Kevin Parker reclines in a wicker throne under billowing satin drapes and unhurriedly sips his tequila sunrise as Brussels life bustles by outside. Through the adjacent window, Tame Impala’s lead man surveys the scurrying bodies which dash past his sanctuary in the Asian-themed section of the Hotel Bloom’s bar and runs a lethargic hand through his tired hair. “It’s crazy the speed we live our lives,” he says, his Australian drawl stretched out over the vowels and consonants like a lazy cat on a warm radiator. “We were in Paris yesterday making a short TV film for one of our songs and today we’re in Brussels doing this gig. I haven’t been to bed yet, not because I’m rock and roll but because I just haven’t had time.” He sips his cocktail up through a bendy straw, appreciating the change in colour spiralling up the plastic piping. The clock above the well-stocked shelves of liquor nearby reads 11 a.m. “This is breakfast,” he grins, raising his glass to the chaotic world outside. “Now that is rock and roll.”
Tame Impala’s heavy schedule on this their first headlining European tour perfectly reflects the hard graft and steady rise that Parker’s psychedelic rock outfit has endured since signing their first deal and releasing their eponymous debut EP in late 2008. Essentially Parker’s personal pet project – expanded for touring duties by friends and colleagues from the numerous bands that make up Perth’s underground scene – Tame Impala has grown from a local buzz to a national phenomenon and is now on the verge of going seriously international. “I kinda feel guilty for what’s happened with Tame Impala because the other guys are all in bands back home and I’ve taken them away from that,” says Parker. “Of course if any of them got pissed off and said that they wanted to go back to Australia to do their thing, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. I’m just really grateful to have them along because we’re all mates and they really make the sound what it is.”
What the sound is is a mix of 60s psychedelia, dance rock and spaced out feedback which conjures up images of Cream in their heyday, Hendrix at his most cosmic and the druggy splendour of White Album-era Beatles. It’s a panoramic soundscape of breathy vocals played deep in the mix under fuzzy echoed guitars and rumbling bass, tripping over danceable drums and leftfield orchestration. The band’s debut album, Innerspeaker, was released in May 2010 to widespread acclaim and has already earned the band some celebrity followers. “We played a gig in London earlier this year and Noel Fielding came back stage to tell us how much he loved the music,” Parker grins, shaking his head at the surreal memory. “We’re all massive fans of the Mighty Boosh and suddenly there’s one of our idols in our dressing room, and we were all like ‘what?’” Another Noel is also said to be a convert. “Yeah, Noel Gallagher has said some nice things about us too,” Parker adds. “It’s so weird when these things happen because for me it’s just my music that I came up with in my bedroom, messing about with tape loops and reverse guitars. Now we have this following starting up and, you know, me and Jay (Watson, drummer and backing vocalist) just laid these tracks down in a beach house a few months ago. It’s crazy really.”
Support slots with the Black Keys, Yeasayer and MGMT, coupled with well-received festival appearances over the summer and the host of nominations and plaudits which have been bestowed on Innerspeaker since its release, have helped to bring Tame Impala’s music to the masses. Parker is equally thankful and dumbfounded that his wildly unfashionable music is finding an adoring audience. “We don’t dance about, we don’t play music that you can really get down to and some of the songs go on longer than a Pink Floyd epic when we play them live so it kinda confuses me as to why people actually like it,” he says with surprising honesty. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they do but we don’t really fit in with what’s supposed to be popular. I suppose that’s part of the attraction.”
The crowd which gathers in Le Botanique’s Witloof cellar bar later in the evening has certainly found something to its taste in the musical maelstrom these young Aussies have brought to Brussels. The low ceiling is glistening with condensation before the band even take the stage and the heat and expectation becomes stifling as Parker, Watson, bassist Nick Allbrook and guitarist Dom Simper loom out of the dry ice to take their positions under the oppressive arches. What follows is a 90 minute aural assault as Parker and Co. weave tracks such as early EP stalwarts ‘Half Full Glass of Wine’, ‘Skeleton Tiger’ and ‘Bold Arrow of Time’ into seamless meddlies which roll out over the sweaty, appreciative audience and settle on them like clouds of dreams while Innerspeaker favourites such as the jaunty Lennon-esque ‘Lucidity’, the tripped-out acquiescence of ‘I Don’t Really Mind’ and the feedback-heavy chug of ‘Desire Be Desire Go’ achieve the seemingly impossible by getting the Witloof crowd jigging under the seriously low, cranium-threatening ceiling. They even treat the throng to a rendition of Blue Boy’s ‘Remember Me’ which gets the full extended live treatment, complete with a particularly unhinged guitar solo from Parker which threatens to run off and never come back.
In contrast to their extravagant playing and arrangements, Tame Impala finally depart with almost self-conscious shyness as the crowd cries for more. True to Parker’s earlier assertion, the band don’t reappear for the much-called for encore “not because we’re dicks but because we don’t have that many songs.” Despite this, there is not a single disappointed punter as the crowd shuffle out of the Witloof. Tame Impala have come, they’ve seen and they’ve conquered – and blown a few minds along the way.