Amyl and The Sniffers sophomore record, Comfort To Me, is out now! We caught up with front woman Amy Taylor to chat the release, the Australian landscape of punk, working on the record during the pandemic and so much more.
Image: Jamie Wdziekonski.
ARIA award winning rockers, Amyl and The Sniffers have made their grand return, with the release of their sophomore album, Comfort To Me. Across thirteen tracks, the record is an exhibition of Taylor's expert lyricism, whilst also offering a more refined sonic realm.
Featuring the singles Guided By Angels, Security and Hertz, the album conceptually offers an introspective look at the confines of lockdown, capturing the uneasy energy felt throughout the pandemic, playing out atop blazing guitar work and riotous percussion. Sonically, Comfort To Me effortlessly weaves together threads of old school rock and roll and hardcore punk, simmering beneath rap influenced lyricisim.
Made up of Taylor, guitarist Dec Martens, bassist Gus Romer, and drummer Bryce Wilson, Amyl and The Sniffers have quickly become one of Australia's most explosive live acts, bringing their punk show to stages nationwide. The four-piece are set to return to the stage in Brisbane next month, following an exclusive livestream concert experience of Comfort to Me on October 5. The band will take to a slab of concrete in a suburban wasteland somewhere in Melbourne, with tickets on sale now.
Congratulations on the new record, it's such a great body of work!
Off the bat, how did you guys approach creating Comfort To Me that differs from your debut? Obviously you right in the middle of a pandemic, but were there things that you learnt during the process of making the first record that you were then able to apply to making the new one?
Yeah, there was stuff like, because we recorded the first album in Sheffield, in the UK after touring for three months, we were like 'we definitely want to record this in Melbourne' and just be on our home soil and stuff like that. So that was something we definitely learnt, and people suggested that we should do demos, which was really, really helpful. So there were things that were kind of conscious decisions, to improve and make things easier. But then also stuff like the pandemic, obviously without playing gigs and without touring it's like that whole time was just kind of focused on the album, which in a way it was kind of lucky.
So true. You guys rehearsed all the new songs in a storage locker, which is such an interesting setting. Who like thought of the idea of hire out the storage locker, how did it come about? And what was it like working in that small confined space, I'm going to guess boiling hot?
Yeah, we were using rehearsal spaces, but it kind of ended up being pretty expensive for us because we'd have to hire back line and stuff like that. And none of us had cars, so we had to get there and everything like that. There's a couple of bands that also rehearse there, and we were like, 'oh, we should just go to National Storage. And it just was like economic and made sense. It was super hot and sounded like pretty insane, because it's just tin. But I kinda liked that too.
As you said, the album was my mostly written in lockdown, and you guys all lived in this house together. But the record conceptually offers an introspective look at the confines of lockdown. You talk about the energy that was built up within you, that you wanted to unleash and how you specifically wanted to react to that energy. Obviously lockdown has had an effect on mental health. How did that process of writing and piecing together this collection of songs, help you cope with the time and the space you were living in?
I think just having something to focus on at times and something to drag me through it. Just something to work on and be proud of. It feels good when you know you're good at something. It feels nice and you feel good about yourself. So when I'd get like a lyric, I felt really happy about, I was like, 'oh cool' and felt slightly proud or whatever. But honestly, sometimes like I was just too shattered to work on anything, and that kind of was just realistic as well. Like it was kind of like two separate things and less so like a coping mechanism and more so like, 'this is the thing that I do and this is what I like to do'.
Conceptually Comfort To Me is quite a jam packed and riotous record. How did the conceptual nature and sonic sound of the record evolve throughout the creative process?
It's hard to know, to be honest. I don't know how the boys go, but I can definitely see and hear in their music a step up since the first album, just from like being road dogs and playing every night or whatever, everyone's gotten pretty good at their craft. That's what I think. I'm not sure how it evolved over the year though. Doing demos was super helpful because we could be like, 'oh, that sounds like shit' or 'that sounds really good'. And as well like being in the tin shed, and then it just sounds like completely different to what it actually sounds like. For some of the songs, I was pretty shocked when I heard them recorded. I was like, 'I had no idea it sounded like that', I was literally singing to a completely different song, but it worked out in the end. There'll be songs that I would twiddle away at for ages, lyrically I'd kind of be like, 'I know, I want to sing about this, but I need to work on it more'. I'd just kinda toil away in the back shed like every night or whatever. But then there were other songs that came super spontaneously, and then there's also songs that were written in the recording room and changed a fair bit in the recording room too.
The album draws influences of old school rock and roll and hardcore punk, but then also lyrically you've mentioned theres rap influences which shows in your flow and performance. How did you guys mould and re-purpose all these influences into the more punk based sounds that are present on the record?
I think it was super natural and not really that considered. I think it was more like, 'yeah, I listen to heaps and heaps of rap music and like learn rap lyrics and phrasing, and I like writing raps and stuff like that'. So when it comes to writing the punk music, it just kind of comes out in a similar vein or there's like shadows of rap because I listened to it so much. I think as a band, nothing was really considered too deeply and more just kind of like spirit based, like, 'oh, this feels good, that sounds good, that sounds pretty sick'. Like that kind of thing, just naturally. We listened to all that kind of music and we make that kind of music, it just all goes in this big witchy pot of stew.
Punk reached its height in the seventies. How do you think that the Australian landscape of punk has evolved since then? What does punk look like in 2021 to Amyl and the Sniffers?
I'm not too sure, because it's so broad. I think, you know, to some people, punk is a genre and purely just a genre. And I think there's merit to that, but I think it's also like a spirit and an attitude and a way of thinking in a way. To to me, punk is critically thinking about stuff and also like feeling like wildly free and lawless because of that. So having a big enough brain to analyse stuff, and not just go along with everybody else, but a small enough brain that you still can have fun and be free. But at the same time, it's like, I think, you know, as Amyl and the Sniffers it's like we are a punk band, but at the same time, we're lots of different genres and different feelings. I feel like it sounds quite like rock and roll, which we also love and it's a bit garage at times, which we love. It's kind of broad, but I think like even rap music, there's a punk kind of spirit to it. Even someone like Cardi B, you know, I think she's such a punk because she just does her thing and she's like staunch, she's political, she's free she's, you know, expressive and all that.
Such a great view and outlook! You guys also shared some super amazing visuals throughout this album cycle, just last night the visual for Hertz dropped. That one's such an interesting song because you mentioned that you'd written that track in particular pre-pandemic, but I feel like it's one of the songs on the record that mostly captures that uneasy energy of being living in lockdown in the pandemic. Then the visual was actually filmed during the pandemic, in a small window when Melbourne wasn't in lockdown. How was that experience filming a song that you wrote before the pandemic, that kind of relates particularly to the experiences we've had over the last year, and then filming the video during the pandemic?
Yeah, it's really funny because it's such like a pandemic sounding song. It's bang on, but yeah, it was written before funnily enough. It was kind of perfect really filming the video during the lockdown or whatever, it was all permitted and stuff and we were all COVID safe, we're not assholes just to clarify [laughs]. But yeah, I think it was really difficult because PHC were trying to figure out how to do it and how to make it sick and that. And it just worked out so well because it's like artificial rain and artificial sunset. Everything's artificial because that's the kind of world we have to live in, where it's like any kind of natural feeling and site and sensation has to be almost as fake. So it kind of worked out. Yeah, I think it worked out really perfectly with the song and just that feeling of being trapped and we all kind of felt trapped and feel trapped. So we just got to really hone in on that. John [Angus Stewart] who directed it and made up the idea and stuff just went turbo with it and I think it was great.
It really did turn out great. And so if you had to pick between the beach and the country, which one would you choose?
Um, I think I would go right now to the country and hopefully there'll be some kind of river I can swim in.
Perfect, best of both worlds! Across all of the clips we've been treated to your awesome choreography. Do you kind of pre-plan that choreography or does the camera just start rolling and you bring the live show energy?
It's pretty much the latter. Yeah. Just like camera rolls and I just get, get freaky with it.
So, so good. If you had to pick like three songs off the record to play to someone who had never heard your music, to make them like a die hard Amyl and the Sniffers fan that'd be front row at every show, which tracks would you choose and why?
Um, let me think for a second. I'd probably choose Don't Fence Me In, cause that's one of my favourites and it's like a very much so like a tour of my brain. Then I would play Hertz because I think it's just fun and everybody, well not everybody, but a lot of people would resonate with that. So maybe I could hook them in with that one and then I'd hit them with Don't Need A C**t (Like You To Love Me) because I like that the boys sing on it and I like that it's just a really fun and like 'fuck you' song.
Are there any lines or lyrics on the record that you'll find will be stuck in your head more often than not, that one that's always wiggling around in your head?
I don't really get my own lyrics stuck in my head to be honest. Um, but I feel like after this conversation, I probably will [laughs].
You'll have to let us know which ones! If the album was like a piece of pre-existing visual arts, which artwork do you think would perfectly sum the record up?
Man, I don't know. I don't know much about art if I'm honest. Why don't we just say Terminator 2?
I back that! You guys were part of the Gucci gig campaign, which was such an awesome combination of music and fashion. What was that experience like? And what's kind of your standout memory from working on the campaign?
Basically they had sent us a box of sunglasses and then Jamie [Wdziekonski] who takes all of our photos just got some sick photos of us in them or whatever. So it was all pretty lucky, like nothing really different, except that we all had a pair of sunglasses.
We filmed a bunch of videos at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week earlier this year and we were asking artists who they thought who they thought the most fashionable musicians were and the boys from Johnny Hunter actually named you!
Oh really? That's awesome [laughs].
You guys are scheduled to return to the stage in Brisbane next month, fingers crossed, followed by some international dates. But before all that we have the live stream concert event to look forward to. What can audiences expect from not only live stream concert, but also your upcoming in person shows this time around? Especially after 18 months of really not being able to perform.
I think they can expect that I've got a lot of pent up energy. I think it's going to be full fucking hectic, intense energy. Also it might be a little bit sloppy because I haven't been practicing that much [laughs[, but I think that sloppy honestly is what everyone needs right now. Just imperfect fuckery.
The past eighteen months have taken its toll on the music industry, specifically the touring sector, but also in terms of making that in person connection with audience members and creating a shared feeling and experience. How important do you think live music is not only for yourself as a musician showcasing their art, but also for the audience members who resonate with your music?
I think it's so important, just like even aside from our live shows. Live shows in general, and music in general, it's such a good place to connect with people and be around people that you might not necessarily be around in, in normal times and just, you know, see how everyone's doing in like a acquaintance kind of way and connect over music. I think it's super important and super special for people's identity, and just like pleasure of life. So I think there's a bit of a hole there where everyone misses it.
Obviously it's hard to lock anything in at the moment, but are there any tentative touring plans, floating the idea of a national tour?
We're meant to go to the UK in November, but we'll see how that goes.
Wendy O'Williams, Cardi B, Poly Styrene and Bon Scott.
I'm not sure. Nobody. I mean everybody, but nobody in particular.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Ceremony by Rohnert Park.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Terminator 2, let's just go for it.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Fuck both those bitches.
What was the first song you loved to sing?
I remember getting a best of Ice Cube CD that I really loved it.
A song you would love to cover on tour?
Fuck The Pain Away by Peaches.
You guys should do a Cardi B song!
Yeah, or Home Among The Gumtrees. That would be awesome.
First concert you went to?
I can't remember, but I remember that I went and saw The Cat Empire play at the Mullumbimby footy club pretty early.
Best concert you have been to?
Coffin in Melbourne.
First album you ever bought?
I bought the best of Slayer and the best of Ice Cube at a pretty similar time.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
I remember we played in Barcelona once and it was a really big tour and we played this really big festival over there, which was terrific. Actually Miley, Cyrus played and all these people. It was huge. And then we had a day off the next day we met these people who owned this pub, well this little venue and they asked us to play and we just said, yes, cause it'd be fun. So we played this little secret show in this tiny, tiny, sweaty, hot Barcelonian, punk venue. And everyone was super friendly, and they actually had like five bottles of amyl that they gave to us as well. It was really sick.
Guilty music pleasure?
Um, not really. Cause I don't feel guilty for enjoying stuff.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Interesting... stay hydrated.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
Really felt like it'd be fun to do, but I just always thought that's what everyone felt. And I was like, well, whatever that would be fun for everyone. And then it just happened. So I was like, cool.