By James Olson
VANCOUVER – King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard might just be one of the most prolific rock acts of the decade. Within five years, the Melbourne-based psych rock band has released thirteen albums, five of which came out in 2017 alone. This seven-piece is veritable cottage industry unto itself, crafting exciting and adventurous rock music. In an hour-long conversation, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist/flutist/bassist/sitarist/zurna player Stu Mackenzie was only able to scratch the surface when it came to the band’s increasingly long list of artistic accomplishments.
Releasing five albums in a single year is a feat many bands would not dare to even attempt, especially for fear of sacrificing quality for the sake of quantity. King Gizzard were not only able to complete this herculean task, they succeeded in releasing five sonically diverse records of consistently excellent quality. Over the course of these releases the band experiments with microtones (Flying Microtonal Banana) and polyrhythms (Polygondwanaland), spins three phantasmagorical tales on a single album (Murder of the Universe) and explores improvisational jazz songwriting with the Mild High Club (Sketches of Brunswick East). “We wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t have a lot of fun recording,” Mackenzie says. The band wrote and recorded all these releases successively in their own rehearsal space, often between tours. “Sometimes when you have to pay for a studio you’re on the clock. It’s funny, sometimes when you’re off the clock you do more work,” explains Mackezenie. “We would go in there most days and just jam and hang out. Blur the line between work and leisure. Which I suppose is the life a musician leads.”
For a band of their size, Mackenzie paints a picture of a committed but fun-loving gang of musicians. Drummer Eric Moore manages the band and runs their own record label, Flightless, while Mackenzie sees himself as the creative director. “I write the majority of the songs but there are a lot of other songwriters in the band as well. Making sure everyone is getting what they want out of the band is pretty important,” Mackenzie elaborates. “Without defined roles, everyone chips in.”
As for the recent surge of Australian bands breaking on to the international stage, Mackenzie surmises that geographic isolation has enabled artists including Tame Impala, Pond, Tash Sultana, and many others to develop free from many distractions. “It’s a big deal to tour around Australia [as an Australian band] because it’s hard to do. But the cities themselves are supportive. You spend a lot of time in your city and you can hone your craft. Australia might be a unique in that way,” says Mackenzie. One of the ways the band has made touring Down Under work in their favour is by hosting Gizzfest, their very own music festival now entering its fourth year of operation. “We spend so much time touring overseas that we don’t really play a lot of shows in Australia anymore. We spend a lot of time here but it’s hard to keep playing the same shows,” explains Mackenzie. “This is a way for us to have fun in Australia. That’s the selfish logic of it. But it’s nice to bring people together.”
This year, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are taking a much-needed break from the studio to test out their wealth of new material on the live stage. But who knows, their fourteenth record might just be ready for release any day now.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard play the Malkin Bowl June 5.King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard