You’ve been to Japan as visitors before, how does this trip compare?
Kevin Parker (vocals, guitar): It was pretty similar to this, just being overloaded by visual stimulation and generally wowing at all the things in the culture.
Japanese audiences are … whenever you talk about Japanese audiences around the world you always talk about them as one extreme. It was weird for the first song we played, but then we realized that (being quiet) was their thing. We thought it was awkwardness between songs, but we soon learned it’s a respect thing.
Have you spent much time here?
KP: Yeah, we spent a bit of time in Osaka, because our manager used to live here so she was showing us around. It totally blew our minds. It was a time of great mind-blowing the last time we were here. For whatever reason it changed our music-making lives.
Really? How so?
KP: It centred largely on the fact that we saw the Flaming Lips. We saw them in Japan and they had their full production. We’d seen them in Perth (in Western Australia), but they weren’t allowed the time to set up all the sh-t they usually do. So we saw the full show in Japan and we were all on acid at the time. (Laughs.) So seeing the Flaming Lips, on acid, and just being completely destroyed mentally and then ending up going back to Osaka to walk around — not having completely, errr, finished — all this together with the fact that even just walking around Japan can make you feel like you’re on a kind of drug anyway, all these things meant when we got back home and our minds were just frazzled.
So you went home and said, “I’d quite like to make some music that sounds like watching the Flaming Lips on acid in Japan”?
KP: In a way, yeah! I guess you could say that the last five years of our lives have been dedicated to that, yeah. Since then we have all been Flaming Lips disciples. Not that everything we do is based on that, but it shifted our music-making lives significantly — from that 45-minute burst. In fact we saw (the Flaming Lips) twice — once in Osaka and once in Tokyo.
Did you expect your album, “Lonerism,” to do so well?
KP: No, not at all. We were expecting to get some new fans, but definitely not this. We never really expect anything from any of our bands. Even to this day, I’m not really sure how successful the album is. There are so many bands and so many genres to choose from.
The NME liked it…
KP: Those things are the smallest part of the appreciation of success, the awards. Because the awards account for a very small amount of people. We meet people on the street or at our shows that will tell us our album is the best of the year, and that is five people in a night — the same amount of people that work at a particular magazine. And we don’t hold a magazine’s opinion any higher than your average music listener.
That’s quite a grounded way of looking at it…
KP: I think that’s just how we have grown up listening to music and appreciating it.
Cam Avery (bass, backing vocals): Sometimes there are bands that we think have made the best albums ever and nobody has ever given them any awards.
KP: Yeah, exactly. Some of our favorite music in the world has been heard by no more than 1,000 people in total and some of the music we think is rubbish is the biggest music in the world.
CA: And No. 1 album in the NME… (Laughs.)
KP: So it’s not like we are trying to stay grounded, it is how we see things. Which might have something to do with being from Perth and not thinking that the rest of the world is that important.
Is it insular?
KP: It can be.
CA: It’s ages from anywhere — to get to Sydney is a four-and-a-half-hour plane ride. I’ve always said this, the mentality in Perth is, “We are so far away from anything that nobody gives a sh-t anyway.” You never pay attention to anything. You never think you are going to get an NME nomination or a Triple J. When it does happen it’s just, “Oh that was nice.” But it doesn’t change much. It is the respect of your peers that matters most in Perth. There’s an awesome scene in there, every time I go home I see a band that blows my mind.