For most bands, making a concept album means creating a group of songs with a lyrical thread that runs through them. Not for Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Its concepts focus on musical themes. The group’s 2015 album “Quarters!” features four songs that are each exactly 10 minutes and 10 seconds long, while 2016’s “Nonagon Infinity” is an infinite loop, with the end of the last song leading right into the start of the first one.
The band’s new album, “Flying Microtonal Banana” — one of five King Gizzard plans to release in 2017 — is built around a yellow microtonal guitar created for bandleader Stu Mackenzie. The guitar uses smaller sound intervals than are typically heard in Western music and required the other band members to customize their instruments to play alongside it. The end result is a mixture of hard rock, prog, jazz, Middle Eastern music and more. amNewYork spoke with Mackenzie.
Can you explain microtonal tuning to a layperson?
The history of Western music has been indebted to 12 equal tones per octave. I suppose there’s endless tones in between the ones that we use, and so there’s endless possibilities and ways to explore the notes that are in between the notes we commonly use.
What made you want to experiment with it?
I was playing the baglama quite a lot, which is a Turkish stringed instrument ... It’s not as locked into what we’re used to hearing. I guess I was fairly intrigued by that. And once you get these other sounds in your head it’s hard to go back to the concretely fretted electric guitar that I’m used to.
Why did you decide to release five albums in 2017?
Sometimes I kind of regret that we said that. I hope we can do that. We have three happening. The final two are futuristic at the moment. ... We made a couple of albums a year for a few years. Last year we just put out one, and it was in the first half of the year. Then we sat around twiddling our thumbs for a while, so we thought “next year, we’ll do five.” Maybe we went a little crazy.
Where did the band’s name come from?
When the band started, we were all playing in different bands. This was a band we started to not really mean anything ... Sometimes it would be three people, sometimes it would be 10 or 11 people. It was not an important group and ended up with all these weird names. It’s funny looking back on this name. It was the one that was the most absurd, and I guess for that reason it was just the one that stuck.