Brain explosion

Lords of psych King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard invited us on tour and this is what happened
By Alex James Taylor | Music | 27 May 2015
Photography Jamie Wdziekonski

Photography by Jamie Wdziekonski

The seven Melbournians who together form King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard cultivate a space where visualisation, concept and imagination are intrinsically valuable within music, favouring variety over banality. Their unwavering creativity is once again evident in their latest release, four track EP Quarters.

A sort of acid washed take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Quarters contains four songs, each exactly ten minutes ten seconds in length, each an odyssey that works equally on their own and as a whole. Tracks kick back and forth, from darting instrumental jazz movements to full on psych freak-outs, Quarters is the soundtrack to that trippy psychedelic light show that projects on your eyelids when you close your eyes, the perfect road trip mixtape; from steady cruising to fifth gear highway sprawls in the blink of an eye.

The only released single from the EP, titled The River, could easily slot into the era-defining Pebbles and Nuggets collections that collated the sound of 60s/70s psych, the track delves in and out of time signatures grooving between 5/4 and 7/8 rhythms with a hypnotic timing.

While King Gizzard sound like a band steeped in the zeitgeist of 50 years yonder, they don’t sound like they’re doppelgängering any particular act. They’re like hidden gems, a newfound relic of a generation lost, unearthing a beguiling soundscape, totally uninhibited, totally inviting.

And then there’s the KGATLW live set. If you don’t leave one of these vibing crazy and sweat-drenched don’t ask for your cash back – there’s something wrong with you. Photographer Jamie Wdziekonski road tripped with the guys on their latest tour. The Babe Rainbow supported, shit got messy, Jamie got it on film.

Switch off your brain and cruise down stream, the band with the best name ever will be your guides for today.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

Alex James Taylor: What was the initial concept for Quarters, did you intend for it to be a four track EP?
Eric Moore: I guess we just always thought of it as a full length record, there was never, in our minds it was never an EP it was always a full length, we just wanted to explain the idea of creating something that holds the listener’s attention but is only four songs. It holds the attention as a full length would be in a limited amount of tracks. I guess that was Stu’s (Mackenzie, lead singer) concept, the whole ten minute ten second idea, and we just explored it as a band.

AJT: Yeah, With the whole ten minute ten second idea the EP seems quite conceptual, is there a common theme that runs throughout all four tracks?
EM: Maybe not lyrically but musically we wanted to experiment with simple songs that we could all learn quite easily and play for a long time, just repeating it over and over again whilst holding the listener’s attention and not make it boring. Which, I’m not sure if we achieved it in the end but that was the idea.

AJT: Yeah it totally works, I love the way it moves through different genres and sounds, The River begins sounding almost like lounge jazz and then it develops and evolves into so many different sounds, movements really.
EM: Yeah, we were listening to a lot of Van Morrison and weird stuff when we were travelling through the States the first time and that’s what a lot of the jams came out of, just more jazzy and folky stuff, Stu was playing a lot of flute and we were just jamming on acoustic guitars because we didn’t have any amps with us. That’s what Quarters stemmed from really.

AJT: Sure, did you write the tracks on the US tour then?
EM: Yeah, so the first time we went over which was around this time last year, around the same time we were working on I’m in Your Mind Fuzz as well, that album was already in our mind as what it was going to be, the concept was already there we just needed to get the songs together. Then we rented a sort of ski lodge upstate New York for a month because we got a grant in Australia so got a bit of money and decided to rent this place with it. We said that we’d make an album but it turned into this month long intense, weird cabin feverish thing, in that month we finished all the overdubs for Mind Fuzz and then jammed The River and Infinite Rise and a few of the other tracks for the first time. Infinite Rise actually was recorded in the cabin, we kept that tape, but then the rest were recorded in a day at Daptone, Brooklyn and that was when the genesis of the record started I suppose, it pretty much started at the same time as Mind Fuzz it was just on the back burner.

AJT: And was it the same kind of recording process or did you switch things up at all?
EM: We wanted it to be completely different, which is why we wanted to record it in this cabin with the minimum amount of gear and stuff but then in the end that got too hard so we did a couple of days at Daptone. One of the days we recorded most of Mind Fuzz and the other day, about three months later, we recorded Quarters. So in a way in was actually recorded in the same studio with the same gear.

AJT: You can feel the retro vibe that you were going for though, it’s got that 60s psych feel to it. Your live shows are so renowned for being chaotic and messy, when you write songs do you think about how they will translate live or do you see the live performance as a completely different output to recordings?
EM: I guess it just depends on the type of record we’re trying to make. I remember before we wrote Mind Fuzz we were all ready to play songs that would be really fun to play live, and that’s why that record is really energetic and pretty heavy and psychedelic with lots of room to jam and stuff. That was definitely in the back of our mind for that record, I guess Gizzard can be seen in two parts, we wanted it to be a really creative recording project where we can have the freedom to record whatever we like, but then the live thing is a completely separate element I suppose. Live performance is a whole different ballgame, we look at that completely differently to our recordings.

AJT: So have you played any tracks from Quarters live yet?
EM: Yeah, we actually learnt the whole ten minutes of The River the other day and we played it for the first time at a show in Melbourne, I think it went pretty well, it was a little bit rusty but we got through it.

AJT: With Mind Fuzz, that record really put Gizzard on the global map, as a band could you feel the sense of acclaim surrounding it?
EM: Yeah definitely, I guess it was mainly the international thing because up until that point I think we’d already put out four albums at home or something like that, but it wasn’t until Mind Fuzz that people from overseas began to take notice and it just so happened that it worked out on a record that translated live. When we toured the States for the first time Mind Fuzz wasn’t out yet but we were playing all the songs, so by the time it came out it felt that people were excited about hearing them recorded. But definitely in terms of press and that sort of thing Mind Fuzz got us to a point that the other albums hadn’t, which was cool. But it’s all relative, I don’t feel that there’s been a point with Gizzard where it’s been like ‘Wow’ and it exploded, I feel that we’ve stepped on every rung of the ladder and we’ve really worked hard for every achievement or whatever.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard backstage with The Babe Rainbow, photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

AJT: There’s seven members of King Gizzard, what’s the songwriting process like? Does one person write for songs or is it a group effort?
EM: So Stu writes the majority of the music but basically five of the seven all write and all write music in other bands or for King Gizzard, so everyone has a lot of input to the stuff which is cool. Stu is like the director in a sense, anyone could write a song and then we’ll look at them together or maybe a few people will get together and write a track, it just all depends really. It also depends what kind of record we’re making as well, if it’s a full on, all seven of us playing, like Mind Fuzz, most of the songs came from Stu’s initial ideas and then we just jammed them out in the rehearsal room traditionally really and that was the first time we did that actually, making a record in that sense as opposed to a bunch of home recordings and stuff.

AJT: This summer you’re booked for a few UK festivals, including Glastonbury for the first time.
EM: Yeah, this is our biggest run through the UK and Europe, the only tour we did was late last year which was amazing and then from that we started to get all these offers, I can’t wait to head over there in summer and travel around.

AJT: Pre-gig rituals?
EM: Not really, none of us are very superstitious so it’s all pretty straight forward. I might just get my sticks out and bash around but apart from that it’s all pretty normal.

AJT: Did you do any covers on the tour?
EM: No actually, we’ve done a couple in the past though, we used to cover I Wanna Be Your Dog and we did T.V. Eye as well, just lots of Stooges covers [laughing].

AJT: What’s the tour bus look like?
EM: It gets pretty messy usually because there’s seven of us and we usually tour with Jason who does all our artwork and visuals and stuff, then maybe a sound guy as well, so that’s like nine people. We have to find the smallest bus we can fit into because we have no money so it always gets pretty cramped and messy. Last time we went to the States our van had a little TV and a Playstation, that was really fun, but other than that it isn’t very glamourous.

AJT: How do you choose the setlist?
EM: It’s always really hard because having put out so many albums and new songs it’s hard to keep up. With Quarters we will probably only play The River and a shortened version of God is in the Rhythm.

AJTDo you have a different set each night?
EM: Yeah we always try and change it up just to keep it interesting, if we played the same things every night I think we’d all go mad and would probably just stop playing, so we always try keep it interesting and suit the vibe, if we’re playing a tiny gig in some small town in the States we’ll jazz out and chill on it.

AJT: If you could support any band who would it be?
EM: Something classic. Maybe Iggy Pop or Sabbath or the Stones.

Quarters by King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard is out today on Flightless.  Check out more at the band’s website and follow them on Facebook

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