Regardless of how the music was created, when Tame Impala surfaced on American shores with Innerspeaker, they were a band. Their first LA date in 2010 was a free show at the Echo opening for Rainbow Arabia’s residency. The place reached capacity, and Tame Impala played two more shows the next day at the Silverlake Lounge in attempts to please everyone curious about seeing them.
“I was confused and frustrated on that day,” Parker recalls. “I remember that I stormed off in a huff. Jay [Watson] and I were arguing. We argued for like the first three years of our career, straight. We just argued because we didn’t know what we were doing. Everything was new and unexplainable, and we couldn’t work out what was happening, so we didn’t know our roles; we hadn’t found our identities as people in this new world that we had been thrust into. I was really insecure about how good we were. Nothing to do with hype or expectation — it was just the expectations we had for ourselves. So that night it all kind of came to a head. It was the end of a stressful tour. We did the same thing in New York; we played two shows in a night in the same place, and it was packed.”
The run of Innerspeaker began back in Parker’s homeland — a story similar to so many in the late 2000s — when his music was discovered on Myspace by Glen Goetze from Modular. Of Parker’s early days recording in his bedroom, he notes that he had more ambition to be successful and famous when he was a teenager than when he was 20. “By the time I was 20, I realized it was kind of like a cliché wanting to be this famous rock star, this passé idea,” he says. “It was only then I saw it altruistically, which made the music better, that got us a record deal.”
Parker and his band were flown from Perth to Sydney to perform for Modular and were signed. Tame Impala’s debut EP was just demos that Parker had previously recorded himself, but for Innerspeaker, he had something bigger planned.
“I never thought that making an album was worth anyone else’s time until there was a record label saying, ‘You gotta release an album,’” Parker says. “So, basically, I just took everything I had in my bedroom, and I rented a house down south overlooking the ocean. I thought, ‘Well, fuck it.’ If I’m going to record it myself, I may as well spend the budget. I’m doing it in a nice house, not my bedroom in suburban Perth. Basically, I recorded the whole album with the same gear I had at home, but just did it in a slightly more professional manner. I made the album the same way that I do now, but knowing that people were going to hear it for the first time.”
Even back then, there was duality in Tame Impala. “There was me recording songs in my bedroom and the live band, Tame Impala, that would play around bars and music venues around Perth,” Parker says. “And we’d play a completely different set of songs. We’d play just these other songs I had written especially for the live thing, because the recorded ones were more intricate, a lot more carefully constructed. The live ones were just jams; we’d just jam psych rock blues for 40 minutes. It was only when we got signed that those worlds merged, when we actually had to play the songs I had recorded.”
But as Tame Impala began touring the world, the highs and lows of success struck Parker unexpectedly. He recalls the first time the band traveled for two weeks in Europe, including their first show in London, seeing a line down the street and losing his mind when he realized Noel Fielding of The Mighty Boosh was in attendance, along with recording engineer Liam Watson.
“A bunch of other people came to that show that I idolized,” Parker recalls. “And I remember just sitting outside on my balcony of the hotel room going, ‘What the actual fuck just happened? How am I ever going to re-live the amazingness, reach the amazingness of tonight?’ Then we went home. We got home, and we got back into our shared house, because we all live together, and I just remember feeling so emotional, getting back and seeing our shitty living room crap everywhere, musical shit everywhere. I remember standing outside and almost being brought to tears. It was just too much, coming home after all that and not having time to process what was going on. I got back and almost started crying; it was so overwhelming.”
Still, there was no doubt in Parker’s mind how he would be spending his time to come. “As soon as they told us we might be getting a record deal, I signed off on my entire life outside music,” Parker says. “I was like, ‘Well, that’s it. There’s my ticket.’”