Tame Impala’s new album The Slow Rush dropped over the weekend to universal acclaim. Jordan Hamel talked to the band’s frontman, Kevin Parker, about the five year gap between albums, and where the band fits into riock music in 2020.
Kevin Parker’s musical baby Tame Impala steadily rose to indie prominence in the early 2010s, becoming a critical darling first in Australia (Parker hails from Perth) with the debut LP Innerspeaker, and then internationally with the follow-up Lonerism. Then, with the release of the 2015 album Currents, Tame Impala was catapulted into a new stratosphere of music stardom, occupying the rare position of being adored by both critics and the music-listening public.
After Currents, anticipation for more Tame Impala was at an all time high, but instead of riding the hype train straight into a follow-up, Parker took a step back and focussed on other projects. He quickly became one of the most sought after producers and collaborators in the industry, working with superstars like Travis Scott, SZA, snd Lady Gaga.
Now, after a four year studio hiatus, Tame Impala is back with The Slow Rush. Departing from Currents’ heavily synthesized sound, Parker embraces more organic elements here – dusted drum breaks tumble, disco rhythms meld into the mechanical bounce of classic acid house, and lilting percussion patterns are spread throughout.
The album is concise at just under an hour, which is apt as Parker uses that hour to explore ideas of temporality and impermanence. The Slow Rush constantly shifts in perspective, looking forward and back, jumping between the past, present and future in both lyrics and melody. It gets you feeling like you’re trapped in a moment, some weird time vortex, aa paradoxical as the albums title, and while you know it’ll be over soon and you’ll have to press repeat or go do something else with your day, you just want to enjoy it in the moment.
While Parker could have left Tame Impala behind and saved himself the pressure and anxiety of trying to top one of the decades biggest albums, he jumped back down the rabbit hole and fans everywhere will be glad he did. Ahead of the album’s release, Parker talked to us about the new album, learning from collaboration and ignoring the background noise.
How does it feel to finally have a new album finished?
Honestly, relieved to have it done, but weirdly I can still listen to it.
What are you liking about the album at the moment?
At the moment when I think about it I’m proud of the rhythms of all the songs – whether it’s drums or percussion, I wanted every song to have a rhythmic element. I just wanted it to be more advanced in that way.
There’s been quite a gap between Currents and The Slow Rush, how has it been stepping away from Tame Impala to work on other projects?
It wasn’t intended to be like that, but I’m glad it worked out that way. It’s funny because as soon as I finished Currents all I wanted to do was make another album straight away, to kind of right all my wrongs. I felt like I’d messed up. So I thought I was gonna put [Currents] out quickly, then move on, but it was more successful than I thought it would be.
Now I sort of feel the same way, I just want to make a new album straight away.
Do you have a favourite artist you’ve collaborated during your time away from Tame Impala?
I think the Travis Scott collaboration was the most fun, because it’s one of those collaborations where I was involved from the ground up. I’d spent a few studio sessions with him at different times, we’d hang out at the studio at the start and then I gave him the demos I had been working on, and I came back about six months later, it was fun, it was really good to feel his energy.
Did you learn much from Travis that you’ve used in making The Slow Rush?
Definitely. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff which I think is great advice. Just try to see everything as it is, see it from as far back as you can. You know what I mean? Try to look at it as a thing, as one big mood and not be obsessed with the small details.
So what’s the big mood of The Slow Rush then?
Lyrically I like the idea of this album being that time is racing. Like time is racing, but only when we’re not paying attention.
You have a [reputation] of being quite solitary during the studio process. Does it take a toll when you emerge out the other side?
For sure, it’s all part of it and I wouldn’t want it to be any different. Sharing the burden with someone else might be nice, but I just have to accept that it’s mine. It’s also a sign that I put my all into it, for me to be certain that I have given it everything I can, just being absolutely fucked after finishing an album.
So you’ve got the album release coming up and then a North American tour. Do you get to spend much time at home in Perth these days?
Yeah, it’s basically back to back tours. But I’ll be in Perth for the next few months which will be nice.
Are we gonna see you in Aotearoa any time soon?
Yes! There’s an Auckland show coming up in April.
I’ve been thinking about everyone’s Spotify Wrapped lists, and for a lot of people neo-psych/psych-rock/psych-pop or however people define it has been a huge part of their decade, particularly in New Zealand. How do you feel about that scene? Do you have a relationship with it?
Wow, that’s good to hear! I didn’t realise it was so big in New Zealand. People often tell me that there’s a psych rock resurgence and that I played a big part in it, but the only time I’ve noticed its rise is when people ask me about it. I’ve never really felt like I was part of a scene. I actually don’t like the idea of belonging to one scene. Every artist is part of a genre in a way, but if I played a part in it and that helps others then great!
What was the last great album you listened to that wasn’t yours?
I haven’t listened to any albums in ages, I’ve been so caught up in my own shit. But Tyler the Creator’s IGOR was amazing!
‘The Slow Rush’ is available everywhere you can stream albums right now. Tame Impala are playing the Spark Arena on 16 April, get your tickets here.