Amyl and the Sniffers burst out of Melbourne and shadow-boxed their way around the world in 2018 and 2019, earning superfans on all continents. Emerging from lockdown clutching their new album Comfort to Me (out 10 September on Rough Trade) these gloriously mulleted punk heroes look set to continue their trail of supercharged, joyful rage.
I zoomed singer Amy and guitarist Dec while I sat drinking mid-morning tea in London and they munched evening pizza in Melbourne.
LTW: Things moved pretty fast for you – from being a new DIY punk band, to suddenly signing to a label and touring the world. What was that like?
Amy: It was a bit of a headfuck really! I guess compared to other bands, it all popped off pretty quickly.
Dec: Yeah, gig to gig it’s just got bigger each time, so it just seems pretty natural to me!
You’ve developed a lot as a band by playing lots and lots of gigs … I always think that’s the best way don’t you?
Amy: I agree with that 100% We started the band to just play house shows in our friends’ house parties and whatever, and just ended up playing heaps and heaps of gigs. Declan had never really had a guitar lesson – that’s why all the songs at the start were so simple! But he’s really come a long way, self-taught, looking stuff up on YouTube. I really like the charm of not knowing how to do stuff, but when you play a lot you just naturally get better at it.
Dec: Ah man I used to be really bad at guitar! I just had a guitar pedal and I didn’t know how to dial it in – one time I just plugged it in and the sound guy was like “What’s wrong with it?” and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just played the whole gig clean. It would have sounded so shit!
How does the songwriting work in the band?
Amy: Mostly it’s pretty chaos! We’ll all get together, and someone will be like “I got a guitar riff!” and I’ll be like, “Sweet!” and we’ll play that for a while I’ll try and think of lyrics for it. It’s really organic and natural. I try and think of lyrics all the time.
Dec: I don’t do any of the words, that would be a bad idea! (laughs) I just do guitar parts.
And what about the group dynamics … I get the impression that Amy is the boss right?
Dec: Where do you get that? Ha, yeah, Amy is the boss… And then I’m the secret boss underneath.
Dec: She tells everyone what to do and then I go round telling everyone “Don’t do that, don’t play that note there that’s stupid. Don’t listen to Amy!”
Have you managed to still feel like you’re in charge of your music as your career has progressed?
Amy: I feel like with the music I can just express myself in any way I want and it’s still within my control. But I think the hardest thing is haven’t people between you and the world … you can miss out on opportunities that otherwise you’d have said yes to. But sometimes it feels super out of our control, cos in a way our band is so big – well, from my perspective it’s so big – and it feels a bit like I don’t really know what’s going on … I don’t know what’s going on!
Has the success been a surprise to you then? Or did you have a plan for moving from being a DIY band to getting signed, touring the world …?
Dec: Not at the beginning, no. But once it became apparent that we could do that, we could be on a label … well, that’s what all the cool bands do! I wanted that – it’s like having a blue tick on your band, having a label! And then each week goes on, more opportunities come in, and it’s not just playing Melbourne, you can play in London and LA and stuff too. It just sort of naturally happens I guess.
Amy: We never really planned all that stuff – we never know what’s going to happen next. I feel really proud and successful, where we are at. But to me the world is just so big and so exciting, I never want to say no to opportunities because they feel foreign or weird to me, or I feel like an imposter … most of the time things feel really uncomfortable! Taking money from music feels really weird. But c’mon, the world’s so big and life’s so short, why not just dip your toes in!
That’s such a great attitude!
Amy: I really want people to hear our music – not cos I think ‘we’re the best’ or anything! But if there’s like a 12 year old girl, or non-binary person, or bloke or whatever, and they’re like ‘That’s pretty cool, I can do that too!’ then maybe they might make a band that’s way better than ours, and pass the torch in various ways.
Were there any bands that particular did that for you – that you stood in front of and thought ‘I want to do that’?
Amy: Not particularly! I just really like live music and I’ve got so much energy so I was like ‘oh my god I just want to give it a crack!’
Do you still prefer playing the little shows, where you can smell everyone in the room?
Amy: I don’t necessarily prefer them but I love them! I love that, and I love big shows too! I just want experience heaps of different stuff. I don’t want to get stuck in a loop, I want to try everything that I possibly can, and then at least I can say ‘I gave it a red hot crack!’ What are you laughing at, Declan?
Dec: [Amy voice] “At least I gave it a crack!”
Tell us about your album then! You recorded it in lockdown yeah?
Amy: We recorded it kind of in between lockdowns yeah. It was always the plan to try and write an album in 2020, and we spent a lot of time in 2020 sitting round not writing an album, having a whinge, or doing whatever people do …
Dec: Just being kids!
I absolutely love the video for ‘Guided by Angels’ … how much fun was that video to make?!
Amy: It was heaps of fun eh! It was freezing cold on the beach day, but it was fucking awesome – I just got ice cold and felt really alive! That was my car on the highway – we just literally stuck our heads out the window and went for it. Good old Bryce was driving, really hungover.
The guys seemed so poker-faced while you’re really going for it all over the place Amy – how did you keep your composure, Dec?
Dec: It was long days – eventually we just run out of things to talk to each other about, so yeah maybe the boredom wasn’t acting! We’re used to Amy being chaotic around us anyway.
What’s the best track on the album then?
Dec: I reckon ‘Don’t Need a Cunt (Like You to Love Me)’. It’s just really straightforward rocknroll. It’s just like 12 bars of rocknroll – fast – then a solo in the middle, and then that’s it. Gets the message across. It has the most backing vocals on the album too, which was fun.
Amy: Yeah, I was like, I can’t think of any lyrics for it, so the boys should sing it! The lyrics are “Don’t need a cunt like you to love me! Don’t need a cunt like you to love me! She’s ten out of ten! You think you can fuck with her? Hell no!”
That’s my new favourite song already!
Amy: I wanna make a video for it, that would be fuckin fun. Also it’s really short and l love short songs, under 2 minutes!
So … we all know about your influences – hardcore punk, rocknroll, rap. What I’d be interested to know is what music you really hate? Any bands that you’d really hate to be compared to?
Dec: Amyl and the Sniffers from the first album! (laughs) But yeah, how long have you got?
Amy: Right let’s fuckin go for it. Who do I fuckin hate? … It shits me when we get compared to Blondie – I don’t think we sound like Blondie. I respect Blondie – Deborah Harry – I think she’s a staunch person and an awesome frontperson. But we sound nothing like them! And I don’t want to be compared to someone just because we both have blonde hair, fuck! It’s flattering, but we don’t sound like them – we’re very Australian and we’re very sloppy, and that shits me on a personal level. Who else …
Dec: Tropical Fuck Storm.
Amy: Nah, I like them!
Dec: Idles… I’m just kidding by the way.
Amy: (laughs) We’re influenced by Australian musicians, but people are like ‘This sounds exactly like …’ then they start listing off classic UK punk bands. Like, ‘Oh you must be influenced by Joy Division?’
Dec: Yeah, like everyone compares us to Iggy and the Stooges. (shakes head) Nuh.
Amy: Again, it’s like I love Iggy Pop, respect Iggy and the Stooges – fuckin hero, fuckin icon and pioneer. But honestly, I’ve probably listened to his album once or twice. And of course we sound the same, because it’s just a bunch of people who can’t play music! We all pick up music and then it sounds the same! (laughs) You got me going now!
Let’s get some love going then. Which Australian bands should we be looking out for over here?
Amy: In Australia generally there’s a pretty dope scene. I haven’t been to a gig for over a year because of Covid and everything, but pre-Covid … from Sydney there’s a band called C.O.F.F.I.N., then Camp Cope are awesome … Blonde Revolver … a band called Nasho who don’t play any more but they’re really good … a band called Swab who we played with the other day … there’s a band called Rabid Dogs as well, they’re pretty good … a band called Parsnips, I like them! They’ve got a song and the chorus goes “Gimme health, I love my self!
Dec: Clamm are really good …
This is great, I might even make this into a playlist.
Amy: Chuck in some old bands as well! Like, Cosmic Psychos, The Radiators, Coloured Balls …
Dec: Drunk Mums.
Amy: Drunk Mums! Dumb Punts … Smooch … The Saints …
Dec: Radio Birdman.
Dec: Cold Chisel.
Amy: Sunny Boys.
Dec: The Radiators.
(Here you go – as promised, one very excellent playlist of Aussie punk bands as tipped off by Amy and Dec)
There seems to be lots of great bands from Melbourne particularly at the moment, why is that?
Amy: I dunno know! Everyone here is fucked up! (laughs) I guess it’s a sphere of influence, everyone around you is doing stuff.
Dec: There’s lots of different arts – not just music – that are popping off in Melbourne. I guess it’s real nutrient soil here in the streets of Melbourne for artistic people!
Really hoping you get to come over to the UK in November. What’s next after the album. Are you writing the next one?
Dec: We’re done with that now. This is the last one I reckon.
Amy: What?! This isn’t true! Not for me!
Dec: (laughs) Been there, done that. Hopefully we can just chill with this one for the rest of our lives.
Amy: (squarks) Nah … we’re gonna do a live stream of the album in October, so everyone in the world can watch. It’s gonna be really crazy, with some cars … and stuff. That’s gonna be playing the whole album from top to tail. With hits like ‘Don’t Need a Cunt (Like You To Love Me)’ and ‘Guided by Angels’!
And the next single to come out …
Amy: The next single is ‘Hertz’, coming out with the album on 10 September.
About car hire I presume?
Dec: Pretty much. Hoping for that endorsement.
Amy: I want a WRX. A Subaro WRX. They’re awesome.
Bonus feature – Zoom interview highlights!
Amyl and the Sniffers’ album ‘Comfort to Me’ will be released on September 10th 2021..The album will be available as an LP colour, LP standard black, LP deluxe – cover version plus, CD (wallet pack with booklet) and Digital. Amy Taylor on the album:
“If you have to explain what this record is like, I reckon it’s like watching an episode of The Nanny but the setting is an Australian car show and the Nanny cares about social issues and she’s read a couple of books, and Mr Sheffield is drinking beer in the sun. It’s a Mitsubishi Lancer going slightly over the speed limit in a school zone. It’s realising how good it is to wear track pants in bed. It’s having someone who wants to cook you dinner when you’re really shattered. It’s me shadow-boxing on stage, covered in sweat, instead of sitting quietly in the corner”
Pre-order the album HERE