooks, and clearer vocals.

“The Less I Know The Better” has over 308 million streams on Spotify. Likewise, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” has been covered by Rihanna on her album, ANTI. The album ultimately focuses on changes and growing older. Parker writes his thoughts on his breakups and questions his decisions but ultimately finds acceptance within himself.

“Borderline” & “Patience”

“Patience” is the first single from the upcoming album and it reflects the four-year wait from fans and the effects time has had on Parker. His outro states, “It's always drive straight/don't be late/'Cause time waits for no one/I should be flying straight, with no delay/'Cause time takes from everyone.” Parker is tackling the responsibilities of age while struggling with the immensity of time in his life. The long-awaited, relatable tune has already reached 16 million streams and was just released on March 22.

The second single is “Borderline," which was released on April 12. It reflects his feelings on an in-between stage of a turbulent relationship and the loneliness of LA. The song is inherently Parker: groovy, melodic, and introspective. Some lyrics include: “Will I be known and loved?/Is there one that I trust?/Starting to sober up...Set it free, must be tough (I was fine without ya)...LA really messed me up.” It’s a conversation between Parker and himself about his mistakes and his worry if he will be remembered and loved. Of which there is no question; the answer is yes.

What started as Kevin Parker making songs in his bedroom and putting them on Myspace has exploded into a renowned music act worth listening to and a fourth project that we’re impatient to hear.

You can catch Tame Impala playing at Boston Calling on Saturday, May 25.

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