King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard
The two young blokes sitting across from me by the fireplace at The Tote are as unassuming as they get. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard vocalist Stu Mackenzie and thereminist Eric Moore are enjoying a quiet pot or two on a lowly Wednesday arvo, a delightful contrast to when they will no doubt be annihilating the bandroom in around a month’s time. Contrast is what the seven-strong collective does well, they exude a slacker mentality yet are relentless with recording and touring, and delve into the depths of ockerism while professing brazen wit. All this is encapsulated within 12 Bar Bruise, a full-length debut that follows on from their EP of late last year, Willoughby’s Beach. On the eve of the LP’s release, Stu and Eric run us through the eventful journey between records.
“I suppose the majority of songs are new, as in written in the month or so before recording. But a few had sprung up in between. It’s definitely different to Willoughby’s,” Stu states. “Willoughby’s was just us going into the studio and smashing it all out as quickly as possible. Which was perfect. But this was a bit more of us going into the studio for a little bit, then doing mostly heaps of stuff at home.”
“The way we recorded and approached it was a lot different. Willoughby’s was a lot less thought out,” Eric adds.
It wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to label the EP an LP, with it feeling meaty enough to bear the status of longplayer. “I think we were a bit more hesitant [with the EP]. There were nine songs and we were really happy with how it turned out, we didn’t think it could be any better or the songs could be any better. But I guess we didn’t want to call it our first album. The songs were so short that it felt like an EP, even though there were nine tracks. If you called it an album on a ten-inch with nine songs lasting 20 minutes, you’d kind of feel like you’d been cut a bit fuckin’ short,” Eric laughs.
With a fairly rapid turnaround between the EP and LP, plus a follow-up EP nearly completed, it’s safe to say Gizzard are a prolific bunch. “There have been times where we haven’t really done stuff for a while, but lately we’ve been doing heaps of stuff,” Stu reveals.
“We want it to be our number one focus. Everyone obviously still works and that sort of thing. Stu lives in Angelsea and comes to Melbourne when he needs to, so he’s able to do a fair bit of writing at home which is good,” Eric adds.
There’s a palpable movement happening around the Geelong region, with plenty of shit-hot garage outfits germinating from the area – many of which share members with King Gizzard. “It might have to do with being a little bit away from the city, and not having much to do breeds that need to play music. There’s not a lot of places outside of Geelong for a band like us to play music.” Stu ponders.
“Geelong always works as a hub for all those little towns, like Torquay. Obviously we’re all really good mates with Frase,” Eric says referring to rising singer-songwriter Fraser A Gorman. “He played a few gigs with Gizzard real early on, Stu drums with him. There are a heap of others, Ambrose plays with The Murlocs, then there’s also Frowning Clouds and The Living Eyes on a similar vibe from the same area.”
With a body of work containing track titles such as Dustbin Fletcher, Garage LIddiard and Footy Footy, there’s a discernable affection for wordplay and Australiana present in the Gizzard canon. “It’s definitely not super thought out. It is what it is,” Stu states frankly.
“I think with Garage Liddiard we just needed a title and Joe was saying all this funny stuff then came up with that. It’s a garage-y song and we all love The Drones. But at the same time, it’s kind of what Gizzard is – that simple, Aussie fun,” Eric raises. “The players Joe was naming [on Footy Footy] are from our era when we all grew up – ’96, ’97. It’s when we were like ten and loving footy. It’s probably an album that will polarise people. So many people will be like ‘this is dumb, what is this shit’. Then there will be people that will get it straight away and it’ll just click with them. I guess we’ll see how it goes.”
12 Bar Bruise is released through Flightless Records, the band’s own imprint. Releasing in such a manner obviously means a lot more work is involved, but the band can see it paying off in the long run. “I guess that’s my thing in a way. It was always a goal of the band to be independent and release our own stuff. I’ve always wanted to be involved in working with labels,” Eric states. “So it made sense to do it ourselves. I think we’re gonna do stuff by lots of friends’ bands, like that coastal scene with a lot of mates’ bands. Just keeping it under the one roof is nice. I feel like we’re the younger kids playing music around town and hopefully by the time we’re a bit older it will be in a similar vein to like a Chapter or one of those local labels that are highly revered and well-respected. I guess you have to start from somewhere.”
For a band that has only just released their debut album, King Gizzard have been kicking more than a few goals in the past year. “It just goes in levels. You’re like, ‘Oh my god, playing The Tote would be unbelievable.’ Then you play it, then you aim for [Northcote] Social Club, then it’s The Corner, and it just keeps going up. Then it gets to a point where you’ve played most of the venues around town,” Eric states.
“I still get excited to play The Tote,” Stu adds. “Meredith is still the highlight.”
“We’ll probably just keep saying it, Meredith was just the best thing we’ve done,” Eric beams. The Meredith stint was a corker, and it also paid off in other ways, with an incident of overindulgence resulting in events which inspired the track Uh Oh, I Called Mum.
With a relatively populace lineup and a decentralised base, you would think the logistics of organising rehearsals and touring would be a bit of a nightmare. But the lads have got their shit together. “We’ve worked out a way where it’s not very hard, but it’s taken us a long time to get to that point,” Eric explains.
“It’s not very hard at all,” Stu continues. “We make it as easy as possible, basically. We always get questions like that, ‘Oh it must be so hard to have seven people in the band,’ but it’s not at all. We all hang out every day anyway, pretty much.”
“But as far as the songwriting process, Stu will come up with the idea and jam it as a three-piece and then we’ll build upon those parts. In the past, it’s been impossible to rehearse with all seven of us. It’s been frustrating, but we’ve just had to work it out over the years. It’s developed into what it is – and it’s working, which is good. There have been times at Bakehouse [Studios] and there’s seven of us there trying to write a song and it’s just the worst thing,” Eric laughs.
Even on the week of their album’s release, King Gizzard are busy plugging away at recording a follow-up. “We’ve been recording all week. We’ve pretty much done our next record,” Stu reveals. “We’re three-quarters finished a spaghetti-western-themed record, a lot like Sam Cherry’s Last Shot. A big kind of version of that. We’re doing that completely at home, we’ve worked out a good setup with our shitty home equipment.”
“The idea was this sort of six-track EP of all instrumental but then we get Brod, Ambrose’s dad, to write this sort of short story,” Eric expands.
The sense of being part of a new generation of Australian garage rock rings true, with titans Eddy Current Suppression Ring currently in an indeterminable hiatus. “We all absolutely love Eddy Current and all those bands, and they’ve obviously inspired a lot of young bands that are coming up now. There are a lot of bands our age who were all friends with that are all putting out really great music,” Eric smiles.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
12 Bar Bruise is out now through Flightless. KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD perform at The Tote on Saturday October 6 and Sunday October 7.