In print, a psychedelic band from Western Australia who call their latest album “Lonerism” don’t seem like the most likely candidates to be the biggest sensation in indie rock. But Tame Impala are selling out most of the shows on the tour they are about to begin, which is their biggest trek through the U.S. to date.
“Whenever there’s music where the lyrics are wearing your heart on your sleeve and talking about things that you don’t really talk to anybody about — which is really just kind of music in general — but whenever you’re doing it onstage, you just have that feeling that you’re connecting with other people in the world that feel the same way,” says singer and songwriter Kevin Parker.
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The music on “Lonerism” ranges from heavy to melodic to focused to spacey. Sometimes it is all of those things in one song. What makes the album so exciting is that no structure is safe from being seriously messed with. The songs are all prone to either sudden unexpected explorations or sudden endings. A vicious lead guitar might step forward in the mix into what a listener might think would be a searing solo, only to have the song end two seconds later. On the song “Keep On Lying,” a trippy organ and guitar interlude gives way to a party conversation that makes the listener feel like an observer who wants — but just isn’t able — to participate.
“I love the sound of something that makes you feel like you’re on drugs,” admits Parker when asked if he approves of the “stoner rock” title that his band is often tagged with.
But the song titles on “Lonerism” speak volumes for those who don’t speak much: “Music to Walk Home By,” “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” are just a few.
“It’s really an album about other people, or at least trying to interact with people,” says Parker. “I think the whole loner thing about the album is that overall the character realizes that he’s destined to be alone, from all of these interactions.”
Parker says he has been surprised by how people have taken to Tame Impala though, in particular a group of school children from Staten Island whose moving reinterpretation of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” has racked up thousands of views online.
Check out the video below.
“It was pretty surreal,” says Parker of watching the PS 22 Chorus perform one of his songs. “It didn’t even feel like it was my song. It felt like the people doing the song, that whole thing that I was watching on the computer screen was bigger than the song, like I was covering their song. … Kids can extract that pop element to it. It’s not that only kids can do it, but it’s that it can be taken out of it and you can leave behind the totally blown-out distorted drums and you can just make a nice little sing-along out of it that’s really uplifting.”
Tame Impala’s summer single, “Elephant,” features one of the most badass lines in recent memory. In the song, about an overconfident, but ultimately insecure man, Parker sings, “He broke the mirrors off his Cadillac, cuz he doesn’t like it looking like he looks back.”
Parker admits that the line was on special reserve for a while.
“I don’t actually remember how I thought of it,” he says. “All I know is that I was driving home from the beach. I know where I was and it was long before I started writing lyrics for that song. I didn’t have a notebook, but I just remembered that rhyme. I didn’t even think it was going to fit. I had no idea how it was going to fit into a song. I then sort of sang it and put it into a sentence and it really seemed to fit well. It was one of those cosmic miracles with lyrics that don’t happen very often for me.”