Tame Impala's sophomore album, 'Lonerism,' released in October on Modular, takes the '60s/early-'70s psych-rock inspired vision of the group's 2010 debut 'Innerspeaker' to the next level. Awash with spiraling melodies and heroic guitars, 'Lonerism' is a colossal, concise and wholly absorptive album.
The Australian band is currently on tour in North America (though the remaining tour dates seem to be already sold out). Before a recent show at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, I caught up with singer and guitarist Kevin Parker to talk about dreams, the Apocalypse, 'Lonerism' and astronomy.
Have you had any interesting dreams recently?
Yeah, a weird one, actually. I was listening to the new Jay-Z album on the airplane, and I kept falling asleep because it was a long flight.
When you have music playing in your headphones really loud when you're asleep it sort of enters your dreams. There was this recurring thing where I was subconsciously listening to the rapping and I thought that Jay-Z was [Tame Impala keyboard player] Jay [Watson], and [drummer] Julien [Barbagallo] pretending to be Jay-Z.
This happened three or four times. It was very weird. Funny enough, I was talking about this to [Tame Impala bassist] Dominic [Simper] and he said the same thing was happening to him with this French audio course he was doing. He thought it was us talking in French.
Do you think dreams have anything to do with our actual lives, or are they just random shit?
Of course. They're the world that our brain, our subconscious, creates and it thinks is real. If you're getting chased by someone, or hiding from someone, in a dream, you are really worried that they're going to catch you or find you. It's temporarily our reality.
There's a song on the new album called 'Apocalypse Dreams.' Do you have many apocalyptic dreams?
I had a few for a while; it was a recurring theme for my dreams, actually. The world was ending, whether a zombie apocalypse, or it was just me walking down the streets and I was the only one left. I was walking down this windy, vacant street alone.
If you were in that situation, what would you look for first: a guitar, so you could make music, or other people who might've survived?
Neither. I guess the guitar would be a luxury at that point. I'd probably look for other people. And food. I'd look for a guitar shop, actually, that's what I'd do.
Given the album title, and some of the song lyrics, it seems like you're a bit of a loner. Is that true?
In the end, I don't know. I've actually confused myself as to whether a loner is someone who wants to be alone, or someone who is forcibly alone. I don't know which category I fit into: being alone because I want to, or being alone because nobody else wants to be around me. The thing with the album is working out which part of that you are.
Did you work it out?
No, I think I just aggravated the wound. I made it an even bigger question, but it was somewhat therapeutic. I do like being around people I like. Being alone for me is -- there's nothing else like it. I'm not nearly as creative, or expressive, when I'm with other people as I am when I'm alone. Not ever around my best friends, and the other guys in the band.
When you were young, did music offer you an escape from the crowd?
Definitely. It was more like music gave meaning to the world. It was that one thing that seemed to make everything else make sense. I did spend a lot of time alone as a kid, and music was my company. It made me feel like I didn't need to be around other people.
Another apocalypse hypothetical: You're the only survivor, and you have all the tools you need to make and record music. Would you still make records even if nobody would ever hear them?
Yeah, of course. I'd be curious still to know what the music sounds like out in the real world, coming out of speakers, rather than just in my head. I'd want to just for my own listening enjoyment. I make music in the same way I listen to it. The more you make music, the better you get at replicating the music you want to listen to. I like to think I'm reasonably good at making the music I want to listen to at this point.
"No matter how much crazy shit was going on in my life, or how much trouble I had as a teenager, the stars were always there, exactly the same, hanging around the same spot at the same time each night."
If you weren't a musician, what would you be doing?
I guess I'd be finishing my astronomy degree, or onto my seventh degree at university by now. Maybe I'd be an astronomer, working into the early hours, on top of the hill at the observatory.
What do you like about astronomy?
Astronomy was a big hobby of mine. I hated everything else. I've always loved stars, and space, and all things stellar and cosmological. It's just so vast. The sizes of things and the way things happen are crazy.
I loved looking at the stars when I was younger -- no matter how much crazy shit was going on in my life, or how much trouble I had as a teenager, the stars were always there, exactly the same, hanging around the same spot at the same time each night.
The irony's that stars are just as volatile as everything else in the universe -- they explode, and die, and change. Astronomy and music are very closely related in my life. All you have to do is go outside and look up, and it's there.