Culture Q&A: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are chameleons of genre and style. Since forming in 2010, the band has released eight albums ranging from folksy to psych to hard-rocking, blues-stomping in the vein of Captain Beefheart.
Their newest album, Nonagon Infinity, is an infinitely looping album that captures the group’s live sound with a continuous sonic attack using complex time signatures and high-octane guitar leads. Nonagon Infinity relies on repeating lyrics and musical phrases to tie all nine songs together, as when lead singer Stu Mackenzie repeats the phrase “Nonagon Infinity opens the door” in the first and last tracks.
Of the band’s recordings, Mackenzie considers this to be his favorite, explaining that it represents their live show the best—which listeners in Indianapolis can judge for themselves on May 6, when King Gizzard’s world tour stops at the Hi-Fi.
IM caught up with Mackenzie before the show.
What exactly does “Nonagon Infinity” mean?
It was supposed to mean nine songs that last forever, nine parts, nine chapters. Nine segments that all add up to one loop, forever. You could play the record forever.
What made you decide to create an infinitely looping record?
I think it was originally just a record that was like a suite, you know? Every song was just a chapter, and it all linked. There were nine songs, nine chapters of the same story arc. While we were working on it, we realized that the final track actually needed to link back to the first track for it to make perfect sense. It was really kind of a snowball of that kind of idea.
What was the hardest part of keeping it looping?
It was just kind of conceptualizing it and rehearsing it. We’re not super highly trained musicians or anything. Some of the songs are pretty challenging. Just kind of learning them and working out all the different time signatures were pretty challenging for us. It was a lot of conceptualizing how they would all make sense as a whole. Before we had even recorded anything, it was a pretty challenging record to put together.
What made you change from the folksy sound of your earlier album Paper Mache Day Dream to hard-rocking Nonagon Infinity?
We mostly finished this record before we started on Paper Mache, so this record had been one that we had been working on for over a year and a half. This record was supposed to come out before Paper Mache, but we just needed a break from it. We needed the songs to keep evolving. This record is more a representation of us and our live show than anything that we’d ever done before. To me, Paper Mache is the odd one out—not to say I’m not proud of it as a record. I think this is the one that kind of represents the band most strongly in my opinion.
How were you able to capture such an energetic, live-sounding album?
We recorded live as much as possible. It was done mostly in New York over four days. Mostly, we tried to get the take there live with the seven of us. That was the challenge, to try to not piece it together and overdub, but try to actually play this thing. We didn’t record it in one take or anything. We could if we wanted to, but a lot of sections were improvised. We recorded it piece by piece. We would play the start of the next song after the end of one and cross fade it. It was actually really simple. It was mostly in the live performance, which is why it probably maintains that energy.
Have you performed the entire album on stage yet?
Not just yet. We will definitely do it, but we haven’t played together in a while, and we need time to practice. It’s funny, being on tour all the time, because you don’t always have time to practice, which seems kind of counterintuitive. We’ve been playing a lot of the songs live but not as a whole suite yet.
What can we expect to see with your stage show?
Nonagon is probably the closest representation of what the show is like. There will be a lot of those songs and a mix from everything else. We always wing it and see what will work on that particular night.
Nonagon Infinity is probably my favorite King Gizzard record so far.
Excellent. It’s mine too. It’s definitely the one that was thought-about the most. It was given the most love. It was the most realized record.