Tame Impala are one of the biggest bands on the planet. Since they burst onto the scene with their debut album Innerspeaker in 2010, the band has gone from strength to strength, consistently managing to change and adapt their sound with each new creation.
The band’s mastermind, Kevin Parker, is one of the most interesting musicians on the planet. Given his background as a drummer, and the fact that he pulls inspiration from different corners of music, Parker has solidified his position as a songwriter and producing genius. The musician’s sun inflected melodies have helped to confirm Tame Impala as the definitive summer band, soundtracking the good times and every memorable out of body experience.
In their early days, the influence of the psychedelic period of The Beatles and Cream was clear, as was the neo-psychedelia of The Flaming Lips. Another key facet of Parker and Tame Impala’s sound is just how well-produced their efforts are, considering that Parker records and produces them all by himself.
When Tame Impala finally broke into the mainstream after the release of Currents, it came as no surprise to long-term Tame Impala fans who had always been well aware of Parker’s fluid and expansive production style. In 2013, after the release of the magnificent Lonerism the prior October, Parker revealed what album influenced his production style and Tame Impala’s sound.
The record that had a transformative impact on Tame Impala was Talkie Walkie, the third record by French duo Air from 2004. Speaking to The Guardian, Parker said: “I was starting university when Talkie Walkie came out, and it became an emotional soundtrack to what was going on in my life. At the time I was studying engineering and floundering miserably, because I really couldn’t give a shit – as hard as I tried I just couldn’t concentrate. I’d spend whole lectures thinking about the next song I was going to do.”
Parker explained that the album was an “enhancer” and how he was galvanised by Air’s use of layered melodies and textures, which underpins their dreamy, orchestral sound. Talkie Walkie opened Parker’s eyes to a whole new world of studio possibilities, and he placed emphasis on the fact that a band doesn’t have to sound like a band, “It can sound like something totally different”.
After reading Parker’s revelation, the similarities between Tame Impala and Air are made clear. Musically, the first two Tame Impala records are quite a departure from Air in the apparent sense. Still, in terms of the subtlety of production and layering, there are many similarities to be drawn. Hazy, orchestral, and always building up to something, Air’s hallmarks are smattered across Parker’s works.
Listen to Talkie Walkie in full below.