Amyl And The Sniffers on the artistic growth that led to their new album
“Energy, good energy and bad energy/I've got plenty of energy,” Amy Taylor wails seconds into Melbourne, Australia aggro-punks Amyl And The Sniffers’ freshly released second LP, Comfort To Me. “It’s my currency,” she sings on that opening track, “Guided By Angels.” Indeed, the band—Taylor, drummer Bryce Wilson, bassist Gus Romer and guitarist Dec Martens—seem to have alternating current to spare as they’ve melded AC/DC and the Ramones into a soundtrack for wrecking pubs since 2016.
Taylor’s been their wayward energy’s focal point, channeling the band’s collective thump and turning it into something playful yet defiant. Audiences the world over have been deliriously responsive: “Talking, talking, sweating, gurning off ya face/I'm up dancing sweating getting on the stage,” she recounts of the endless ecstatic gigs they’ve played up until COVID-19 lockdown last year on “Freaks To The Front.” But ultimately, she declares, “Everyone in this room deserves to have fun.”
Clearly, nothing was fun, once the over-the-top pace of the four previous years came crashing to a halt with the pandemic’s arrival. Amyl And The Sniffers triggered the frustration into creativity. Now with all the time in the world to craft the exact LP they wanted, Comfort To Me explodes full-blooded and ravenous, coming to town to drink gallons of beer and gnaw on raw red meat. And smash up the pub, still. The production is more aggressive than 2019’s self-titled debut, the rhythm section now a pummeling machine, as Martens wields his Stratocaster like an overgrown chainsaw, clear-cutting everything in its path. Taylor remains as defiant as ever, but the flashes of vulnerability are new: “Wish I could love me for all of my flaws/Like I love you for all yours,” she coos to a lover on “No More Tears.” “But I can see you see through me/Thank you for carrying all of my weight.” It’s a deeper Amyl And The Sniffers, flashing layers of complexity, while still wielding the same old sledgehammer.
You guys had this whirlwind rise. Is it true that you formed the band, wrote and recorded your first EP, Giddy Up, then put it out 48 hours later?
BRYCE WILSON: Yeah, pretty much. Our old bass player, he would record stuff, and he’s pretty good with that. So he would just set it up, and we all got high one day and said, “Yeah, let’s just pump it out!”
Four years later, you’re playing festivals all over the world. You’re getting on Later...With Jools Holland. You put out this amazing album that’s like the ultimate synthesis of AC/DC and the Ramones. Then you come back home, and at the moment you should probably be starting the second album, COVID-19 strikes. How did that feel, suddenly being shut down?
WILSON: It was pretty shithouse! I am not going to lie. We had so many plans for the past two years, and they’ve all been canceled, pretty much. We’ve all been trapped in Melbourne for two years, basically. We’re pretty anxious to get on the road again, especially for this album.
I know the immediate plan is you plan to play the entire album soon—live in one take—by livestream from a concrete slab, correct?
AMY TAYLOR: That’s right!
WILSON: Yes, that happens Oct. 5. It’s gonna be great!
How do you feel about this record versus the previous one?
TAYLOR: I’m really proud of it. It’s a different process to the previous ones. The first singles we recorded ourselves. Then the album we recorded in Sheffield, after back-to-back hits. This one, we had a little time to deal with it, make it exactly as we liked it. We did demos and all that. I’m really proud of it, and I think everyone’s really leveled out. The boys have leveled out. The first album, everything was written for the live show. Whereas this one, we said, “Let’s just make good music.”
The production is certainly more aggressive than the first album, not to put down its sound at all. But this is almost like a Motörhead record, the way it's produced.
WILSON: Like Amy said, we had more time. So, I guess that’s what happens when we think it through.
Was this recorded in an actual studio? Was this recorded at your places? How was this done?
WILSON: We did it at a studio in Melbourne called Soundpark with Dan Luscombe. It was a really sick studio. I liked it. It was old and really pretty.
Do you feel the songwriting has progressed?
WILSON: Yeah, definitely. Just coming off the back of touring for three years, you go around the world and save up so much input and so many influences—musical influences and other people and cultures. That’s what we’ve absorbed the past two or three years, just from touring. It’s definitely changed, I think.
Amy, you write most of the lyrics, correct?
TAYLOR: Yeah, I write all the lyrics.
How do you feel your lyric writing has changed with this album?
TAYLOR: It’s changed a bit, really. It’s hard to really differentiate everything that’s happened in one streamlined event, and then looking back on it in past tense is hard to do. But I think it’s changed because life happens, and you think about it, and you read books and listen to way more music, and you spend more time doing it instead of just relying on spontaneity. I think that’s a big thing. But at the same time, a lot of it is spontaneous. So it’s a combination of both, maybe.
So, do you feel like you were thinking these things through more, rather than spewing out the first thing that came to your head?
TAYLOR: I think so. And as well, just getting older, I’ve had more experiences. I’ve got more things to think about and then to talk about.
What books do you feel were influencing your writing?
TAYLOR: I can’t remember what I was reading at the time. But using my mind in that way, and increasing my vocabulary. Books are really sick like that because you can get someone else’s experiences and thoughts. I really like Malcolm Gladwell’s books.
It’s really great hearing you talk about your favorite authors. Amyl And The Sniffers just seem to be a band more about kicking someone’s head in down at the pub than discussing literature! [Laughs.]
TAYLOR: When the punching starts, I stick my head in a book.
What was the process of writing this record through COVID? Were you meeting by Zoom? Were you gathering in rehearsal rooms?
TAYLOR: We all lived together throughout last year in a three-bedroom apartment. So during lockdown, we’d all just sit around together and fuck around. Then when stuff opened up, we’d go to this warehouse space down the road and practice together. So it was an on/off lightswitch kind of setup. But it ain’t easy, living together.
Are you all still living together? Or did you get new places?
TAYLOR: We got new places. We’re all still in lockdown at the moment, though.
Bryce spoke of how the last two years affected the music-making. How do you feel it was affected?
TAYLOR: I don’t really have any experience to compare it to. But I guess in a matter of fact kinda way, we were out there playing five nights a week or more. Naturally, you just get better at what you do all the time. Then we lived together and sat around. That was life.
What do you think touring is going to be like once you’re able to get out there? It’s not going to be the same as it was before?
TAYLOR: It’ll be different. I think we’ll just celebrate the crumbs and say, “Fuck it! We’re playing a show!” I don’t know if it’ll be completely different. But mainly, people will just be very excited, I think. I don’t know what it’s like over there, but we’ve been in lockdown for so long now that any kind of show, everyone’s gonna be super celebratory.
I live in Austin. There was a period in June, July where we went back down to Stage 4 restrictions. We could suddenly go to shows, in restaurants, shop or whatever without masks, if we were vaccinated. Me and my friends were going to punk-rock shows, hugging each other, so happy to be able to see live music and each other after a year-and-a-half. Then the Delta variant struck. Fifteen of those friends all came down with it in the space of two weeks. They’d all been vaccinated. Their symptoms were minor, and they stayed out of the ICU—unlike the unvaccinated. Two weeks later, we were back in Stage 5.
TAYLOR: We’re in a similar, if not worse situation. That’d be horrible if all your friends around you are getting it. But what were your shows like when you played them?
The shows were amazing!
TAYLOR: It probably would have been different, if everyone had been on edge.
We were all relieved. We knew this wasn’t over, but it was a relief just to see each other again and get to hear some loud, live rock ‘n’ roll. I know the main punk venue in town, Kick Butt Coffee, are requiring you to show your vaccination ID. They’re limiting the crowds and requiring you to wear your mask inside at all times, unless you’re sipping a drink. The Austin City Limits Festival is happening in early October, and I just wrote something for The Austin Chronicle saying, “Hey, guess what? COVID is still happening! This is not a great idea!” [Laughs.]
WILSON: Yeah, it’s crazy you guys are having festivals right now!
Bob Mould is on the road, requiring masks and vaccination proof or negative tests. Joan Jett just canceled the rest of her fall tour because she is concerned.
TAYLOR: It’s probably the smart thing to do. That’s the thing: As much as we do wanna get on the road and play shows, it’s just not smart. It’s a balancing act, really. Outdoor shows seem like such a good option. It’s open air and more realistic I think. That would be fun. I saw a video of people singing along with one of our new songs, and it made me miss seeing people doing that in person. I can’t wait to see that again.
Well, do you think you’ll still be diving into the audience in these times?
TAYLOR: [Laughs.] I dunno. We’ll see where everything’s at. It’ll probably be more like me spitting beer everywhere.