Kevin Parker (musician)
Born in Sydney, but spending the majority of his life in Perth, Western Australia, Parker's
father, Jerry, is from Zimbabwe and his mother, Rosalind, is from South Africa. Parker grew
up with a passion for music at a young age. Parker's father "played a lot of music as a hobby"
and was a "big part of [Kevin's] musical upbringing". His first experience playing an
instrument was accompanying his father on guitar, "I learned guitar by playing rhythm guitar
to his Shadows leads. He wanted to play Shadows lead riffs, because he loves Hank B. Marvin,
and he got me to play the chords in the background." Parker's father also played music by
The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Supertramp in a cover band, which Parker believes was
where he "got [his] love of melody", which has been a significant part of Parker's music.
Parker also recalls "amusing [him]self by singing along to the vacuum cleaner when [his] mum
was cleaning." Parker's father later purchased Kevin his first guitar.
At age 11, Parker took up the drums, just like his brother, and later was making "excessively
melodic music from about the age of 12 to 15", which was "really weird and repetitive and
almost genre-less", by recording his drumming and overdubbing guitar and other
instruments in lo-fi experiments. Speaking about this Parker said "I’ve always recorded music.
When I was 12, I used to set up two tape machines and multi-track myself. First, I’d record a
beat on the drums, then, I’d play that tape into another tape recorder while playing keyboard;
then I’d take that tape and play bass guitar along with the drums and keyboard. I’d keep
adding instruments. I did that for a long time until my dad bought me an 8-track, and then I
continued recording music by myself, even if I was in other bands at the same time." This
hobby turned into an obsession for Parker who was "just doing music all the time, I never did
any homework, I'd just spend every night in the garage recording music." Parker got his first
eight-track recorder at age 16.
At age 13, Parker met fellow Tame Impala member Dominic Simper in their high school music
class, whom he found a musical connection with. Parker and Simper started off playing covers
of Rage Against the Machine, Unwritten Law, Sunk Loto and Korn songs, along with Dan Debuf,
who is now a presenter on Nova FM. In his late-teens, Parker discovered the many '60s
and '70s psychedelic rock artists that would have a huge influence on his music, saying that "I
got into bands like Cream and Jefferson Airplane in a big way, and loved the sound of their
recordings. My friends were listening to bands like Brainticket and Demon Fuzz who opened
my eyes to different ways of constructing songs. The Beatles way of singing vocal lines often
crept into the recordings because they are so unique, whereas the elements we take from
those other bands are usually common among a few other bands we listen to."
By the time he was 18, Parker was "playing in the pub scene" and at the time was writing
"heavy 70's-style almost prog-rock songs, like Blue Cheer".
Parker later had a job as a law clerk, delivering court documents in Perth. It was here that he
would mentally write songs in his head amidst the boredom. He would later quit this job.
Parker's father always warned Kevin about getting into the music industry. "My dad always
warned me not to choose music as a career. He got quite worried and said "if you do music as
your job, as the thing that puts food on the table, then it will instantly ruin its magic, it won't
be mysterious and fun anymore, it would just be like work"." Parker believed what his father
had told him and he went onto university for a while, studying engineering. "I wanted to
please my dad in a way. I had no idea what I wanted to do, because I didn’t enjoy anything
other than music." Parker said "I hated it, and one day I decided to change to astronomy. I
knew that I would be poor and I just wanted to do whatever was fun." It was here in an
astronomy lecture that Parker saw a slide that he would later paint and turn into the artwork
for the Tame Impala EP. However, Parker couldn't give up his original dream. "I was at uni,
and a couple of months before we got signed, I had submitted to the reality that I wasn’t
actually going to be a famous musician and I should just get on with my career. So that was
when I started to knuckle down and actually do stuff at uni. But at the same time, I could never
passionately give my attention to anything other than music. Like, it was a disease. I would not
be able to listen to a word in lectures because I’d just be thinking about my new song."
On his way to his last astronomy exam, Parker was contacted by Modular Recordings who
wished to sign Tame Impala to their label. Upon hearing this, Parker turned his car around
from the exam and drove home to pursue his first love, making music.
Parker is a part of the large and diverse Perth music scene, where he plays in various different
bands in addition to his main project, Tame Impala. Commenting on this, Parker said "it's a
really close-knit scene, quiet, separated from the rest of Australia" and "Tame Impala is just
one sliver of the giant amount of noise-making that we do as a circle of friends. I don't feel bad
doing the recording by myself because I don't expect that input in their bands...to us Tame
Impala is just Kevin Parker's project and everyone has a project."
The Dee DeeDums
In 2005, Parker formed the basis of what would later become Tame Impala, when he started
the band The Dee DeeDums, featuring current Tame Impala member, Dominic Simper. The
Dee DeeDums achieved some local acclaim, getting second place at the 2005 AmpFest and
winning third place later that year in the state final of The Next Big Thing. They later went
on to win the WA state final of the National Campus Band Competition.
In late 2007, Parker renamed the band to Tame Impala, and recruited Jay Watson on drums.
Before recruiting Jay Watson on drums, Watson used to "go watch [The Dee DeeDums] all the
time and I was this little 17-year-old fan boy rocking up at their gigs... I knew it was an
awesome band. They were my favourite band in Perth actually. I think I told Kevin once that
they were in my top 20 bands ever."
Watson then joined the band two months before Modular Recordings approached them.
"Those two months before (then) no one cared when we played. Dom and Kev had been
playing together for years and we had a good two months of gigs to like seven people at our
local pub before we got signed. And they were the best two months ever man!"
Live bassist Nick Allbrook noted a change in Parker's music and his band, "There were a couple
of months where there was a seismic shift in [Kevin's] thing from the Cream influenced, Dee
DeeDums era, and fairly quickly there was the blissed-out, pretty melody, psychedelic thing.
And then there was a name change (to Tame Impala), and then a new drummer (Jay Watson)
whose style was more elegant than the last drummer."
Mainarticle: Tame Impala
Tame Impala is Kevin Parker's psychedelic rock band. On the recording side, Parker writes and
records almost all of Tame Impala's music, and live Parker plays guitar and sings. Essentially,
Tame Impala is Parker's recording project.
After sending off approximately 20 songs that Parker had recorded as far back as 2003, many
of them later leaked to YouTube, to different record labels, Tame Impala was signed to
Modular Recordings. After the release of their 2008 debut EP, Parker revealed his intentions
for recording: "Most of the songs on the EP were never meant to be heard by the rest of Perth,
let alone the rest of the world. They were just recorded for my own listening sake, and burning
a CD of it and putting it in my car and giving it to my friends."
After much touring in 2008 and 2009, Tame Impala's debut album, Innerspeaker was released
to widespread critical acclaim in 2010, winning a J Award and a Rolling Stone Award for
Album of the Year, and 5 nominations at the ARIAs. Parker's ability to take many elements of
'60s psychedelic rock, and give it a distinctly modern twist, creating a new and original sound
was praised. Parker also received a WAMI Award for Best Guitarist and an APRA Award
for Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year.
In a display of Parker's work ethic, work on the next Tame Impala album Lonerism had already
started before Innerspeaker was even released. Lonerism was released on 5 October 2012
to widespread critical acclaim, winning many Album of the Year awards from the likes of NME
Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine and Triple J. Lonerism marks an extension of Parker's music,
featuring synths and poppier melodies, and also a more lavish, lush and expansive sound.
Commenting on the new-found sound, Parker said that "[Lonerism] will be the kind of music
that I felt as though I wanted to make during Innerspeaker, but I felt that it was too much of a
jump. Back when I was doing Innerspeaker, I felt like I should make an album with only guitars,
and use no synths, because I felt like it was a compromise to what we do. But I now know that
Main article: Pond (Australian band)
Parker joined Pond live on drums in late 2009 after being recruited by fellow Tame Impala
members Jay Watson and Nick Allbrook. Parker later joined Pond in the studio on drums
for the album Beard, Wives, Denim, and also produced it, putting his distinctive production
sound on the album. Cameron Avery later filled in for Parker live on Pond's 2012 tour,
while Parker was putting the finishing touches on the second Tame Impala album, Lonerism.
On 28 June 2012, Parker joined Pond for a one-off performance with legendary Can
frontmanDamo Suzuki. Parker played drums and later played guitar for the one-off, totally
improvised performance with one of his musical idols, Suzuki.
Mink Mussel Creek
In 2005, Parker, along with other musical companions, including Tame Impala member, Nick
Allbrook, formed Mink Mussel Creek. Parker's drumming was a strong feature of the band's
sound, which in turn propelled the Mink Mussel Creek brand of "heavy psych" forward.
Mink Mussel Creek slowly built up a fanbase in Perth and was a popular live act.
In 2008, after receiving an AUS$10,000 government grant, Mink Mussel Creek recorded its first
album. However, due to circumstances out of the band's control, primarily concerning a
problematic producer and dysfunctional recording process, the album was never
released;[subjective citation] the album was eventually leaked on the internet under the
title Kingdom Tapes, and the band members went their separate ways with other musical
In 2011, Mink Mussel Creek reformed; Parker produced and played drums on Mink Mussel
Manticore, an album that was recorded live over the course of a week at local Fremantle
venue, the Norfolk Basement. It was later released on USB wristband.
Space Lime Peacock
Space Lime Peacock were a short-lived psychedelic funk band, formed in 2008, that featured
Parker in various roles, such as on drums, backing vocals, guitar and bass. Space Lime
Peacock also featured Jay Watson and Nick Allbrook of Tame Impala. They recorded an
album's worth of demos, which never saw an official release, but were leaked on the
internet. Parker's developing and distinct guitar tones can be heard on the demos.
Melody's Echo Chamber
Main article: Melody's Echo Chamber
In 2012, Parker teamed up with French singer and girlfriend, Melody Prochet, for her dream
pop project, Melody's Echo Chamber. The two met after Prochet gave Parker a CD with
songs from her other band, My Bee's Garden. This led to a support slot for My Bee's Garden,
opening for Tame Impala. Their collaborative self-titled album was released on October 2,
2012, to critical acclaim. Allmusic's Tim Sendra called it "a rather stunning debut". Parker
played drums and bass guitar, and also a guitar solo on the track 'I Follow You', featuring his
distinctive spacey, phased guitar sound with Prochet's dreamy vocals, and also produced the
Parker has collaborated with Australian electronic duo, Canyons, on various occasions
throughout Tame Impala's existence. Canyons have remixed many Tame Impala songs, and in
2011 Parker repaid the favour by contributing vocals on the songs "Tonight" and "When I See
You Again" on their album Keep Your Dreams. A bearded Parker also appeared in their
music video for 'When I See You Again', for a shot where Parker has been cloned many times
on an outdoor staircase.
Parker later spoke of how his musical relationship with Canyons came to be: "They used to run
a label which Tame Impala used to sort of be on. We released a 12” vinyl with them once, on
one side it had three Tame Impala songs and on the other it was the same three songs remixed
by Canyons and that was really cool, it was a really casual relationship. We always talked about
releasing things but we never got round to it because I’d just go round to his house and talk
about music for a while. So we never actually got anything pressed until we had signed with
Modular and then we went back and did stuff with Canyons."
Relation Longue Distance
In 2013, Parker revealed that a new musical project involving French drummer (and Tame
Impala live drummer) JulienBarbagallo, called Relation Longue Distance (which translates in
English to "long distance relationship"), had formed. After playing some small shows in France,
they hope to play some more shows, with the possibility of an official release.
On July 22nd, 2013, Kevin Parker and Cam Avery formed the psychedelic funk/space rock
band, Kevin Spacey (a play on words, using Kevin Parker's first name with the space rock music
they played to form the actor's name). The band featured Kevin Parker on drums, Cam Avery
on bass and fellow Perth musician Cam Parkin on keys. The band was formed as a fundraiser
for another Perth musician and close friend Felicity Groom who had her car stolen. Their set
featured 5 improvised jams with Groom joining them on vocals for one of the jams. A full video
of the gig emerged on YouTube which was filmed by an audience member. It is unclear if this
band will go further or if it was a one-off gig.
Musical equipment and sound
Parker's sound is heavily reliant on various effects pedals to achieve his distinctive guitar
tones. The following is a list of Parker's guitars and effects pedals.
Parker tunes his guitars down two semitones to D standard to relieve the tension on the
strings and to experiment with the different sounds the tuning offers.
Fender Roadhouse Stratocaster - arctic white with brown shell pickguard and a
rosewood fretboard - Parker's primary guitar, used in the studio and live from 2008 to the
Rickenbacker 330 Jetglo - used in the early days of Tame Impala from 2008 to 2009,
rarely seen between 2010 and 2011. Kevin has been seen playing it again live with Tame
Impala as of 2012.
HagströmImpala - purchased by Parker in 2011 and used frequently in conjunction with his
Stratocaster. Has been used live by Simper as of 2012.
Epiphone Les Paul - tobacco sunburst - seen live with The Dee DeeDums in 2006-2007, not
These are the effects pedals that Parker has been seen with in his pedal board as of 2011:
TC Electronic PolyTune
Boss TU-3 Tuner Pedal
Boss AB-2 2-Way Selector
Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb Pedal
Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano Reverb Pedal
Boss BD-2 Blues driver
Dunlop DVP1 Volume Pedal
Boss VE-20 Vocal Performer
Boss FV-50L Volume Pedal
Boss FS-5U Footswitch
Dunlop Cry Baby Wah Pedal
Dunlop MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay Pedal
Dunlop MXR Dyna Comp Compression Pedal
Boss BD-2 Blues driver
DOD FX25 Envelope Filter Pedal
Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser Pedal
Dunlop Fuzz Face Fuzz Pedal
Diamond Vibrato Pedal
Moog MoogerFooger MF-105 MuRF
Parker's music is heavily influenced by psychedelic rock, which is achieved through various
production methods. Some favoured and often-used effects by Parker include phasing, delay,
reverb and fuzz.
Parker's decision to make the music for Tame Impala in the studio by himself is a result of
Parker liking "the kind of music that is the result of one person constructing an awesome
symphony of sound. You can layer your own voice 700 times for half a second if you want, and
I just love that kind of music." However, Parker has to translate his music to a live setting
with the band, and the band doesn't play the songs until they have been recorded. "The only
jamming that’s done as a band is done a long time after the song is recorded for the sake of
the live environment. It’s good for us, because we can take a song that’s been recorded and do
what we want to it: slow it down, speed it up, make it 10 seconds or 10 minutes long. It gives
us a lot of freedom."
Experimentation with different effects pedals has led to Parker creating new and unique
sounds. "If you make an effort to not put the pedals in the order you're meant to, then you'll
end up with something new sounding. We don't have any things that we got from another
planet or anything, it's the same things everyone else has used." "People have a distortion
pedal and then a reverb pedal. A reverb is meant to make it sound like it's in a cathedral or
something. If you put it the other way around, it won't sound like a guitar being played in a
church, it'll sound like a church being stuffed inside a shoebox and then exploded. You can do
different things just by treating things differently."
Parker also has a strong sense of melody in his music, having composed "excessively melodic
music from about the age of 12 to 15". As a result of Parker's love of melody, he also has
revealed that he has a "fetish for extremely sugary pop music" from artists like Britney Spears
and Kylie Minogue.
In addition to a love of melody, Parker also loves "fucked-up explosive cosmic music" in the
vein of The Flaming Lips, whom Parker collaborated with on the track Children of the
Moon in 2012, for the release The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends.
Combining these two things, Shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine have influenced Parker's
music with their contrasting combination of loud guitars and ethereal melodies. Parker has
"always been in love with the wall of sound as employed by My Bloody Valentine" and he tries
to capture that "melancholy dreamy feel". Parker tries to incorporate this balance into his
own music. "If I was singing, I wouldn't be able to match the tone of the instruments, which is
really crunchy. The instruments are quite sonically brutal, but the voice is really soft, and I
think that kind of resonates with people. It's kind of like My Bloody Valentine, where it's really
brutal sounding, but kind of beautiful at the same time." Tame Impala live drummer Jay
Waston has described Parker's music as containing "shoegazey guitar sound, but not played in
a shoegazey manner".
Electronic music is another influence. Parker has used rock instrumentation in an electronic
manner, saying "The way we do music, it's organic, but it's meant to be quite repetitive and
hypnotic, almost in a kind of electronic nature. Using our playing as though it was a living
sample." A heavy feature on Innerspeaker is a pitch-shifted guitar tone that many mistook
for a synth. Parker mentioned this by saying "I had a few obsessions when recording
Innerspeaker. One was to make the guitars sound like synths and drums sound like drum
samples and pretty much anything except guitars and drums. I'm obsessed with confusing
people as to the origin of a sound."
Parker was inspired to take up various creative endeavors at a young age, "I used to draw a lot
when I was very young, and I used to get the most immense feeling of satisfaction from
finishing a picture and looking back at it, even though I wasn’t actually that good. When I
started playing music I got the same feeling from making a song, even if it was just a few noises
or drum patterns put together. It was all about the buzz from making something from nothing.
Music always affected me greatly as a listener anyway, usually from listening to music in my
dad’s car or listening to him play guitar."
Parker's process for making music is "I’ll have a sudden, spontaneous vision of a song, have all
the parts mapped out in mind, and do my best to record it as quick as I can. I’ll find my eighttrack and do a quick demo of just the riff, or a verse or a chorus. The song will go for like 30
seconds. I’ll have a whole bunch of them [demos] and then I’ll just choose which ones to make
into full songs." For Parker, the music comes before the lyrics, "I usually write the lyrics
after the melody and it’s timing have been decided. But the words have to be meaningful. I try
to synchronise certain words with the best parts of the melody, but it can be really difficult and
does my head in. I like to keep the meaning pretty open and ambiguous so that it’s not just me
that gets something out of the lyrics. I usually write lyrics from a persona rather than tell a
specific story." Parker also said "Usually I am sufficiently motivated to think of new songs
everyday, but I usually forget them. I seem to get an emotional kick out of sensing feelings of
general desperation or hopelessness, whether it’s me or someone near me or someone in a
movie or anything. It’s really difficult to sit down and force yourself to write a song, and that
forced nature usually comes out in the song so I just have to wait until they come to me."
Lo-fi music is also a favourite of Parker's, and he incorporated it heavily in the early days of
Tame Impala, heard prominently on the Tame Impala EP. With the release of Innerspeaker,
Parker went for a different approach to a lo-fi sound, aiming more for a more cosmic and sonic
wall of sound, helped by mixer Dave Fridmann. Parker explained "It sounds more cohesive, like
an organism. It has a different emotion to it, it brings out a different feeling when it’s
absolutely blaring at you. I lovethatsound."