Tame Impala turns 10: celebrating the cornerstone of Australian psych

The words psychedelic rock can’t get thrown around these days without warranting a thought of Tame Impala.

Helmed by Kevin Parker, Tame Impala’s unique take on fuzzy, ’60s psychedelia appointed Perth as the birthplace and Mecca for contemporary psych-rock in Australia. Garnering international acclaim for all three of his studio albums, Parker’s musical endeavours hit the wider public 10 years ago with the release of his Tame Impala EP.

tame Impala EP 10th anniversary

Tame Impala’s debut EP opened the floodgates to a scene that has since blossomed, spreading its psychedelic waves across Australia and to the far corners of the world.

This release revitalised a collective faith in alternative Australian music, from the pedal-hungry music nerds, to those more inclined to a good head thrash, and everyone in between. This EP signified a change in Australia’s musical tide and can be seen as the catalyst for the sonic waves of psych music that have since followed.

What was it about this collection of songs that opened the doors to such a tectonic shift in alternative Australian rock music? Maybe it was the combination of the the distorted guitar work, the rolling dynamic drums, the layered vocals or the special attention to melody and space. Whatever it was, it seemed as if Australian music had been waiting for something to wake it from its slumber, and this was it.

Comprised of several tracks that what would later become integral parts of their first full length album, Innerspeaker, the Tame Impala EP was an early realisation of what was to follow. It breathed first life into songs like Desire Be Desire Go – which entered the world as a juvenile – brimming with a raw and static imperfection before getting a light makeover for its album release.

Footage from back in 2009 shows a baby-faced Parker and Jay Watson (who would go on later to form part of Pond and head his own project, GUM) chatting with Perthbands.tv about the how the EP came together. Confessing that most songs were hand-picked from home recordings and were already finished before signing to a label, Parker brushes off his excess creativity with a quiet confidence.

“There’s no kind of like instrumental heroism or shredding or that kind of stuff, the only thing that shines through is the way they’re constructed, or the feeling they give off…”

It’s this attention to feeling, and the desire Parker had to approach songs in a holistic manner, that makes listening to just one Tame Impala song nearly impossible. The second track on the EP, Skeleton Tiger, perfectly embodies this very sentiment; the reverberated soundscape and restrained yet bold instrumentation are crafted to bring a journey-like listening experience that has no interest in musical show-ponying.

This decade-old release acted as a litmus test for Tame Impala and was as much a creative expedition as it was a warning shot for the forthcoming releases over the years that followed. The huge response to this EP warranted further experimentation within and beyond their sound, laying the building blocks for the Tame Impala that has taken shape since.

From the lush, introspective psych-rock of Lonerism to the highly produced, synth-driven odyssey that is Currents, there isn’t a shadow of doubt that Tame Impala’s debut EP has etched itself in history as the cornerstone for one Australia’s most prominent music sub-cultures in recent memory.

Here’s to another 10 years of bloody great Aussie psych!