Speaking via zoom with Australian bands is always kind of weird. You finish your first coffee, they’re almost in their beds. You’ve just came back from a big festival, even though there’s still pandemic raging here – they’re on strict lockdown and curfew, despite their pandemic situation being significantly better. Oh, and there’s always at least one mention of AC/DC. But hey, it couldn’t be more pleasant. I spoke with Amy Taylor, Dec Martens and Fergus Romer – 3/4 of the biggest band in Australia right now – Amyl and the Sniffers – right before the release of their second album – “Comfort To Me”. They told me a lot about evolving, learning to be a full time band, working with Gucci and… yeah – playing AC/DC covers on a moving truck on a highway. Did I mention AC/DC?
You’re a band for five or six years and started completed DIY. And now your last album, your debut album, was named best rock album in Australia. That’s big. How did it impact your lives?
Amy Taylor [vocals]: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how it’s changed it, because it’s all I know now. What do you guys think?
Dec Martens [guitar]: Yeah. Before that album came out we were sort of able to do the band full time already. We didn’t really have any other jobs. We just toured and traveled a lot. I guess we’re lucky that the band has been able to provide living for us. And then I guess we went into fucking lockdown from coronavirus like, maybe four months after we won that award. So we didn’t really get to see the effects fully. But maybe this record will make a bigger splash.
You’ve also made headlines for the work with Gucci. How did that happen?
Amy: They literally just sent us an email or something. Like: “Do you want to do this thing?” And we were like: “Yeah”. (laughs) It was really that simple. So that’s a pretty bizarre. I think guys could probably talk about that a little bit.
Fergus Romer [bass]: Yeah. They’ve done some other work with this band we were hanging out with at the time. I think they’ve just done some stuff. So I guess they found out about us through that. And yeah, they just fucking hit us up one day. And then I think within two weeks or something we were on a plane to Sicily and doing all that.
Amy: It was pretty fuckin fun, yeah. Like it was weird and so out of our comfort zone, but it was really fun and like, weird. We got to go business class for the first time and we felt like they really looked after us and spoiled us. They made us feel really special. They picked us up in a car from the airport and put us in this really nice hotel, so we got to experience that and got to look around some ancient old ruins, eat yummy food, get dressed up in expensive clothes and just feel fucking, you know, pretty special for a couple of days.
I guess in Europe, or maybe in Poland particularly, if a rock band or punk band does something like this, there’s always a bit of backlash from the community. Did you experience any of this?
Amy: Oh, yeah. People were like: “Fucking lame, fucking idiots, fucking sellouts, fucking yuppies, fucking fake working class, fucking this, fucking that.” But honestly, I’m like: “Fuck you, fuck everyone”. I mean, I get it. I understand it. In punk bands the morals are always in the same place as those people. And all those people just care about consumerism and making sure that workers are being looked after. The rich people, they’re usually the enemy. That’s definitely true, because the enemy is people who don’t care about people and people who mass consume clothes that are insanely expensive. But honestly, before that we hadn’t made any money off the band, and we’ve been touring for two years. None of us had rentals and we were sleeping on couches. That actually helped our band a lot, doing that job. Everyone who worked there was super nice and super friendly. Just people who had jobs. None of them were insanely well off. All the make up artists and the stylist, all those people, even though they’re intimidating because it’s a fashion world, they were just normal people. The world is so fucked up that us taking that job is not making it any better or any worse. And us existing actually doesn’t make the world any better or worse, because it’s not like I’m spending every day dedicating myself to any kind of activism. And nor are the people who are complaining. But I understand. But also shut the fuck up, because everyone is a hypocrite.
Did all this make you feel any pressure regarding your new album?
Amy: I don’t feel pressure. I haven’t thought about what other people will really think about it so much. But I think I like it. That’s all I care about.
Cool. And did you have any expectations or any different work ethic on this new album? Because when you started the band, some of you didn’t even know how to play your instruments. Now you’re probably much better.
Dec: Yeah. When we first started out, our knowledge was very limited and not only regarding our instruments, but our gear and stuff. And even within the music business, as well, we had no idea what we were doing. And then, luckily, thanks to some solid touring we were able to get better, not just on our instruments but also our processes and stuff, our work ethic and what it takes to support yourselves in a band. And then, luckily – because of the pandemic – we had all this time on our hands and those two years of hard touring that we did were able to pay off. And we were able to put everything that we learned into this album that we had lots of time for.
Speaking about touring and concerts, you’re known for your energetic performance. How do you manage to throw everything into it on that ultra long tours?
Amy: Well, I think the boys could agree that I’m a pretty high energy person. And to me it’s no different. Well, it’s very different, actually, but I work out most days, so doing that is just like a good workout. But I’m also working through my anger and it’s cathartic and stuff. But sometimes after a long tour, I’m no longer burning energy and I’m creating energy. And usually I’m pulling it from a pretty dark place, so I can lose my mind a little bit because I’m really just pulling out the dregs of my emotions and feelings and all my cynicism for the world. I dredg it up and use that as energy. And then my whole being becomes that and I get pretty dark.
Let’s talk about concerts for a bit. What’s the weirdest thing that happened during your concert?
Fergus: Someone had a heart attack once. That was pretty crazy.
Amy: That was our old bass player, so we don’t talk about him (laughs) Just kidding.
Dec: I don’t know. We played on a boat once. That was pretty crazy. And then and I ended up getting really sick after that. Oh, dude! We did that AC/DC set.
Amy: Oh, yeah. Once for 2 hours straight we played on the back of a moving truck down the highway, playing the same three AC/DC songs on repeat. 2 hours!
Dec: Why? (laughs) I was thinking about that today. Why the fuck did we do that? I guess money.
Fergus: It was for a festival. It was 40 year anniversary of Bon Scott’s death.
Oh, yeah. Okay. That’s understandable. By the way, I really like the term “pub rock” that you’re described with sometimes. I guess you like pubs and playing there. What’s the best thing about that?
Fergus: It’s very approachable. We’ve got a big pub culture here in Australia, and every band kind of starts there. That’s how you start. You play at pubs pretty much. There’s no really too many other places where you can play. We hang out at pubs a lot, watch bands in pubs, play in pubs.
Amy: Pub is public, and we’re a pretty public band. Anyone can come. Anyone can stay, anyone can listen if they want… There’s no other venues here. It’s just pubs.
How did you found yourselves during lockdowns? You were touring a lot before. I think you’ve gone straight into the lockdown from two years of touring. How did you manage to change your setting so suddenly?
Amy: Well, we’re also still in lockdown now, so we have a 09:00 p.m. curfew for the next two weeks. We’ve been locked down for a week. This is our sixth lockdown and our second curfew. So we’re still in it, really. But yeah, it’s pretty different. Hey, it’s kind of nice to relax and, like, not be so busy, because we were so busy and we just wanted to sit down for a second and make friends and shit. So that was good. But also, yeah, I definitely lost my mind.
I’ve heard you were living in one house for some time. Did it have any impact on the new album?
Fergus: Not really. I mean, some songs were written within that lockdown, when we were together, but we didn’t have a set up at home or anything, so we couldn’t practise throughout many months of that time. So a few songs were in and whatnot but for the most part, not too big. All the stuff happened in between lockdowns and when we weren’t just at home.
Amy, you’ve also recorded some songs with Sleaford Mods and Viagra Boys at the time. How was that?
Amy: How was it? Yeah, it’s fine. Hey, I really love those bands, but I just recorded them from home pretty much and then recorded them with people who knew better than me. But yeah, Viagra Boys was sick because I love them and Sleaford Mods was sick because I really love them. Jason is one of my idols. I’ve sent him the album to listen to and pretty much nobody else – just to see what he thought of it. I think he’s the best lyricist, they’re the best band, I’m really proud to have the song with them.
Let’s get back to your album. Is there anything that you think will surprise us?
Dec: I don’t think so. I think maybe you can be surprised that we sort of have a bit more of a dynamic sound. I think we’ve stepped up a lot and evolved a lot, which sounds really cliche. But you’ll hear it when you hear it.
Amy: The boys sing on the song. It’s called “Don’t Need A Cunt (Like You To Love Me)” and the boys sing the chorus, which I think it’s great. That’s one of my favourite songs and they did such a good job. They lost their voice instantly when they recorded it.
What was the most challenging thing during the recording process?
Dec: Definitely when we were on stage four lockdown. We originally wanted to book for July last year, I think, or even maybe even before that. But we had to push that back because we went into a strict lockdown where you couldn’t even have guests at your house, even if they’re your family or whatever. And the album got pushed back, like two months, which I guess gave us more time to practise, but that was the hardest part. We had to get film authorization as well to film the thing so that we could have permits to record the album. We even struggled to find an engineer who would do it because it was such a strict lockdown.
And Amy, what’s the inspiration behind your lyrics on “Comfort To Me”?
Amy: It’s drawn from all over, really. But I also just push myself pretty hard, like some of it is spontaneous, but I really like getting better at writing lyrics and thinking of different ways to move them around and express myself and say what I think. Inspiration came from just kind of everywhere. But mainly it’s just, like experiential. Stuff that I was feeling or thinking or going through that I wanted to try and get out. Well, that just kind of came out, really. And then also just like the stuff that I could say or feel, basically.
Can’t wait to hear the story behind “Security” then.
Amy: That one is just a made up story, really. But I like the idea of telling a story. Someone’s trying to get into a pub and they’re in love with a security guard. But they also just don’t want to be in any trouble. And they look like an idiot. They look like a scumbag, but they’re actually trying to have fun. But there’s also kind of a hidden message in there, because it’s saying, you know, all the nice ladies who dress up and wear high heels and pretty dresses – it’s like they’re poisonous snakes. They’re just out to have fun. They’re not looking for trouble. And then when people try them, they’re going to attack like a poisonous snake, because they’re not looking to be picked up. They just want to look nice.
And didn’t you want to try some more social or political stuff in your lyrics? The times are tempting for this now.
Amy: Yeah. There’s some stuff in there. We’ve always kind of had a bit of politics in the back of our brain, but also it’s something that we haven’t really dived in too much. But I guess as the song, like “Capital”, it kind of brushes on a bunch of different things. It’s intimidating, because I feel there’s a pressure to be academic or have all this knowledge. But in the end, anybody who exists has to deal with politics. It’s not just reserved for academics or people who study it. You know, the guy who works at the hardware store – he should know politics, because it affects everybody. And all it is, is just looking after other people. And that’s something I want to get better at. It’s something that we all feel. We actually care about other people, even though I can also be quite nihilistic. So, there’s “Capital” and there are also songs like “Laughing” and “Knifey”, which talk about female issues a bit more. I guess they’re all kind of political, because I am who I am, and I think like I think, they’ve all kind of got powerful female energy, which is politics in my mind.
And what are your plans for the future? I don’t know if you book shows and keep fingers crossed for everything to get back to normal or what. You were supposed to play in Poland, like, one year ago. Is this happening?
Amy: Hopefully. We don’t know what’s happening, because we don’t have plans. Everything’s fucked up.
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