The West

In synth with cosmic sound
Tame Impala. Picture: Supplied.

Two years since they caused Sapphires star Jessica Mauboy to debut the word 'de-butt' when announcing them at the ARIA Awards, Perth's world-conquering psych lords Tame Impala are all set to do it again with Lonerism.

It seems as if it's been a long time in the making, with members of the band telling press about their synth-heavy new direction pretty much as soon as InnerSpeaker was released. Main man Kevin Parker does pretty much all of the recording himself, but says he still hasn't really been able to get his head around the instrument best known for being a part of more than its fair share of 80s pop.

"I still have trouble using more than one hand at a time," Parker says. "I didn't realise I was making Tame Impala songs with synths; I was just making music as I like to do. I think I was in my friend from the Canyons' studio once in Sydney. He had this synth that was on and I just pressed a key, and it was just like cosmic laser beams. It sounded amazing, and my whole world just lit up, and a tear fell down my cheek!

"I just got into the idea that synths can be these totally insane-sounding, growling type of things. I used to think they were these totally naff things but as soon as I started playing, I realised that they could be totally badass sounding; sometimes even more terrifying sounding than guitars."

The first single from Lonerism is out now and it's the thundering jam Elephant. The single was packaged, along with a remix, by none other than Todd Rundgren but Parker has denied reports that the entire album is heavily influenced by the wizard and true star himself.

"I do respect him a lot," says Parker. "His vision with making crazy recordings is great and it's more the way that he's a crazy studio guy who makes these songs that just sound really weird, and he's not afraid to make s… sound crazy, which I kind of admire."

Ever since Tame Impala blew up after getting signed to Modular in 2008, the band played just about every second festival in Australia, in between globetrotting jaunts. At Parklife it will be the first time in more than a year that they have stepped on to a stage in Perth. And since they played at On the Bright Side in July last year, they've added a new member in drummer Julien Barbagallo, who plays in prog-rock band Aquaserge in France, while previous drummer Jay Watson has happily moved up front to the keys.

"It's going better than I could have ever really imagined, really," Parker says of the shuffle.

"At the time it sounded like a risk bringing a new member into the band, who I was good friends with at the time by then, but no one else actually knew him. I was wondering how was this going to change the whole band dynamic. But as soon as we started playing, I was thinking 'F…, this sounds better than it ever had before'.

"Julien is really amazing and Jay is a natural on the keyboard; he can do anything; he literally does whatever he wants and kinda plays along to the InnerSpeaker songs, and it just sounds like this extra layer of thickness and flair, and it sounds really cool."

Lonerism isn't the only record being released next month that has Parker's name in the credits. For much of the past year, he's been spending time in France working on his Parisian girlfriend's record under the name Melody's Echo Chamber. He says his time spent in the woods of regional New York State with Dave Fridmann, who mixed both InnerSpeaker and Lonerism, helped Parker get in the right mind frame for producing other people's sounds.

"It was scary just how much I was pretending I was Dave," Parker laughs. "I have my own way of doing sounds and stuff, but it was really refreshing and really fun just to not be the artist and just be the guy turning all the knobs.

"Because in Tame Impala, I'm doing that and at the same time I'm trying to think of another million things at once like the songs and the lyrics and stuff, but this time it was really refreshing just to be serving someone. Someone else has the song and the vision, and I'm literally just carrying out their desires, which really works for me. I enjoy doing that, especially when the music's good.

"Melody (Prochet) has such a strong idea of what she wants in terms of production, she just knows what kind of drum sound she wants and all that.

"It's really just a case of doing my best to turn these crazy sounds into a reality."

Lonerism is out on October 5 through Modular, and Tame Impala play at Parklife on October 1.

The West Australian

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