Tame Impala’s highly anticipated third album is expected to be released within the next few months. Frontman Kevin Parker – the LP’s sole creator – told Ruisrock last July that by winter 2015, “hopefully we’ll have a new album …” Bringing that timeframe up to date, various fans claim to have asked band members or crew about the release at Tame Impala’s November 2014 concerts and were told late winter/ early spring 2015. Adding to this, in November bandmate Jay Watson admitted the album is under a lockdown of sorts, even to him. “I don’t think anyone’s really heard it [all] except him and his girlfriend,” he told fasterlouder.com, implying the recording was near-finished. At the very least we know LP3 is being planned for a 2015 release. Tame Impala’s management firm Spinning Top confirmed as much in their January 5, 2015 newsletter, proclaiming it will be “one helluva year” (a screenshot of an excerpt of that e-mail is below). The next day they clarified to Billboard “the album is still a work in progress and we have no official release date, however it will be released in 2015.”
Everything We Know About The Recording Process
So what else do we know about the album? Not much – after all, it’s a secret even to Tame Impala members. Production details are unknown, and based on Dave Fridmann’s sessions log it appears he is not working on the album (at least, he hasn’t yet – maybe he’ll be brought in at the end of the process to mix it, as was the case for Innersepeaker and Lonerism). It is believed to have been largely created at Wavehouse Studios, near Perth, from March through May 2014, with subsequent sessions following throughout the rest of the year. A rough timeline of the album’s creation can be mapped out from various interviews Kevin gave months apart over the past year.
Parker first revealed he had material for the next LP in December 2013 interviews with Billboard and Triple J. “The way I do it is there’s never recording ‘sessions,’ he explained to the former, “One finishes, the next one starts. It’s just continuous. I write songs everyday, but I don’t necessarily get to record them. I just record whenever I can, whenever I’m home, whenever I have access to something that can make music.” His approach the third go around was set to be different though. Kevin told Triple J:
“I’m trying to stop myself because I like the idea that I’m just going to wait until I’m in a situation where I can spend a month [recording]. This time I don’t want to spend two years everyday doing it. It just did my brain in. It worked out for the best or whatever but I just want to preserve my sanity this time and not overfill it…I’m going to try to make it more minimal this time and only put in what is needed. Instead of a supreme pizza, where you just throw everything on, it’s kind of just gonna be like a margherita.“
In January 2014 he told The Vine he was merely “putting down ideas here and there. Ideas for different kinds of things. It’s been so sporadic.” By April he said he was “always deep in it. The way I do it is that it’s always happening, there’s just varying levels of intensity. And being consumed by it. I’m definitely sliding down into the depths of being completely overrun by it (laughs), but I’m being kept afloat by other things that are going on… some mixing for Pond and a few other bits and pieces. That’s kind of keeping me sane at the moment, preventing me from just completely losing myself in the next Tame Impala album.”
On May 20th Kevin confirmed to Triple J that he was working on the next Tame Impala album almost daily. “I’m always recording, getting more and more into it these days. I’d start to feel weird [if I’m not writing each day]. I’m getting more and more sucked into the world of making an album. It’s weird how it happens naturally, it’s almost feels like a seasonal thing. I’ve started to think about tracklistings and all the things that come with an album…”
Adding to this, several social media posts suggested Kevin was in the studio throughout the first half of 2014. A picture from the studio was posted on the band’s Instagram account on February 12, 2014, followed by a photo of equipment packed in Kevin’s car (presumably to bring to the studio) shared four days later. On February 17th a short video recorded in Tame Impala’s studio featuring unreleased music was posted on the band’s Instagram, possibly 15 seconds of the new album (watch above). Two more videos from the studio were shared within the next few days, though neither have music (or any sign that much was getting accomplished).
Timeline of New Material Debuted Live
October 29, 2012
Tame Impala live debuted an instrumental in Amsterdam, subsequently revealed (with the release of Live Versions over a year later) to be titled “Sestri Levante.” A studio version has also surfaced online:
February 21, 2013
At North Carolina’s Cat’s Cradle Tame Impala debuted another instrumental, “Auto-Prog mk. II.” It became better known in the following months – after they played it on tour and at several 2013 festivals (ie Coachella, Glastonbury, Unaltrofestival). Watch pro-shot video of the Glasto performance here (or at 2:20 in the video embedded below).
August 24, 2013
The band debuted new music in the form of a jam at the end of “Be Above It” at Reading Festival. Identifiable by its synth pattern (reminiscent of Animal Collective’s “My Girls”), they jammed on this piece several times throughout their fall 2013 tour – including the Boston and Santa Barbara shows with The Flaming Lips in October. A recording from October 10, 2013 at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre was issued as the end of the “Be Above It” track on Live Versions, the band’s 2014 Record Store Day offering. Watch it emerge out of “Be Above It” at the band’s Reading 2013 set at 25:25 in this pro-shot video.
October 4, 2013
On tour with The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala debuted an instrumental that comes to be known as “Prolongo” (it’s also casually referred to by fans as “the Pink Floyd jam” and other variations of the sort). It was repeatedly included in Tame Impala’s live setlists through last summer, as can be seen in the below video, a compilation of Tame Impala’s new music performed in concerts during the past year and half (“Prolongo” is the third instrumental below, starting at 3:53).
January 24, 2014
The instrumental that was typically jammed at the end of “Be Above It” (see August 24th above) is played at Melbourne’s Big Day Out directly before (and into) “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” further suggesting it’s a self-contained piece, not just an “outro jam” (as some fans assumed it to be). Watch here.
November 9, 2014
Tame Impala debuted yet another untitled instrumental on the opening night of their fall tour, the first of two shows at New York’s Beacon Theater. Watch it at the beginning of the above embedded video.
In addition to these compositions, Tame Impala have also regularly featured two technology-driven improvisations in their sets since 2013. One, called “Oscilly” plays out like a duet between Kevin’s guitar improv (sans support from the rest of the band) and a visualization of his playing from a oscillator projected onto the giant screen at the back of the stage (watch it here). Another, called “Auto-Prog III,” features synthesizer chords triggered by the kick drum, allowing drummer Julien Barbagallo’s solo to be an entire instrumental track (as can be seen in this video). There’s also “Auto-Prog,” which similarly syncs the drums with synths, but has the whole band playing along.
It’s anybody’s guess whether any of the above will make it onto the new Tame Impala album. Perhaps Kevin will go the way of Pink Floyd’s recent The Endless River and release almost an entirely instrumental LP. That’s unlikely. More probable is the prospect of some of this material being re-worked into songs with lyrics, or perhaps used as interludes. It’s completely possible none of these pieces have made it to the album in any form – particularly the “Be Above It” jam and “Sestri Levante” which were both released last April on Live Versions. Even if none of this music is on the new album, it may still give us an indication of the stylistic direction the new album is headed: synthscapes and electronic jams…
LP3 Expected to Be “More Electronic”?
In addition to the above detailed synth-based instrumentals debuted by Tame Impala at concerts since Lonerism, Kevin Parker and Cam Avery played three secret shows demonstrating a somewhat similar shift in style. Parker originally put off the idea of recording another Tame Impala album so he could focus on this new direction, telling Uncut in the summer of 2013 that “doing another album doesn’t excite me. There’s something narrow-minded about thinking an album is the only way you can put out music, especially in the world we’re in at the moment. Anything is possible. There’s so many people doing interesting things with the internet and technology, there could be so many ways of making music and listening to it…We’ve got laptops. I just recently caved in and bought an iPhone and I’ve been downloading all these musical apps and I can control my recording programme from my iPhone pad and that’s fucking blowing me away. There are so many possibilities, my brain is overloading on them all. I just need to wait, think about things a bit more. Then I’ll know what to do next.”
In October 2013 he reiterated to Hey Reverb that he was in no rush to follow Lonerism and instead was experimenting with sounds outside of Tame Impala’s norm and focusing on a “disco-funk band” he formed with Cam that goes under various names but is most frequently referred to as Kevin Spacey. “I’m liking it in this up-in-the-air state. In the past I’ve been so focused and had my gaze fixed on an end product. Now I’m just letting it on its own path.”
The first of the “disco-funk” gigs was July 22, 2013 at the BIRD in Perth. Billed as “Kevin Spacey,” their performance featured Felicity Groom on vocals for a few songs and Cosmo Gets on keybaords throughout. This impromptu group mostly jammed on funky grooves, as can be seen in the footage that’s surfaced on YouTube (above). Kevin and Cam played a second secret “Kevin Spacey” gig on December 21, 2013, this time joined by guitarist Benjamin Witt and taking the stage under the moniker “The Golden Triangle Municipal Funk Band.” Below watch an early version of “Daffodils” from this show.
Kevin and Cam played a third “Kevin Spacey” show, this time as “AAA Aardvark Getdown Services” in Perth’s Chevron Festival Gardens at the 2014 Perth International Arts Festival on February 22nd (here’s The Future Heart’s write-up from last year). Unlike before, this was a publicized event. As with the first two Kevin Spacey gigs though, a stylistic turn for Kevin Parker was clearly underway…
…a sign of things to come for LP3?
Maybe not. Watson explained the Kevin Spacey gigs to The West Australian, “Kevin’s been writing all these disco, Michael Jackson megahits that he wouldn’t use for Tame because he’d be too sheepish about it but I’m trying to convince him to because they’re all next-level Thriller-pop…It’s pretty much Kevin’s home recordings, kind of electronic but with Ben Witt who plays guitar and maybe another guy and Cam playing with Kev.”
Michael Jackson’s influence became overt when Kevin shared a cover of “Stranger In Moscow” on soundcloud last March, noting that it was “fresh out of the the oven“ on the band’s facebook page and twitter. “MJ 4 eva,” he added.
Kevin’s left turn from John Lennon and Flaming Lips comparisons to the King of Pop shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. “My brother Steve, who was a few years older than me, had Bad on tape and I remember listening to Smooth Criminal and just thinking it was the coolest thing ever,” Kevin revealed to The Guardian in 2013 when asked about his earliest musical memory. “I must have been five or six at the time and I remember walking around school by myself thinking I was Michael Jackson. I wasn’t dancing, exactly – more like walking musically. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Following an Instagram tease from Wayne Coyne that attendees dressed “as Michael Jackson from Thriller …get on stage with Tame Impala while they play…” Tame Impala mashed “Thriller” into their “Elephant” jam at their Halloween Blood Baths with The Flaming Lips in October 2013 (video evidence of the “Thriller” jam and some related details from the Blood Bath are here).
Will Tame Impala’s next album be influenced by the King of Pop? Perhaps. Last January Kevin told MTV, “I’m always doing stuff. At the moment I’m doing a greater variety of things. I feel like if I put it all together at once it would just feel like a big mess of stuff. At some point I’ve got to just find out how I can draw a circle around the stuff that belongs together on an album.”
In somewhat related fashion a new version of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” featuring Kendrick Lamar was released last March on the soundtrack to Divergent. This sort of style rethink away from the band’s signature neo-psychedelia was also discussed by Kevin in his interview with The Vine:
“I get a flash of inspiration for something and it’s just completely different to what I was doing the day before, to the point where … if all these songs are going to go on the same album, I’m gonna have to work out a way to make them fit together that won’t just seem like a weird mixtape. [Laughs]…I’m super excited about it. It’s so fresh in the process that I’m so into it. All I can think now is that it’ll make Lonerism look like amateur hour. From a sonic viewpoint anyway. Definitely. I’m just a lot better at creating sounds….Even with the last album, I was saying, “Oh yeah, on the first album I held back.” You only realise how much you do that subconsciously [afterwards]. I’ve started not being afraid of looking at a song a different way. I’ve always been so sacred with a song being the way it is in like the first five minutes you think of it. Like, y’know, it’s gotta have that melody because that was the melody when you first thought of it. Like another melody isn’t going to be as pure or true as the first one you thought of. I’m learning to suppress that instinct. Because in the end, it only closes the music off to amazing things that could happen if you just try. I’m trying to not think of a song too sacredly.”
Three Tame Impala-related albums were also issued within two weeks of each other last spring. First, on May 16th Mink Mussel Creek – a predecessor band of Tame Impala with Kevin Parker, Nick Allbrook, Shiny Joe Ryan and others – finally released Mink Mussel Creek (an album they wrote circa 2007 and recorded in 2011) (click here for the full story). Jay Watson’s solo project GUM dropped Delorean Highway on May 30th, the same day as Shiny Joe Ryan’s The Cosmic Microwave Background (extensive details on both was posted here last year). On September 5th Nicholas Allbrook released his debut solo album, Ganough, Wallis & Fatuna and Pond’s Man It Feels Like Space Again – mixed by Kevin Parker – is due out January 23rd in Australia, January 26th in the UK and the 27th in the US. [UPDATE – Stream Pond’s Man It Feels Like Space Again.]
Adding to all of the above, details of Kevin’s guests spots on Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special – released January 13th – began to surface online last November. Parker sings three songs he co-wrote – “Daffodils,” “Summer Breaking” and “Leaving Los Feliz” (click song titles to stream) – and contributes bass, guitar and keyboards to various tracks. His drumming is said to be all over the album as well. Ronson’s version of “Daffodils” – a reworked arrangement of the same song that was debuted at the second Kevin Spacey gig – premiered on Zane Lowe’s BBC show on November 10th, followed by its release as the album’s second promotional single on December 22nd. The basis of the song is a riff and melody written by Kevin, who also sings lead on the track. New lyrics were co-written by Parker with Pulitzer prize winning novelist Michael Chabon during sessions in Memphis.
The Kevin Spacey shows, Michael Jackson cover, and Mark Ronson collabs all point towards the possibility of a new sound for Tame Impala on their next album, more heavily reliant on synths than before. Watson supported this notion, telling fasterlouder.com on November 20th that the new album is “probably gonna be less rock again and more electronic again, even more than the last one. It’s gonna be awesome, everything he does is awesome.”
On the other hand, maybe electronic and “disco funk” side projects are a way to keep these interests separate from the new album and they won’t mark any influence on Tame Impala after all. Kevin told Xpress that Kevin Spacey was his “way of stopping the next Tame Impala release [from] being a disco album. Which I would do, but I know if I did that I’d get sick of it, more quickly than I would if it was something slightly more well thought out. I’m really into that repetitive, psychedelic, dream disco kind of thing, but I know that I’ll get bored with it if I commit to it. It’s just my way of taking away that temptation, to have this other separate thing where I just do it to the extent that I desire.” Most telling of all, the whole notion the new album will be “less rock and more electronic” seems to have been refuted by the band (Kevin?) on Instagram. Notice the caption in the post embedded below: “CLICKBAIT.”
Or maybe it’s not telling at all, perhaps it’s even a red herring. That’s the rub. We are ultimately clueless as to which of the above mentioned details are indications of the sound of the next record. Despite all we know about Kevin Parker’s creative life since Lonerism, we’re left with just speculation for the third album.
All we really know is we can’t wait to hear it..
Great article! Love you work mate