Kevin Parker of Tame Impala
Photo: Yuliya Christensen/Getty Images
How A California Fire Affected Tame Impala's Much-Awaited Next Album
It feels like everyone is anxiously awaiting GRAMMY-nominated Tame Impala's forthcoming new album, the follow-up to 2015's Currents, and, honestly, Kevin Parker, the one-man-band behind the outfit, seems to be ready for more new stuff himself.
Parker, who performs live with a band, told Matt Wilkinson on Beats 1 July of last year that he'd like to get the album out by mid 2019. "I'd be really disappointed if we didn't have something out by then." Parker said. "I love playing the songs live, I love playing Currents songs, I love playing Lonerism songs and everything but I think I'm ready to play some other songs live."
But as of June, we haven't heard of a solid release date yet. Truth is, some of the setbacks have been out of Parker's hands. Recently released interviews by the New York Times and Rolling Stone have shed more light on some of the challenges Parker has faced in finishing the album, including a setback caused by a destructive Southern California fire.
Parker was half way through the new album, Rolling Stone reports, and set to continue working in a house he had rented via AirBnb in Malibu, Calif. when the morning of Nov. 9 he woke up to a concerned message from his manager and clouds of smoke and flames outside.
What Parker was witnessing was the most damging fire in Ventura County history; the fire damaged 100,000 acres, 1,600 structures that killed three people, according to Pacific Standard.
The New York Times reports that Parker grabbed his laptop and hard drive which held pieces of his unfinished album and his vintage 60s' Hofner bass guitar.
“I’ve written every Tame Impala song on it,” he told the Times. “I was, like, house burning down! What do I grab? My laptop and the Hofner. This was just split-second thinking. I looked at everything else and thought, ‘I don’t need that.’”
Parker described the destructive power of the flames he was seeing to Rolling Stone:
“I could see the whole hillside on fire. At first I kind of just thought it was epic, so I stood there filming for 10 minutes — then I saw the flames start to lap up people’s houses, and the sky started to blacken.” The rental house, and all of Parker’s abandoned gear, were incinerated. “It might have been a different story, if I didn’t wake up when I did,” he said.
The fire would destroy the home Parker was renting and all the gear he could not get out with. The fire added a wrench to a process that has already been a bit challenging for Parker to complete. The New York Times touches on the years it took for Parker to gain momentum to start the album and the pressure he feels now to finish it.
“Part of the thing about me starting an album is that I have to feel kind of worthless again to want to make music," he said. "I started making music when I was a kid as a way of feeling better about myself, you know? The ironic thing is, if I’m feeling on top of the world or feeling confident or like everything’s good, I don’t have the urge to make music.”
He added: “If I could make an album every year I would, I’d love to. I hate to sound precious, or to say I can’t hurry it, but it’s true.”
The fact that Parker is a one-man-band can make the process take a little longer.
“I know it turns his head inside out sometimes, not having a bandmate or a band, not working in any way where you can turn to other people,” A&R manager at Universal Music Australia Glen Goetze told the Times. “He’s got to go through all those phases to come out the other end with something as incredible as he does.”
Basically, making music for Parker “a stoically solitary process,” Goetze said.
Both outlets touched on Parker's "loner" side. He grew up as an introvert, who now, as an artist, still thinks about his music as reaching other loners.
“I reckon a lot of artists get inspired by the idea of singing something to a crowd, many thousands of people,” Parker told the Times. “But me, I prefer just to think about the kid wearing headphones riding the bus home from school, or having a bedroom headphone listening session. That’s where I come from.”
“Being a personality onstage, that’s something I’ve been growing into,” he told Rolling Stone. “Saying f*** it and being that person who can rile up the audience. That’s someone I never saw myself as.”
While the album doesn't have a release date yet, he told the Times, during his time in Guadalajara, Mexico, for his performance at Corona Capital, a little more about what fans can expect:
"It’s taken shape in my head,” he said. “When I start making songs for an album, I don’t know what each one’s role is. But by the time I’m finished, each one has a color, each one has an identity, each one has a purpose.”
He gave Rolling Stone more details, too. “The way I’ve dabbled in influences in the past? I’ve been unafraid to go there all the way this time. To challenge what Tame Impala is in terms of how wide it can go,”“ he said. "I’ve been embracing my love of weird Seventies stadium rock,” he notes, “like, epic Meat Loaf stuff.”
While he gave no exact release date either, the magazine said the album will likely be out this summer. We'll have to continue to wait and see.