The Tame Impala Songwriter’s Toolkit
Firstly, try your hardest not to listen to music. Throw out any and all CDs and make sure that your hard drive and mobile devices have been wiped clean of any and all sound files and distractions. Outside influences are the enemy… or at least that’s what Kevin Parker from Tame Impala would have us believe.
Kevin Parker: I write music subconsciously – allowing things to happen without me knowing it rather than consciously doing it. I get influenced by things really easily. I can write a whole song and then realize I’ve just ripped something off. And then I have to scrap the whole thing because I realize that subconsciously I was thinking of another song while I was writing it but I had no idea I was doing it. For me, I like to forget about anything else that exists and do whatever the brain wants to do.
Secondly, one should take a last stroll through the park with one’s favourite album because as obsession takes over, the magic will surely fizzle.
KP: I think at the time that I was doing the [last] album [Lonerism], I hadn’t been listening to music. I kind of stopped listening to music [chuckle] altogether. It’s kind of how I’ve been for the last few years. Listening to less and less. I don’t know why. I think it’s because I’ve been getting involved in my own stuff and getting more obsessed with it. Since music has taken over my life, music becomes more of an analytical thing rather than blind enjoyment. I used to be totally blind listening to music. The more I know about how albums are made, the more I can kind of listen to how they were made, which is kind of useful, but it’s less magical. It’s usually less magical, which means that when you listen to something that blows you away and you totally forget about all of the methods of making it… that’s when things can still ‘wow’ you. Things can still seem totally unknown and amazing.
Thirdly, be prepared to fight for your song, because the ones that come to you in a dream may not always become your dearest.
KP: There is not a set way at all. If the whole song comes to me naturally, then that’s a blessing. But sometimes you have to fight for it. Sometimes you have to scrounge bits together to make up a song. Even those ones can be more special than the ones that come naturally.
Fourthly, don’t listen to The Beatles.
KP: I’m still influenced by things, I’m just less aware of them, which is good and bad I guess. People say that we sound like The Beatles but the idea of The Beatles never came into my head a single time that I was doing a song. But I listen back to it and I can find The Beatles influences in there that I wasn’t even thinking about.
I don’t even think I’ve ever put on a Beatles album…
Fifthly, there is no perfect time to write.
KP: The touring Tame Impala is a bunch of guys that play music. In the studio, it’s like a one-man thing. I can sometimes write on the road and sometimes I can’t. There doesn’t seem to be any relationship between being on the road and not being on the road. It’s just whenever you’re feeling creative. One of them is closer to playing football; the other is closer to painting a picture. They are completely different things. To even think about them in the same light is misleading… but at the same time, thinking about them being the same thing is also kind of fun.
Finally, don’t look ahead. Just write in the moment and enjoy the process.
KP: We could never do an album again. We could do ten more albums. I honestly don’t know. I think I prefer it that way… just not knowing.