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Tame Impala on Touring, Success and Festival Crowds

'If it's a mainstream festival, maybe 10 percent pay attention to the music,' says Kevin Parker

Kevin Parker and Cam Avery of Tame Impala at Bonnaroo.
Patrick Doyle
June 18, 2013 4:00 PM ET

Kevin Parker recorded Tame Impala's psychedelic masterpiece Lonerism mostly alone in a Paris apartment, but he had no problem recreating it live when the Aussie band played Bonnaroo on Sunday, finding deep grooves in "Elephant" and "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards."

"Playing live is a different beast altogether," Parker tells Rolling Stone. "It's somewhere between flying a plane and playing a game. If you fuck it up, it's going to cost you."  Still, he admits he's not a perfectionist. "I think our practice regime motto is 'the bare minimum.'"

The Best of Bonnaroo 2013

It may have been their first Bonnaroo, but the band are seasoned festivalgoers: Parker recalls watching Kings of Leon at Australia's Big Day Out in 2006. "Now we're afraid of [festivals]," he says. "We're afraid of going to the other side of the fence."

The crowds have changed, too, he's noticed. "It was a bit more wholesome back then. Back then, it was more about the music. Now, not so much. Now it's more about muscles and how little clothing you can wear. I guess it's the cool thing now to go to a festival. I've played festivals in Australia. If it's a dance music festival or mainstream festival, there's maybe like 10 percent who pay attention to the music. You just see guys with muscles – essentially Tarzan. A fucking hoard of Tarzans that are like, ‘I just want to scope out all the chicks!'"

Bonnaroo 2013: Behind the Scenes

The band has had a major year. Lonerism is a critical hit, the band dominated Coachella, and the heavy rocker "Elephant" wound up in the season finale of Girls. But Parker hasn't noticed many changes. "That started happening as soon as we started touring. It's not like this year. I don't even know what happened this year."

He adds, "The first time someone asked us for an autograph was the moment we realized we were doing something that most people spend their teenage years dreaming about, for sure. But in terms of getting even bigger or whatever, I don't think there's been a moment when we we're like, 'Holy shit man it's really happening.' Bands can become absolutely huge and actually be pretty terrible musicians, and bands can be the most amazing songwriters and musicians in the world and never play for more than 10 people. With that in mind, getting successful doesn't mean anything"

Bonnaroo 2013: The Performances

Despite all the buzz, Parker scoffs at the idea of leaving Australian indie label Modular Records. "We're already spoken for," he says. "We wouldn't just jump ship all of a sudden."

The band is also in the midst of planning a U.S. tour, slated to begin this October. Adds Parker, "It'll be a hoot!"

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