Why King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is the best-ish band name of all time

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Well it’s not just my opinion, it’s a fact! And it’s not because we both hail from the sunny and “most-liveable” town of Melbourne either. I have no bias when it comes to facts! Sure, you may think Led Zeppelin was a cool name, or Black Sabbath for that matter, or you thought the pun in the Beatles was cute, that The Brian Jonestown Massacre was edgy, that Godspeed You! Black Emperor was cleverly dark and JFKFC was a fun dig at pop culture, but none of these, or many others which I would like to talk about, quite capture the same initial reaction – and subsequent appreciation – of the ridiculously rhyming, phantasmagoric name of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

Firstly, because this is a naming blog, let’s take a look at some of the naming metrics some professionals use to assess their naming creations.

Andrea Watkins, author of Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick, uses her S.M.I.L.E. (don’t S.C.R.A.T.C.H.) test. Let’s layout the acronym to see how King Gizzard fares:

Suggestive (suggests a positive brand experience): When I hear the band name King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, I know I am definitely in for a weird ride. Not sure what to expect, but I’m intrigued. Win!

Meaningful (resonates with your target): Their music is alternative, psychedelic, garage, world, metal, prog rock-jazz (or something along those lines). It’s all over the place and so is their name. Win!

Imagery (visually evocative, creates a picture in your head): I have no idea what King Gizzard looks like, or the Lizard Wizard, but in my mind’s eye I can definitely see something medieval, Merlinish, dragonny – yet David Ickean in its connotation  – comical and murky. Win!

Legs (lends itself to a theme for extended mileage): So far they have released (I lose count, thanks Wikipedia) 13 albums, all revolving around their chosen topics which their curious moniker portends. It’s not exactly what Alexandra meant by “legs” though. She meant “can a brand name be themed as such for extended use; for example, can there be King Gizzard’s Guitar Strings; or King Gizzard’s Lizard Supplies? Undoubtedly, yes. The King can do anything. So, win!

Emotional (moves people): The first reaction from most people is a sort of squinting of the eyes as they say “What?!” They then wait for the three and a half rhyming words to finish repeating, they then repeat those words (hopefully in the right order), and exclaim something like “huh”. It confuses, then establishes itself. It’s brilliant.

Alexandra’s SCRATCH test basically means to scratch the proposed name if it meets any of these criteria:

Spelling-challenged (isn’t spelled how it sounds): The only problem any reasonable speller should have with the spelling of this name is whether or not there are one or two zeds in the Gizzard. But on closer introspection, of course there are two zeds! Win!

Copycat (similar to competitor’s names): Nup. Nobody anywhere ever has a name like this in the history of rock, punk, jazz and whatever else comes next. Whoever dares to add a plethora of rhyming words in their band name in the future will be copycats of the King. That is assured. Win!

Restrictive (locks you in, limits future growth): If King Gizzard ever wish to become “serious” and perhaps lay down a solid, loving soft-rock album, then they should probably consider killing the King or doing a side-project. I’m sure a beautiful suicide awaits the King, if it ever comes to limiting their potential growth – OR – a stroke of genius where they actually pull off the impossible. Ten songs of courtly, inter-planetary romance-doom using lutes, harps and Tibetan sorrowful chants backed by a sparsely used fuzz guitar for dramatic effect? They can do it! Win!

Annoying (indecipherable, forced, cutesy): If people find this name annoying then it is automatically a Win!

Tame (non-emotional and flat): Nope. The winner of this band name category might be The The or Hootie and the Blowfish (fuck I hate that name, but damnit, hatred is an emotion). Anyway: Win!

Curse of Knowledge (only insiders get it): This name is for the young and old, stupid and smart, and anyone of any political, sexual, religious or mythological leaning. Win!

Hard-to-pronounce (not obvious, relies on punctuation): It is only hard to pronounce if you try to say it repeatedly in fast succession whilst half drunk. So, win!

The name passes with 100% win-dom and while I have not yet applied that test to any other band name (I’ll leave that to you), I can assure you that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard won first!

Another test from a naming specialist in Adelaide involves an acronym: R.A.D. Relevance (to the customer), Authenticity (to the brand’s personality) and Distinction (standing apart from the competitor’s brand names).

  1. Is King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s name relevant to their audience?
    Just watch a few of their live shows, or check them out live if you can, and I’m sure you’ll find that the audiences have very little qualm with the band’s chosen name and t-shirts worn might announce that they are actually fans of it. You will probably hear “King Gizzard!!!” belched out loudly on more than one occasion. Brand acceptance is good. Win!
  2. Is the name “authentic” to the band’s personality?
    With album titles like “Nonagon Affinity”, “Oddments”, “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon”, “Flying Microtonal Banana” and “Murder of the Universe”, I would say the brand/band name is a fairly good suit. Win!
  3. Does it stand out from the crowd? We already saw above, that indeed it does, very much so.

Apart and as well as some of the above points, I have a fairly simple criteria which I try to apply to names I conjure:

  1. Does it make your mind smile? This is opposed to a mouth-smile, which is also good. But, if you get a little knowing pang in your brain, a small “a-ha!” (bad band name) moment, then that’s a name I tend to go for. TV On The Radio I think is a good name like that. Deicide too – perfect for the genre. Propoghandi also always raises a smile. So when I heard King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard for the first time, I did indeed smile. How ridiculous, I thought. And their music is ridiculous, in a very good way. So it works. Win!
  2. Is it memorable? My memory is atrocious at the best of times. Luckily, the quality of the music really determines whether or not you are going to remember the band’s name. But hey, why take a chance? Make your name something completely unforgettable and grab them all in one fell swoop! Win!

So there you have it. Naming a band can be a severely excruciating process since nearly every combination of cool band names has been taken by someone somewhere. By theming their band with a ridiculous but apt moniker to compliment their ridiculous but great music, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have planted their flag in the memories of music lovers everywhere. And if you haven’t heard of them yet…

…then now you have.

If you do feel there are other bands that nail every win according to the above criteria, feel free to show me how or why in the comments below. Now I’ve got to try and get “Rattlesnake” out of my head…



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