Thundercat Breaks Down Tame Impala Collab, Tour and 'Star Wars' Cameo: 'Life Has Come Full Circle' (Exclusive)
The Grammy-winning bassist spoke with PEOPLE about his upcoming In Yo Girl's City Tour, some advice he has for anyone who wants to match his Mario Kart prowess and his dream supergroup
Thundercat wasn't short on options when naming his next headlining tour. Ultimately, he chose one that would "say a lot about the venue" if they spelled it out on their marquee.
There was the She Going to Leave Anyway Tour, which the Grammy-winning bassist passed on. There was also another name he claimed would've encouraged someone to "throw a brick through my front window." But ultimately, the In Yo Girl's City Tour felt just right. "That's got a horrible ring to it," he tells PEOPLE with a laugh shorty after announcing his North and South America dates.
Just as the name of his next solo tour suggests, 38-year-old Stephen Bruner is heading back to our partners' cities to promote a recent batch of material — which includes his first single in three years with Tame Impala — as he's fresh off a run like he's never been on before.
Related:Kevin Parker of Tame Impala Joins Forces with The Wiggles to Perform 'Hot Potato' at Australia Concert
Since his acclaimed 2020 LP It Is What It Is, Bruner has been achieving what appear to be lifelong goals — from touring with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and befriending fellow bass great Flea, to earning a place in the Star Wars universe thanks to The Book of Boba Fett, to working with Tame Impala's Kevin Parker on "No More Lies," to even showing his daughter Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis (which didn't go over quite as expected).
But now he's ready to once again do what he does best, both on his own tour and with the Chilli Peppers as they continue their stadium dates in North America with him through the end of May.
"I'm a musician," Thundercat says of what to expect on the road this time. "I will always say it. I'm a musician first, and that's it. I feel like there's that one thing. There will be music played."
Thundercat's musical resumé speaks for itself — his involvement in Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly and Mac Miller's Swimming, his 2017 hit "Them Changes" getting the TikTok sped-up treatment last year and helping him see "a couple of changes" in his show demographics with younger fans opening their ears to his funk.
But it's what he's playing off the stage that'll get Thundercat geeking out right with you mid-interview.
Just like gamers everywhere, Thundercat spent last week waiting for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom to finally become available for the Nintendo Switch. In the meantime, he shifted his focus to "the best f------ game ever made" — Mario Kart — to keep busy, he explains over Zoom. "You could hear somebody died and you put on Mario Kart and you're like, 'Man, that's OK. It's fine.' Mario Kart is the biggest bandaid on the bullet wound," he jokes.
"And you got to go with the heavy hitters, man. You got to go with Bowser, you got to go with Donkey Kong, man, you got to go with Metal Mario. If you don't know anything about that, then you just don't. You just don't."
A lifelong gamer who balanced his love of Nintendo and Sega with his love of bass, Thundercat incorporates that spark into his music. He also avoids playing Atari games because of how dry they are on technical specs, and realized recently that his 16-year-old daughter Sanaa feels the same way about the stuff he grew up on, too.
"I tried to play her Sonic the Hedgehog on a huge TV screen, and I was having a great time and my daughter was looking confused at the screen, and I was like, "Why are you looking so perplexed?" She was like, 'I don't know where to look on the screen,'" he reflects in between talking about tour and the new single. "And I was like, I had this moment. You have those, what do you call them, senior moments? And I remember thinking to myself, I'm like, 'Oh my God, she can't tell what pixels are.' And I was like, 'Holy s---. Sanaa, you don't see the blue squares on the screen?'"
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While his daughter may not have seen what he sees in one of his favorite game franchises — which he says he'd love to score some day if given the chance — she definitely saw her dad on the small screen for The Book of Boba Fett.
In the series, Thundercat cameo'd as a body-modification artist known as The Modifier — and he doesn't take his 2022 Star Wars appearance lightly. It's been a year since, but after all, he's on a Topps trading card now.
"Every day I trip out, and it's like, I have to stop myself from tweeting, 'Look here, b----. I was in Star Wars,'" he jokes. "And anytime I get cussed out, I go, 'I don't have to take this. I was in Star Wars.' I'm a Topps trading card, so it's the part where I'm like, 'Life has come full circle. That which you used to collect, you have become.'
Thundercat says he collects a little bit of everything — from the 1962 first appearance of the Hulk in a Marvel comic to whatever else he's got in storage from his childhood. "The funny part of the culture now is like, the world realizing nerds have money is the best worst thing ever," he says. "They're putting all kind of collaborations that just don't need to happen. But it's like, you got the Dragon Ball Kia Sportage. You're just like, 'Wait a minute.' It's kind of slightly triggering. You're like, 'I could never buy it.' And you're like, 'but Goku selling the Kia.'"
Related:Red Hot Chili Peppers to Receive Global Icon Award at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards
The one thing Thundercat is getting undeniably good at collecting is moments with those he admires on a musical level, including Tame Impala. The bassist met Parker, 37, in the past at the Grammys, and he first discovered the Australian musician through the 2012 album Lonerism.
"I remember this feeling washing over me, and it just overwhelmed me," Thundercat recalls. "That song ['Apocalypse Dreams'] overwhelmed me. It feels like these moments connect you in life, you know, you feel connected to the artist, you feel connected to the person because you feel like, 'They just like me.' You know what I mean? It's like, you feel seen, almost."
As for their first-ever team up on the single "No More Lies," all it took was a reach-out to make it come to fruition — and that connection Thundercat felt with Parker back in 2012 ended up happening on a mutual level.
"I was in love with the song from the beginning of the pieces that he played for me. As soon as he played it, I was like, 'Can I play bass on it?'" he recalls. "I said this before, but it was one of those things where I was like, 'We're definitely spirits of some band members. We are definitely brothers that have been there before.'"
"I remember his reaction to me singing to it, and he was like, 'I don't know why that's perfectly what it's supposed to be.' We were both like, 'Yeah. This has been a long time coming, Kevin.'"
Related:Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea Doesn't Like When Fans Ask for Photos, Says It 'Ruins' Conversations
Thundercat and Parker only recorded the one song together, he tells PEOPLE, but it's one he compares to "somebody walking into a UFC fight and knocking somebody out in the first 30 seconds."
While more material with Tame Impala may not be top of mind at the moment, when asked if he has a dream supergroup he'd want to be part of, Thundercat says the lineup is full of a few late greats: "I think my band would be like Wesley Willis, Mac Miller, Daniel Johnston, and I don't know. I'd just be like, 'Take it away, Wesley.' And Wesley's in the back, all over some record changes, 'rock and roll Mc-.' I think that could be cool. I think that could totally be cool."
With a solo show on the road and a new single out with his long-lost musical partner, Thundercat relays his message for fans looking to catch him on tour as he hits Yo Girl's City once and for all: "Hide your kids, hide your wife... Nah. I just want everybody to have fun, because I feel like nowadays, everything feels so stressful or everything has this weight to it. I just want people to enjoy themselves when they get to the shows."
The In Yo Girl's City Tour kicks off with festivals in August and continues through November. Tickets are now available.
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