King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard win inaugural Environmental Music Prize

They took out the $20,000 prize with their climate anthem ‘If Not Now, Then When?’

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard have won the first-ever Environmental Music Prize (EMP), taking out the title with their 2020 single ‘If Not Now, Then When?’ and its accompanying music video.

The EMP was announced during the 2021 UN Climate Summit, launched by Nexus Australia member Edwina Floch and funded through a range of philanthropic initiatives. Finalists for the inaugural prize were announced back in April, with King Gizzard listened among a total of 23 names. Other nominees included Jack River, Lime Cordiale, Briggs and Tim Minchin, In Hearts Wake and King Stingray.

The winner was chosen through an international public vote, and according to a press release shared today (June 16), over 7,500 votes were received across 58 countries. King Gizzard were awarded $20,000 for taking out the prize, the entirety of which they’ve donated to The Wilderness Society.

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Speaking on the win, frontman Stu Mackenzie said the band were “so humbled” to have taken out the prize. “It’s fantastic and deeply important for initiatives like this one, to help build community around the fight against the climate crisis,” he said.

First released in December 2020, ‘If Not Now, Then When?’ was written in response to the Black Summer bushfires – which, between July of 2019 and May of 2020, destroyed over 24,300,000 hectares of land across Australia.

“I’ve written quite a few songs about climate change,” Mackenzie continued, “but after the Black Summer bushfires, shit started to feel dire. It still feels dire – more dire. We need actual, real, tangible action from our leaders, otherwise what are they there for?

“Why are we not doing everything we humanly can to right our wrongs? When we’re literally on fire, why not now? If not now, then when? This song is part of a larger idea, a thread and a collection of narratives that extend through all of our music. Exploring themes of climate destruction, and what that might look like, is an important exploration for us.”

The song’s themes were expounded upon in the animated video released with it. In his own statement, director Dr D. Foothead explained: “The song made me consider how individual action or inaction affects the world. What happens when our repressed pain, darkness and confusion manifest and influence our surroundings and relationships?

“I wanted to explore the journey of a character who has neglected their inner shadow, and how this energy manifests physically and becomes a force of its own.” Watch the video below:

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Confirming that the EMP will return in the future, Flock commended “the incredible engagement” she and her team had received from “talented musicians, fans [and] climate concerned citizens”. Her team, she noted, will be “building quickly from here to provide ongoing support, opportunity and reward for artists who are actively using their voice to advance environmental issues during this crucial decade”.

Matt Brennan, CEO of The Wilderness Society, said his organisation is “deeply grateful” for King Gizzard’s decision to donate their winnings, and congratulated the band on their win. “Congratulations to all of the artists who participated,” he added. “Music can surely change the world.”

Also announced today was the establishment of a new award, the Emerging Environmental Songwriter prize – launched in collaboration between the EMP and the Byron Writers Festival – to crown singer-songwriter and Djugun woman Nidala Barker.

Barker co-wrote and performed on the Tambah Project release ‘Our Song’, which landed back in March and was also a finalist of the EMP. 100 per cent of the song’s royalties earned through streaming platforms are being donated to Wild Ark. For her prize, Barker will perform at a feature event during the aforementioned festival (which runs across August 26-28), speak on a panel about writing music, and embark on a three-day writing retreat.

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