Artist Advocacy // Tame Impala Interview
How has your experience been opening up for MGMT?
It’s been a combination of us getting to see one of our favorite bands and the thrill of playing in a new city each night – a new city we’ve only ever heard about. Most of the venue’s we’ve played in have been incredible – The Houses of Blues and stuff like that.
What is the turnout like for when you play?
There’s only a small difference when we play and when MGMT play. People are generally quite punctual.
What are your thoughts on the US so far?
It’s a new experience around every corner. The things that are so intriguing to us are the things you experience every day. Diners and tipping. In Australia no one tips, it’s a really foreign idea. There’s a different mentality in America. Not entirely sure what it is. I understand why there’s a huge patriotic feel here, it makes you think you love America too. It’s such an endearing culture, I guess. It’s kind of endearingly excessive.
How do you fancy the weed out here?
It’s really good; stronger than Australian weed, although, I can’t fully gauge because of jetlag. It’s kind of hard to tell. If you have it in a spliff it tastes more like a bong.
It seems like everything has been falling into place for you over the past few weeks. With the album hitting stateside, Internet presence and the tour with MGMT all happening simultaneously.
I think our label is known for being quite crafty at putting these things together.
How did the relationship between you and Modular come about?
They reached out to us and said they really liked us. Flew us over to Sydney and did the whole label courting thing. It wasn’t like they were licking our asses or anything. A few labels got in touch with us and wanted to schmooze us. Modular was the first label that got into contact with us and they were also the only one that was the most chilled out about it. They weren’t eager to prove to us how great they were like the other labels.
I was looking through the Modcast at your playlist, Life Affirming Music. It was really interesting to me to see how diverse and expansive your selection of songs was. Living in a time where all of these different styles and sounds are converging, do you find yourself having to consciously select what sounds permeate into your music or do you approach recording knowing what you’re going to do and how you’re going to accomplish your goal?
Very much the latter; It’s only very rarely where I have an influence that I am conscious of. When it comes to sounds and the core of the songs, it’s a very subconscious thing. I just do whatever I think sounds good or what will affect me or someone like me. When it comes to minor techniques, that’s when influences are conscious. It can be the smallest thing. For example: you know Hey Ya by Outkast? You know how at the beginning of the song how he counts out “one-two-three!” He counts it out to three instead of four. So at the beginning of one of our songs there are three hit-hat beats instead of four. Very subtle, but consciously influenced.
I was reading another interview of yours where you cited this project as being very personal and almost a solo project. Your lyrics are very indicative of that notion. They’re very pensive, sometimes self-deprecating. There’s a fear of isolation and a desire to escape from other people. I also noticed this conflict between the groove, which naturally draws you in, and your lyrics, which push you away. How do you reach this point when writing?
Lyrically, it’s really any feeling or sensation that possibly someone else in the world also feels and isn’t normally spoken about. The song is a way of getting out things that you don’t usually expel. It feels good and is self-counseling of some sort. There was never meant to be a strong theme throughout the album, but in a natural sort of way the lyrics became self-analyzing.
While the lyrics and recordings were done primarily on your part, you do tour with a full band. With that said, how do you fulfill your needs in maintaining a personal satisfaction with your work and balancing it with a group dynamic?
When we rehearse a song as a band, it’s already been recorded and mixed and everything, whether I’ve played on it alone or with one other person. The song is complete by the time we start playing it as a band so we can take whatever bits we want from it and make it shorter, or longer, or slower or faster. There’s no attachment to maintain the song exactly as it sounds on record. If something is not translating, since we’re working with a band instead of in a layered studio, we won’t go to the end of the earth to make it sound the same, we’ll just make it sound good. Usually I’m the boss, which can be a burden. I hate being the one who has to rally up people to get enthused about something. I’m not the type of person like Wayne Coyne who can inspire people to do other things like that. By the time we have the song up and running and play it all the way through, then the song is open for anyone to comment or critique it. By that stage I’m just the guitarist and the singer. That’s how I like to see myself when we play live; I’m just another soldier in the battle. It’s very much a team effort when we’re on stage. I don’t stand in the middle; I stand off to the side.
You seem to have a good feel of what everyone can do live, and it all flows really well – very comfortable vibes.
I chose my really good friends that I have known for years, so there’s definitely a comfort element that flows into it. If you strive for musical perfection and try and make everyone play in this very rigid and specific sort of way, they’re going to be uninspired. It has to feel natural or it won’t end up sounding good. You can’t just use them like pawns or they’ll tell you to get fucked.
So what comes next for you and the group?
We’ve started recording songs for the next album, which I’m really excited about. I’m much less high-strung than I was when recording this last one. I had all of these expectations set out before and felt that everything had to sound a particular way, but now it’s more that anything goes. The record is going to be a whole lot more explosive. I plan on giving into temptation a lot more. When I was making the first album, I had this whole thing about guilty pleasures and what I liked hearing versus what I felt the record should sound like to others. I’ve realized now that there shouldn’t be a distinction between the two. If you like something, you like something and you should just do it. There weren’t any cheesy pop songs on the album, so I’m going to embrace them more on the next record. That’s not to say it’s going to be an attempt at the top 40 or anything. It’s going to be a lot more cosmic and a lot weirder. I think this last album is quite earthy sounding. I didn’t allow myself to use any auto-tune or beat correction, and I’d force myself to run takes straight through. Now I just don’t mind. I just want to make a sonically mind blowing album.