Concerts

No Two King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard Shows Are Alike

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard Photo by Jason Galea
As long as King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard's name might seem, the Australian band's discography is even longer. Since forming in Melbourne, the sextet has put out 20 studio albums — and that doesn't include its ten live records and numerous compilations.

Bassist Lucas Harwood tells New Times the band's prodigious output is a case of following through.

"A lot of songwriters write as much as we do; they just don't release everything," he explains. "Stu [Mackenzie], Joe [Walker], and Ambrose [Kenny-Smith] follow through with every idea that they have to the point that it becomes a song. In some bands, people think a song might be too personal to share with the others. In our group, there's no shame. We encourage each other no matter what, and that's creatively freeing."

King Gizzard began as a jam band of sorts during Harwood's and his bandmates' stint as students at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, AKA RMIT University.

"We started as a fun, easy party band," Harwood remembers. "We'd make our songs intentionally easy with two, three, or four chords max, and each song had a quiet part and a loud part, so anyone who played an instrument was welcome to fit in. The lineup was fluid at first, but the band snowballed with the good reactions, and the lineup firmed up from there."

Once King Gizzard established a fanbase in the U.S. and started playing shows here more frequently, the members decided to make music a full-time gig. They all quit their side jobs, including Harwood, who was working at cafés.

"America has become our biggest market, that's for sure," Harwood says. "Australia is so different. There are only the capital cities that are so spread out from each other. You can't do different tour loops as you can in America where you circle around the country, never playing the same city."
Another road-warrior band that serves as inspiration for King Gizzard and also a point of comparison is the Grateful Dead. "We love the freewheeling spirit of their era and that they let songs take them where ever they go," says Harwood. "We talk about them and listen to them a lot, especially when we're in America."

Miami fans will discover for themselves if the Grateful Dead comparison is warranted when King Gizzard plays its first-ever Florida shows at Space Park on June 18 and June 19. Harwood promises each night will be a unique experience, with no song being played at both shows. He says the band has about 90 songs in its live repertoire, with frontman Stu Mackenzie driving the formation of each show's setlist.

"He'll look at what songs we've played in a city before, then he tries to change it completely," Harwood says. "He'll put the setlist up for the rest of the band to look over, and we'll have our input. Someone might say I don't remember how to play that song because we haven't played it in five years."

The live experience, Harwood says, depends on equal parts spontaneity and preparation.

"Most days, we set up at soundcheck and run through the songs we haven't played in a while or new songs we haven't really played much live," he adds. "Even the songs I've played a thousand times, I want to remind myself I know them; otherwise, I might overthink it." Harwood says it's the mastery through repetition that allows for freedom. "We go on a journey ourselves on stage. Sometimes a song will go to a completely different place, and we end up surprising ourselves."

With so many songs at the band's disposal, Harwood understands it can be daunting for new listeners to know where to begin. He suggests 2014's I'm In Your Mind Fuzz and 2016's Nonagon Infinity as good starting points, though he's also partial to Omnium Gatherum, the band's double album, which dropped in April.

"It really encapsulates us. It's not centered on a concept, so we let ourselves do anything," Harwood says. "There's Krautrock, a few rap songs, psych rock. It's the most collaborative of our records, and the 16 songs spread the gamut of what King Gizzard is."
   
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. 7 p.m. Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19, at Space Park Miami, 300 NE 61st St., Miami; spaceparkmiami.com. Tickets cost $20 to $45 via eventbrite.com.
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland