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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard keeps on experimenting

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Australia’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard plays three Northern California shows next week. (Courtesy Lee Vincent Grubb)

At first, Melbourne native Stu Mackenzie didn’t notice that King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, the septet he formed for fun in 2010, had been surfing a hip new wave of neo-psychedelic Australian music, alongside bands such as Pond and Tame Impala. But he believes his country has produced a steady stream of brilliant, experimental artists, dating back to 1980s trailblazers The Triffids, Hunters and Collectors, and The Lime Spiders. He’s just happy that the media is finally noticing again.

In five short years, King Gizzard has released two EPs and eight full albums. That’s some serious productivity.

My favorite element of being a musician is the construction phase — seeing a song go from the spawn of an idea, then evolving through collaborating with other people into the creative process of recording in the studio. Taking something that’s intangible, that’s in your head, and creating something that’s very physical … I focus most of my energy on that, so it’s always been natural to try and do that as much as possible.

What other careers have you considered before this?

In school, I really wanted to do engineering. I wanted to be involved in constructing things, things that weren’t there, like renewable energy. I wanted to create some physical objects that were good for the planet. But at that point, I was getting more and more interested in music, so I thought, “I think I’m going to pursue this music thing for a little bit, because if I did engineering right now, I couldn’t focus on it.” But I would eventually like to back to school.

What did you want to achieve with the band, before you knew you were part of a scene?

Early on, everyone was playing in different groups, and this was the band that was more free and open — it was pretty much just a jam band. We never rehearsed, and we’d have these two-chorded songs with a handful of words that everyone could learn five minutes before the show. And we would just play parties or open up for our other friends’ bands. So it was a band that was never supposed to really be anything, anyway, right from the start.

Your recent 1960s-jangly “Paper Mache Dream Balloon” album actually revolves around your Ron Burgundy-jazzy flute playing.

That album was a total experiment. We said to ourselves, “Let’s try and make an acoustic-themed record, focusing on shorter, more concise pieces.” And that was all we said. And after that, it was almost like the album wrote itself!

IF YOU GO
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Where: New Parish, 1473 San Pablo Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. May 23
Tickets: $15
Contact: (510) 444-7474; www.thenewparish.com
Note: The group also appears May 24 at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz and May 25 at the Independent in San Francisco.

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