Eric Moore and Michael Cavanagh have known each other since they were in their teens, playing in nurturing musical communities before finding success in the ornately technical and mosh invoking seven-piece Melbourne outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Given the band’s baffling album release pace (five were released in 2017 alone) and their penchant for odd meters and blazing tempos, it’s difficult to imagine how one drummer can keep it all straight—much less two. Watching the drummers face off behind matching white C&C kits, devoid of flamming or lagging, one has to know: How do these guys do it?
Marian: Let’s start with the fact that the band has two drummers. How did that come about?
Eric: When we started the band, Cavs [Michael Cavanagh] was the drummer and I was managing them. It was like a party band with basically all our friends playing, [and] I was doing percussion. As the songs got more evolved and better, I started drumming as well.
Marian: You’ve recorded a ton of complex material in the last year, which I imagine would take a lot of preparation. How long do you have with the material before it’s recorded? Do both of you record at once?
Eric: Cavs mainly does the recorded drums. Even this last year when there have been double drums on albums, Cavs will record the initial track and then overdub his take.
Michael: We don’t ever revisit anything that much, apart from the album we just released, Polygondwanaland. On some of the songs on that one we went over things three or four times. But mainly we all just jam.
Eric: It’s pretty quick. These guys are pretty insane at getting shit down. They rehearse as a three-piece and then nail a track in a couple of takes and move on.
Marian: Eric, for the live shows, how much time do you have with the material before you have to play it out?
Eric: It’s usually pretty last-minute. Half the time it’s stuff that’s fully recorded and formed before I even drum on it, so I listen to it as a song and get to know the structure. When we start rehearsing for a tour I just jump in and try to get it together.
Marian: That’s insane! Do you two at least get to spend time together going through parts?
Michael: Not really, but that would be cool! [laughs] Most of our practice is during soundcheck. We’re like, “We want to try to do this song from this album.” We’ve never played it before, but we’ll run it in soundcheck over five or six nights, and when we’re ready we’ll play it. We haven’t had that much time to rehearse at all this year.
Marian: Have your styles blended together over time? What are some issues you run into when playing in tandem?
Eric: I think I’ve definitely adapted to Cavs. We’ve been playing together for so long, I feel like I know what fill he’s going to do. A lot of it’s memory, and live it’s definitely a visual thing. If I can’t see him, it’s pretty hard to play together. If we hear each other, it’s real bad—like if we hear each other’s kick it throws us off, because you think it’s you but then it’s out of time and you’re like, “What’s that sound?”
Michael: Yeah, we don’t have each other in the monitor, or else it just throws us off.
Eric: Strobes just kill us, they always put them on in the worst and hardest moment in a song.
Marian: Your music is often in an odd time or has complex rhythmic approaches. I’m thinking of “Crumbling Castle” in particular. What’s the toughest song for you guys to sync up to, or is that not an issue anymore?
Michael: It’s definitely become less of a thing the more we’ve been playing. We’ve been doing all this weird time signature stuff for a while now. Playing in 4/4 now is kind of hard.
Eric: We were talking about this the other day—our minds are in seven, so that feels like the normal time. 4/4 feels weird.
But I remember a huge change or shift was definitely [2016’s] Nonagon Infinity—learning the stuff live was like, Holy shit, I’ve got to get better. For me, the endurance thing of having to do 16ths the whole show was, like, impossible. I definitely struggled in the first couple tours, but then you just get better from touring, I guess.
Marian: During the song “Nuclear Fusion,” I noticed that, Eric, you hold down the 8th notes on the hi-hat, and Michael, you play the off beats. Are you going in a direction where more of this type playing will happen?
Michael: Yeah, we do that in a bunch of songs. There’s another song, “Altered Beast Part IV,” where we do that as well. It’s really hard; it’s probably one of the hardest things. “Nuclear Fusion” is slower….
Eric: …and that was real hard as well. I always make Cavs play the inside out [off] beats, and I play straight. [laughs]
Michael: It’s real fun but it’s also really scary when it’s coming up in a set.
Eric: When everything’s sounding good on stage and you’re playing well, it’s real sick. When you know it’s like, rocking. But half the time it sounds really shit and you don’t know what’s going on. It’s real stressful. [laughs]
Marian: When did you guys start experimenting with that?
Michael: It was a recording thing when we were doing [2017’s] Flying Microtonal Banana. Stu [Mackenzie, King Gizzard’s primary songwriter] had the idea that he wanted to pan the hi-hats hard left and right, so I did one kit normal and the second with the offbeats. It ended up sounding real sick in headphones, so it’s an ongoing thing I’ve done for recordings and stuff.
Eric: That’s the type of thing that we have to practice more. “Nuclear Fusion” [from Flying Microtonal Banana] definitely took a long time to get down—or, not a long time, but it took a bit more [effort]. And so then “Altered” [the nine-song suite of songs that appears on 2017’s Murder of the Universe]—that was pretty hard.
Michael: We don’t really rehearse that much, but when we do, we tend to just rehearse those bits. [laughs]