Fresh out of endless ‘Album of the Week’ listings and accolades for their debut album 12 Bar Bruise, two members of the nine-strong King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard lineup, guitarist Joe Walker and theremin wrangler/percussionist Eric Moore, huddle inside the Tote Hotel on a quiet Tuesday night.
As their Melbourne album launch was held there (and an excellent launch it was), the establishment is a fitting choice for a chat about memories of live music, both their own, and as a band.
Starting the conversation off with talk of Geelong venues, an explanation is given by the two that not the entire band is from the area. The members are actually from as far away as NSW and the Northern Territory, though as Walker explains “Geelong is kind of just the cultural beginning ‘cause part of the band did come from there and the majority just came from the surf coast.”
“Geelong and Castlemaine are about as rural as our tour gets,” reasons Walker; “but there’s good music there and good crowds.”
That doesn’t mean the whole band won’t miss the Nash as well though, and Joe and Eric talk animatedly for a few minutes about infamous Geelong venue The Sphinx, which sounds like the kind of dirty bar that needs a King Gizzard residency sometime soon.
As the Tote is the setting for the interview, talk turns to first, past, and future gigs at the venue. Though after discussing The Sphinx, serious talk seems to have gone out into the courtyard, ‘’I saw The Birthday Party here in 1979” says Walker with as serious a face as he can manage.
“The first gig I ever saw here, which was actually the first gig I ever went to as a adult punter,” offers Moore “-oh wait, nah I was seventeen, but anyway I came down and saw a band, Lady Strangelove.”“There’s no real pattern to a show being shit or good. ‘Erratic’ is the word for how our shows go.” – Joe Walker
“They were like a psych band from Adelaide, they were sick. I was just like ‘whoa, this is The Tote’.” Moore has a think and then adds, “I always would say my favourite gig here would be The Stabs album launch in like 2007 or 2008. So sick, it was like the most packed I’ve ever seen it…just like dark…heart of darkness.”
By this time everyone is aware sarcasm will never translate, so the conversation continues on its current track to nowhere in particular. Helped along by the fact that even after all the band hype, the pair are about as down to Earth as you could hope for.
Walker and Moore remember the whole town coming together to protest The Tote closure back in 2010. “We were arm in arm at the S.L.A.M rally, crying” details the guitarist, with his by now recognized, classic passive face.
“I remember when it was like the last 5 days of gigs at The Tote,” recalls his bandmate; “I was back home for all of them,” – cue laughs – “but I made the official rally. That was a sad time, but a good time and a proud time to be a musician in Melbourne. I mean really, when you think back on it, it was like ‘fuck, so many people care about live music’.”
As far as King Gizzard gigs go, the band bring a lot of crazed energy. A recent show at the temporary Godzilla Bar saw band members jumping on the bar and generally giving a performance worthy of a venue named after a city-destroying monster.
Eric and Joe pipe up that they were disappointed in the sound quality that night. However, that would have to be something only they notice, everyone else was busy having a good time.
So, what makes a good gig for them? “Hot, sweaty, congested, balls to the wall, full-throttle rock and roll” describes Moore with dramatic precision.
After laughing at his forced seriousness, Walker adds: “The best shows are the one’s that get out of hand… They don’t have to be in big venues, just anywhere where there’s a lot of people, like when a venue is at capacity – those are the best.”
Conversely, Walker offers, “it’s a cliché but the worst gigs are when you are separated from the audience by a barrier or a high stage, but there’s no real pattern to a show being shit or good. ‘Erratic’ is the word for how our shows go.”
That certainly would be the word for it. Their performance at this year’s Big Day Out was also a bit of a bummer, “[it] was real shit,” jokes Walker, “nah it was alright, but it was like 49 degrees in this tent we were playing and someone, like 360, was on at the same time as us.”
This leads into a very embarrassing discussion about past Big Day Outs and the many performers missed as a result of adolescent metal/hardcore phases, including the time the guitarist went to see The Prodigy instead of Neil Young in 2009.
Though it did make this writer happy to know there was someone else once dedicating their early teen days to Limp Bizkit. Oh the shame.
Apart from the duo’s perspective of the Big Day Out, King Gizzard have also been well received at Australian music festivals like Meredith and Bigsound.“That was a sad time, but a good time and a proud time to be a musician in Melbourne… it was like ‘fuck, so many people care about live music’.” – Eric Moore on the SLAM Rally
So even after the positive reception, is the band seriously surprised at their popularity? “We are always surprised,” says Moore, “it started off from nowhere and then it was like, ‘sweet, we got a gig’ and everything we’ve done since has continued to be a surprise.”
It’s a good attitude to have and the band seems similarly nonplussed about their future, post-album. Once the current tour is up, the next thing coming for the band is more records (according to Joe and Eric they have enough material for the next few albums already) and a possible overseas tour hopefully next year.
“We just want to get to the United States or Europe or wherever” envisions Walker. “It will be fun, or kind of refreshing, like starting over again.”
In the meantime, members of the 9-piece gang will most likely be seen running around this year’s Meredith, even though they aren’t playing; and Walker mentions he is looking forward to seeing Spiritualized.
Hopefully there isn’t a repeat of band member Lucas Skinner’s infamous call home from this year’s Golden Plains. On the other hand, maybe that should happen again, adventure seems to be good for these guys.
12 Bar Bruise is out now through Flightless Records/Fuse Music, read the Tone Deaf review here. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard play Falls Festival, and the Espy’s New Year’s Eve lineup before year’s end.