King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard Reflect on Their Anxious Energy: "That's Where the Magic Is"

The Australian psych shapeshifters harness creativity by setting parameters — "I think that's what helps us be prolific," says Lucas Harwood

Photo: Jason Galea

BY Isabel Glasgow Published Oct 24, 2023

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are taking what counts for them as a break. After two European tours, a series of residencies in US cities and a sprinkle of Australian shows in between, King Gizzard have slowed down just long enough to release their second album of the year, the fully electronic The Silver Cord (out October 27).

"Touring is great, but we all have home lives and it's nice to just think about that for a while," says bassist Lucas Harwood, back home in Geelong, Australia, after taking one of his kids to swim class.

On the cusp of releasing their 25th album a little over a decade since their first, 2012's 12 Bar Bruise, King Gizzard have traveled a long, zig-zagging path from their garage punk origins. "Between the pandemic, becoming parents, growing a little bit older — and hopefully a little bit wiser — everyone has had time to pause and reflect. We're just super grateful and lucky for how far we've come, to keep growing our fan base in North America and to keep growing as musicians."

Looking back over the years, Harwood characterizes King Gizzard as having "this element of just flying by the seat of our pants, not really knowing what we're doing. I think there's still a bit of that when we record, though we're more knowledgeable on the musical and technical side." 

As their career has progressed, King Gizzard have defined their comfort zone as the absence of one — it's controlled chaos, driven by restlessness and an eagerness for change. "You just need to preserve some of that unexpected nervous energy — I think that's where the magic is," Hardwood reflects.

As a band committed to transformation, growth is quite the feat when you've tried nearly everything once — often, twice — while upping the ante each time, tackling everything from microtonal music to metal to sprawling psychedelia. That's to say nothing of their various side-projects, including Harwood's psych pop band Heavy Moss, Ambrose Kenny-Smith and Cook Craig's garage rock project the Murlocs, and guitarist Joey Walker's techno alias Bullant.

"I don't know, maybe we just get bored easily," Harwood laughs when asked about what fuels the band's seemingly endless creativity. King Gizzard have become masters at harnessing their versatility into a narrow focus. "It's really about setting parameters for each project. Some of them are kind of loose, but most are pretty strict: this album, we're doing this; each song has to have this on it. I think that's what helps us be prolific as well, because it simplifies things."

It seems counterintuitive for creativity to flourish under limitations, but Harwood likens it to "when you sit down to choose a movie on Netflix with your housemates. Everyone's had that experience where you spend half an hour trying to decide what to watch, and by the time you pick, you kind of lose the keenness to even watch a movie." Settling on a sonic realm while eliminating some production possibilities is what helps King Gizzard escape decision paralysis and concentrate on the important things: what defines a great song or album. In looking towards the near future, they've settled on retro-futurism.

"We've always used synths, and our collection has grown over the years, so we weren't intimidated by the fact that it was all electronic," says Harwood, who defines the genesis of The Silver Cord as simply putting all these synths in one room.

The real challenge for the largely rock-oriented band was creating an electronic album that retained the essence of their sound. "When you first take out live drums, straight off the bat, it's going to sound really different," he says, explaining that they decided to use a fully analogue studio for the first time since 2017's jazzy Sketches of Brunswick East. "We really wanted to smash it to [24-track] analogue tape — some of the tracks two or three times — to give it that sonic quality, and that gave it the Gizzard filter of sounding real."

Similar to 2022's jazz-prog odyssey Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava, full-band collaboration and jamming were key in writing The Silver Cord. "It didn't feel that intimidating, because we didn't have to think about how we were going to fit an idea into a three-minute song — let's just be free and jam," says Harwood. "It's liberating to work like that. It definitely creates a lot of post-production work, but that's where you find these little magic moments you mark for later." King Gizzard's contribute-as-you-wish ethos has been liberating for Harwood as well, who spends his time at home supporting his wife as a stay-at-home dad, yet foresees himself contributing more as his kids grow older.

And what do Harwood's kids think about his music? "The eldest is 12, and she's very curious about it," he says. "Around Butterfly 3000, she was really into 'Interior People.'" (Good choice — it made Exclaim!'s list of the 20 best King Gizzard songs).

He continues, "The younger one is five, and I think he's starting to get a grasp of it. I actually put a King Gizzard shirt on him yesterday, but he changed into a Metallica shirt. He's pretty soft and sensitive though, so maybe he's one of the chill Gizzard fans. He likes Elton John and Metallica, the two extremes." The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

It's difficult to predict the ever-shapeshifting future of King Gizzard, but fans can count on them to continue advocating for our planet and its people; they're hoping to spark change in the music industry with their sustainable merch and vinyl choices, and a sequel to last year's drag night is highly likely. Though no three-hour marathon sets or residency stops are planned for Canada, it's not off the table. Until then, Canadian fans can expect some tour dates next fall. The latter half of next year brings more to look forward to, with Harwood on the keys again on the debut album from Heavy Moss.

And of course, there'll always be another King Gizzard album. "We're going to start recording one soon, and like every other, we kind of set parameters for it," says Harwood, pointing out that the band will continue to expand out of their comfort zone. "We're going to be swapping around instruments a lot, and I'm looking forward to getting on the keys a bit more. I'm equally nervous and excited."

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