Perth, Australia is the fourth biggest city in the country and, nestled along the west coast, is perhaps the most isolated major city in the entire world. Some of the world’s most scenic beaches are located in Perth as well as one of the largest parks in the world, King’s Park. Perth also boasts to a vibrant arts scene. The late/great Heath Ledger was a Perthian, as was famed AC/DC lead singer Bonn Scott and current blossoming comedian Jim Jeffries. However, my favorite Perth native is not an actor, classic rock crooner or comedian, but rather a 31-year old music prodigy who is slowly but surely taking over the current musical landscape.
Kevin Parker grew up in a musical household, and was exposed to bands like The Beatles, and The Beach Boys from an early age. Fascinated by melodies and tones, he toyed with a variety of instruments including the guitar, drums, and keyboard. Parker’s obsession with music grew and grew as he became proficient in playing and started recording himself daily. As he got older, his music interests expanded into more psychedelic artists and his personal music outputs were altered accordingly. However, his straight-laced father urged him to pursue a more practical career path, so teenage Kevin went off to college to get a “real job.” Unsurprisingly, his musical passions only intensified while at college. He continued to release music on various websites like MySpace and gained popularity in underground music circles. Eventually, Parker was signed to Australian record label Modular Records. He bounced around in different bands in Perth with his friends, and became popular locally to their impressive live shows. As his reputation gained momentum, Parker continued to record and release songs by himself under the moniker “Tame Impala.” Eventually the two were morphed together and a unique dynamic was created – Parker would record/write/play all the songs by himself, and would link up with his friends to play them live. It is through this vehicle that Parker’s greatness was exposed to the world.
I first stumbled upon Parker/Tame Impala at Lollapalooza a couple years ago, at the suggestion of a friend who said they would be a good act to see in between our planned-out shows. I had heard the name before, as they were playing a few festivals that summer, but sort of brushed them off as probably just another indie band with a terrible name (sorry, Kevin). I’ll never forget the first song I heard – the sharp-riffed, acid-washed “Mind Mischief.” It was truly love at first listen. “Wow, this is amazing!” – me 5x during that (and every) song they played. After the weekend, I made it a personal mission to not only find out what that song was, but to see if all of this music was as glorious. I quickly confirmed, and a new obsession was formed. My roommate and I proceeded to listen to nothing but Tame Impala for the next 4-5 months, singing their praises along the way to anyone who would listen. Since that magical moment, I have seen Tame Impala on several different occasions, traveling to places like Tennessee and San Francisco to do so. To say that Tame Impala is my favorite artist of the past 10 years would be an understatement.
Parker’s brilliance, however, stretches far beyond the beautifully-psychedelic Tame Impala. He’s been involved in a variety of bands/projects over the last several years, including but not limited to: Coachella-featured “Pond”, renowned dream-pop record Melody’s Echo Chamber and (most recently) a collaboration with famed DJ Mark Ronson, with whom he will be showcased at NYC’s Governor’s Ball fest in June. He’s also produced tracks for pop heavyweight Lady Gaga.
Alright, so now that its painfully obvious that I’m a huge fan, lets get to the good stuff – why is Parker such a genius? What makes him so great? First off, I just love the sound. He has certainly evolved over the different albums, the last two Tame Impala albums being much more listener-friendly then the earlier outputs, for sure. Psychedelic and spacey? Definitely. There is an obvious “dream-like” feel to the tunes. He incorporates melodic pop, 70’s rock and early Pink-Floyd psych styles all into one wonderful blend. His voice is reminiscent of John Lennon (listen to “Elephant” and tell me that doesn’t sound like some fucked up Beatles song), but the instruments are all over the place (in a good way, of course). Some songs veer off into long, electronic-based tangents (see: “Let it Happen”), others like the aforementioned “Mind Mischief” pack a mean rock-n-roll punch. And the lyrics are catchy, sometimes even tinged in humor, with no song taking itself too seriously.
The live shows are equally mind-blowing, with an impressive light display and confetti and an entire host of other tricks. On stage, Parker and his “mates” are a VERY tight band. Its clear these guys have played a show or two (or a zillion) together. When listening to a Tame Impala album, its shockingly easy to forget this is ONE GUY DOING EVERYTHING! And personally- he’s just the man. He loathes interviews, but likes to party and watch cartoons. But as his core, really all the dude cares about is making good ass music- nothing else. It was revealed last year that he never even received money from the first few Tame Impala albums due to record-label chicanery, and he didn’t even really care all that much. He just loves playing music with friends and pretty much anyone who wants to work with him. That’s why he’s got his hand dipped in like 100 different projects at all times, why famous bands are covering his songs on TV shows and why fans flock to Tame Impala shows like moths to a light bulb. Parker can do no wrong in my book, and I’m waiting with giddy, school-girl-like anticipation for the next album.
Parker’s Currents (Tame Impala) was nominated for Best Alternative Album at last year’s Grammy’s.
Oddities: In addition to playing all the instruments on Tame Impala’s albums, Parker also serves as producer and sound engineer.
Suggested Tracks: “The Moment” “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” “‘Cause I’m a Man”
Summer Appearances: June 3 – NYC @ Governor’s Ball (with Mark Ronson), July 28-29 – NYC @ Randall’s Island Park (with Tame Impala)
Photo Credits: Reverbparty.com, Pitchfork.com, Billboard.com