Like any good rock star, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker already has a weighty mythology surrounding him. One of the juiciest tidbits of that mythology is the fact that the musical polymath found out his band had been signed on his way to a uni exam.
After studying mining engineering for a time, Parker switched to astronomy. “I knew that I would be poor and I just wanted to do whatever was fun,” the Perth-based songwriter and producer told The Drone in 2011.
However, the change in major didn’t inspire the young Parker to take his scholastic obligations more seriously. While he did, as he told Melbourne Uni, “knuckle down” after convincing himself he wouldn’t become a famous musician, he couldn’t concentrate on anything other than music.
“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,” Parker recounted.
“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.”
The story goes that he was en route to his last astronomy exam when he was contacted by Modular Recordings, then one of the hottest labels in Australia, who wanted to sign Tame Impala. Parker promptly pulled a U-turn and ditched the exam.
That’s the version we all know. But as Parker explained to Electronic Beats, there was a little more to the story. For starters, Parker never thought Modular would be calling to sign his band, he was expecting a request for a showcase.
Check out ‘The Less I Know The Better’ by Tame Impala:
“We were waiting for Modular to let us know whether they would actually go through with signing us,” Parker told the site. “They’d been in contact with us before but they were like, ‘We need to talk to the boss,’ who I guess was [Australian promoter and Modular founder] Steve Pavlovic.”
“The call was to confirm that they would fly us to Sydney to play at a showcase for them. I was walking around uni, the exam was in 20 minutes and I was meant to be studying but I was thinking about this call.”
“Then five minutes before the exam I thought, ‘Fuck, I better start walking to the exam,’ and then the call came on the way there and I was like, ‘Fuck it, sweet! I’m out!'” Parker promptly left his campus to go tell bandmate Jay Watson.
“After that I drove home to our share house and told Jay, and we were like, ‘Whoa, sweet.’ We didn’t even have a manager and we needed a lawyer to decipher the contract. It all went pretty smoothly after that. Each step on the ladder of success was as weird as the last.”
“Getting flown to Sydney and put up in a lush hotel was like, ‘What?’ Modular was so cool at that point. They put on a gig with us as the sole act in the middle of the day just because they wanted to see us.”
“No one had even heard of us. Literally no one. And they had all these cool people there. So that was kind of crazy.” If that seems inconceivable at this point, just check out this footage of the band performing to almost no one at a Perth festival as recently as 2008.
“I still consider that the most exciting time of my life,” Parker said of that period of his career. “The initial feeling that something great could happen is immense. Not to say that amazing things haven’t happened since then, but I’m getting better at digesting them.”