What’s with all the Psych Rock Down Under?

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard

Contemporary Psych Rock is alive and well and Australia is spearheading the movement. With world famous acts like Tame Impala and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard this musical style has reached the ears and hearts of many.

While psychedelic rock was a major genre in American and British music throughout the 1960’s and 70’s it began to fade out with the hair metal takeover of the 1980’s. It’s resurgence is unexpected and unprecedented which poses the question; where did this second psychedelic wave come from and why is Australia at the center of it all?

For starters let’s take a look at Australia’s roots in psychedelic rock. Bands like Tully, Tamam Shud, and Coloured Balls dominated the scene in the 1960’s and 70’s yet failed to break ground globally often outshined by Australia’s industry giants of the time, The Bee Gees. What was unique to the more progressive rock bands of the time was their influences drawn from all corners of the globe. Taman Shud and Tully, both based out of Sydney, drew upon ideas from Eastern philosophy and mythology, avant-garde jazz and American jam bands like the Grateful Dead. They often paired their music with the Sydney film and light-show group Ubu creating multimedia psychedelic experiences.  

Fast forward to 2010, Tame Impala debuts their first full length album InnerSpeaker. Reaching international success with hits such as Lucidity and Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind, Tame Impala started a new wave of boundary breaking psychedelic rock. Their 2012 release Lonerism was likened to the Beatles later work.

Tame Impala debuting their new single Borderline on Saturday Night Live

Tame Impala spearheaded a new wave of the genre and countless acts have followed. Some of the most prominent include King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, The Babe Rainbow and Sunbeam Sound Machine.(3 links to blog) They’ve combined influences from classic psychedelic rock, 90’s shoegaze and 80’s synth-wave to create endless streams of consistently new and exciting albums. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard while not as big as Tame Impala has a massive following and hosts their own festival, “Giz Fest” every year. They have cited influences ranging from The Doors to Western microtonal tuning often featured in traditional Indian music.

King Gizzard’s new music video

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard has been non stop touring and producing music since their start in 2012 with their first full length album, 12 Bar Bruise. Since then they have released eleven more full length albums, five of which were put out in 2017. Their music ranges from early Black Sabbath doom metal to easy and breezy modern jazz with touches of blues here and there. They’ve written about everything from the end of the world and futuristic evil robots to Vegemite and Hot Wax. Their intricate guitar patterns and slew of unorthodox instruments often transports the listener into an otherworldly experience. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard heavily relies on multimedia use from their albums draped in spoken word pieces to their ambitious music videos. Their love for concept albums has kept each release totally different from the last and leaves fans always excited for more.

Another band dominating the scene is Melbourne’s Sunbeam Sound Machine. Sunbeam Sound Machine is the product of multi-instrumentalist Nick Sowersby’s writing and recording all taking place in his garage. His influences include chillwave artists Washed Out and early Tame Impala. Regarding his latest album Sowersby said, “I began working on this album in an exploratory way, recording for recording’s sake until an album began to naturally take form”. This free flowing writing process has allowed what is known as psychedelic rock to expand and grow into a new highly experimental creative outlet that always leaves us here at WMWM craving more.

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