On 2010’s “Innerspeaker” — his first album with the fuzz-rocking, neo-psychedelic Aussie outfit Tame Impala — bandleader Kevin Parker worked hard to keep up blithe hipster appearances.
“I felt like I had to make the lyrics cool and fit the genre — desirable lyrics that someone would want to listen to, rather than lyrics about how inadequate you feel in society,” he says. But with “Lonerism,” he threw caution to the wind, regressed himself back to childhood and wrote honestly about his awkward outsider existence. “And it totally felt like releasing a demon — I don’t know how else to put it,” he adds.
Musically, “Lonerism” — which Tame Impala touts in town tonight — is more fizzy than fuzzy, beaming with radiant Beatles-jangly melodies in “Music to Walk Home By” and “Feels Like we Only go Backwards,” recently covered in a heartwarming online video by Staten Island, N.Y.’s renowned PS 22 elementary school chorus. But Parker counters these with diary-dark confessionals such as “Elephant,” “Apocalypse Dreams” and “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” — “a song about literally wondering why you can’t make a connection with anyone,” Parker says. “It was the first time I’ve had the confidence to expel all these things that I’ve always been insecure about.”
School was tough, says the Perth native, 26, who currently resides in Paris. Everyone looked and acted alike in their matching class uniforms, and the only thing that set him apart was his long neck, which drew comparisons to an emu.
“You can’t see my neck now because I have long hair,” Parker says. “In fact, that’s why I have long hair.” While other kids were playing soccer, he began questioning this cliched environment. His only friend? Fellow music fan Dominic Simper, with whom he would later form Tame Impala.
He taught himself to play bass, drums, guitar and keyboards and began making the lo-fi recordings that led to his first combo, The Dee Dee Dums. But once he finally upgraded to an eight-track recorder, the ethereal retro-rock concept of Tame Impala was set. Meeting his future bandmates at a live competition cemented it.
“They were dedicated to just swanning around, smoking weed and playing music — guys who not only accepted being a deadbeat, but embraced it,” he says. “I’d finally found my sense of identity.”
Parker’s conclusion on teenage confusion is included in “Lonerism” — most of which he cut in his home studio. “The middle of ‘Why Won’t They Talk to Me?’ says ‘Well, actually I don’t give a s***,’” he says. “‘They’re all totally self-centered, and I don’t really want to talk to them anyway!’”