Parker (center): "We treat the songs as a starting point rather than an endpoint."
Ask a music critic to name a standout album of 2012, and Lonerism by Tame Impala is likely to come up. Propelled by raging riffs and entrancing psychedelic breakdowns, the Australian act's sophomore album earned Isthmus' praise for its slew of "mind-opening effects." It was also named the year's best album by Rolling Stone, NME and Filter.
Isthmus: Guitars play a smaller role on Lonerism than they did on your debut album, Innerspeaker. Why did you take this instrument out of the limelight?
Parker: I guess I was a little more closed-minded on the first album. I was very into the idea of trying to make sounds that didn't sound like a guitar, with a guitar, to fool people about what instrument they're listening to.
On the second album, I opened the possibilities up a bit and started playing around with other ways of making sound. Some of the other instruments I fell in love with were synthesizers. There's a certain emotional quality to them that I wanted to explore, so guitars just fell into the background.
What are some of the things you've done to adapt Lonerism for live performances?
We treat the songs as a starting point rather than an endpoint. The songs are already finished and recorded, so we take them and build on them. We wouldn't want them to sound the same as on the album, so we give them a new life live by [altering] the structure or finding an opposite way of doing things. Doing an album and playing live are two completely different ways of experiencing music.
You and Dom Simper, who contributes guitar and synths to the band, started playing music together as 13-year-olds. What has helped keep you together over the years, especially amid the moodiness a lot of adolescents go through?
The sole reason is that music is a release from all of that angst and moodiness. It's the one thing that kept us stable. I was something that helped us get through what we were going through. The angst was in the music, but we got along. We are such similar types anyway. I feel like he and I never have argued once.
In other interviews, you've mentioned that you have a soft spot for cheesy pop music. What's one song you consider a guilty please?
I've come to realize that there's no such thing as a guilty pleasure, really. That said, if I'd have to choose one, it'd be [sings a line from OneRepublic's "Apologize" in a soulful falsetto]. Yeah, that one.
Quite a few musicians have told me that stage fright still presents a challenge after years of performing. Do you have any rituals or good-luck charms to help quell anxiety before your shows? Or are you one of those performers who don't really get the jitters?
I used to get really nervous before gigs. When we first started playing in bands in Perth, I'd be nervous the whole day. I've gotten more comfortable playing in front of a bunch of people, though. Alcohol usually loosens us up. [Laughs] We had to play a TV show once, and there was no booze around. We were like, "What? Fuck!" I never thought I'd depend on alcohol or anything like that, but when you're suddenly in a situation like that, you realize you feel vulnerable.