I watched King Gizzard’s new film and now understand the band’s global appeal
19.04.2020

I watched King Gizzard’s new film and now understand the band’s global appeal

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Photo: Josh Braybrook
Words by Tom Parker

The film was only available for 24 hours via Vimeo.

It’s clear King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are one of the most idiosyncratic rock bands on the planet. Name the last band who released five albums in a calendar year; name another band who has made their own video game; what about a group who played and sold-out eight straight shows at the one venue and changed their setlist by the night?

There’s no one like them which is why they’ve been able to capture such a strong fanbase at home and abroad. Following the release of 2019’s Infest The Rats’ Nest, the band’s heaviest album, the seven-piece were readying themselves to play two three-hour sets in the US, one at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley and the other at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado in April and May this year.

Those career-defining performances have been postponed but it’s not as if the band doesn’t have something else up their sleeve to keep their fans on their toes.

Across the last 24 hours or so, King Gizzard made Chunky Shrapnel available via Vimeo, a 96-minute film that documented the band’s recent 2019 European tour. Many documentaries of this nature would tell the story of the respective band on and off the stage but Gizz were in no way interested in putting together a self-congratulatory piece spotlighting their inner workings.

For them, it was important they celebrated their music. Many music documentaries commemorate volatility, stemming from fame and fortune, but there’s no such furore within Gizz – Stu, Cavs, Cookie, Joey, Lucas, Eric and Ambrose are just seven best mates playing tunes and loving doing it. There’s no social hierarchy here.

So what did the film teach us?

For one, it taught us a lesson in live music and how energy and freneticism can whisk a band to the forefront of the industry. Gizz are fucked live – if frontman Stu Mackenzie isn’t slinging his guitar around like a yoyo and drummers Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore aren’t artlessly, almost unfathomably, synchronised, multi-instrumentalist Ambrose Kenny Smith is jumping between his harmonica, keyboard and maracas like a virtuosic madman.

Chunky Shrapnel is like being the midst of Floridian cyclone that picks you up and throws you around in circles. It transports you on stage as if you’ve just crashed the show. But no, that’s just the perspective of cinematographer John Angus Stewart going about his work, capturing visceral footage of a band at the peak of their powers.

Zigzagging between Gizz’s seven members as he tiptoes around stage, Stewart celebrates the relatability of the band. They’re a band that will stick around after the show, take photos with you and sign your merch. They’ll say hi, they’ll even have a chat. When Cavs breaks from his professional pose to smile at the camera about midway through the film, all these aforementioned elements of approachability are substantiated.

Then as we’re gifted a quick breather with Stewart taking us backstage, we’re not just acquainted with the humble Gizz from the locker room, but are introduced to the roadies, the crewmembers and the touring supports that make adventures like this possible.

We even get an exclusive look into the inventive mind of Melbourne music innovator Zak Olsen (Orb, Traffik Island, Hierophants, The Frowning Clouds) poking away at his mini keyboard in the green room.

Then there’s footage of the band’s graphic genius Jason Galea sitting in a silent room by himself signing posters. Missing the show, Juice?

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is more than just a heptad of ingenuity and ambition, it’s a united force that extends beyond its seven core tentacles. Chunky Shrapnel proves that Gizz have found the sweet spot, one that has become universally loved, creating unrelenting fandom and appeal.

Bravo, Gizz – you’ve become 21st-century exponents of the term, ‘trailblazer’, and isn’t the world better for it.

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