Amyl and The Sniffers | Interview | “Guided by Angels”
Amyl and the Sniffers are a four-piece punk rock band from Melbourne, Australia and consisting of Amy Taylor (vocals), Declan Martens (guitar), Gus Romer (bass), and Bryce Wilson (drums).
The band just wrapped up a huge US Tour from California to Massachusetts with a pitstop in Austin, Texas for the Levitation Festival…
“I really like simple songs a lot for some reason”
Hello! Thanks for meeting with me. What’s new with y’all? You are touring, of course, but are you writing or working on any new material?
Amy Taylor: Yeah, we’ve been writing a little bit this year but still touring heaps like we’re always kind of on the road. But when we’re back in Melbourne, we’ll be writing and playing and doing all that kind of stuff. So, we’ve got a couple of songs under our hats, but it’s all very much so under our hats currently.
Are you approaching new material differently or can you not even say right now?
Declan Martens: I don’t know, I guess a little bit differently. We have, I guess, probably a bit more patience with writing this time.
Amy: Yeah. Less of a rush kind of thing. I feel like in the past sometimes we kind of would write, rush, write, rush, write. But now it’s just kind of let’s just write and then when we like something, we’ll like it and just kind of play a little bit more, you know what I mean?
Yeah. You get to take your time more on it and fine-tune everything.
Amy: Yeah, exactly. Our manager, he’s like a real handyman. So, he built up this little warehouse kind of like a studio thing. We’ve been able to go in and out of there a little bit, which is good ‘cause in the past when we’ve been writing, it’s just been in a storage unit or something like that. So, it’s a little bit more comfier and shit.
That’s cool. How do you go about writing? I mean, is it pretty collaborative between the band as a whole?
Declan: Yeah. All three of the fellas in the band, we all come up with riffs and we just jam them out with each other and while we learn the songs between the three of us, Amy does her vocal stuff over the top.
Amy: Yeah. So, they’ll get together or think of stuff at home and then they’ll kind of show each other and they’ll all learn something and they’ll just jam it out for ages and I’ll kind of freestyle and try and figure out something I like over the top of it. Usually, lyrically, I’m always writing down little things and little phrases, but honestly, I barely use them. I figure a lot of the writing stuff I do is usually just practice and then I’ll just freestyle something, try and write it down, and then just expand it ‘cause every song’s so different. It’s kind of hard to just shove a poem over a song because the song has so much personality anyway.
So, it’s pretty spontaneous when you are writing the lyrics?
Amy: Yeah, it’s spontaneous combustion and then like the expansion of the universe. But yeah, it’s different every time. Sometimes my favorite songs are stuff that the guys haven’t even thought about and then I’ll just say “can you just write something now?” and then it’s just really simple. I really like simple songs a lot for some reason.
Are there any songs that you’ve written that you found especially challenging?
Amy: I feel like, yeah, songs like ‘Capital,’ I spent a lot more time writing and honestly as well sort of on ‘Security’. I was not sure about the lyrics until the last minute, and I had a bunch of lyrics and different versions of it and then I kind of just picked it a couple of days before we recorded it. So, some songs, for whatever reason, just take a little while to find something where I’m really happy with the way it fits because I want stuff to be slightly complicated while also being simple.
I really like the song ‘Security’. What’s that all about? Were they not letting you in a bar or something?
Amy: It’s kind of like a love song about falling in love with a security guard but the security guard is just like, “you’re drunk trash.” But it’s like I’m in love with a security guard basically.
Is this based on a true story?
Amy: No, it’s not. But I’m sure it’s true to someone somewhere that’s not me personally.
‘Comfort to Me’ has a lot of socially conscious lyrics. Do you anticipate continuing in this direction?
Amy: I think probably it will be inevitable because, as a band, when we first started, we weren’t thinking too much about politics. I didn’t really know anyone who was thinking about politics too much in a social politics kind of way. And I feel like as the band progressed, I played with more bands that were political and really confident to talk about politics and they were confident about it because they had fully formed ideas about it and I was only 20 when the band started. So, as I’m getting older, I guess I’m just learning more about the world. I’m less sheltered because I’m seeing the world and I’m talking to all different people and I’m, you know, experiencing more things and seeing more things and caring about more things. So, I feel like just inevitably it’ll be in the lyrics because it’s what’s on my mind a bit more. So, I feel like on those first two EPs it wasn’t in there because it wasn’t in me so much. Not in a forefront way. It was maybe there in the back, but I didn’t have any way to articulate exactly what I was feeling. So, yeah, I think so.
So, now you are growing more worldly and more experienced.
Amy: Yeah, and just more empathy as well. I feel like I used to have way less empathy but now it’s kind of like, yeah.
I really enjoyed hearing you sing on ‘In Spite of Ourselves’ with the Viagra Boys. How did that collaboration come about?
Amy: Honestly, we just kind of met at a festival at some point. Maybe we played Austin a couple of times. Yeah, we played South by Southwest and then we actually played here before supporting King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, which was our first tour of America. But Viagra Boys – Yeah, we’re kind of friends vaguely and then Sebastian [Murphy], the singer, reached out and was like, “yo, we’d like to cover this song and we’d like for you to join it.” and I was like, “fuck, yeah!” So, yeah. And I’d honestly never heard that John Prine and Iris DeMent song before that and I was like, “holy shit. This is like the best song ever written. This would be an honor.” I just love the way they’re describing each other. I feel like it fits us both very perfectly.
Yeah! It’s such a well written song and a nice little love story. You mentioned King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Are you on their Flightless label?
Declan: We were when we first started out in Melbourne but not anymore.
Who are you all with now? Or are you just kind of on your own?
Declan: We’re with Virgin in Australia and Rough Trade for the rest of the world.
Amy: We’re kind of at a label in between everything though. ‘Cause we have managers who look after us pretty well. So, we just had a one album deal, and he really looks after us and there’s no ripping off or sussing us in the contract. It’s all a really good share to the artist and they’re all good people as well. Most of the people we work with we have met and like. They’re really friendly and stuff. So, yeah. ‘Comfort to Me’ was ATO Records in America and Rough Trade for the rest of the world and in Australia it was a distribution deal through Virgin. So, it’s basically our own label and then they distribute it. That way it keeps more autonomy in our hands, which is really good for us.
Do you have plans for any collaborations with other musicians or bands in the future?
Amy: We always talk about stuff but I mean, we have nothing set in concrete at all.
Declan: That’s probably another way that we’re approaching writing this differently is that we’re open to working with other people. But definitely no guitarists. There’s no space for other guitarists, just me. But maybe another percussionist or a singer.
Amy: Yeah, make it more of a fun shared thing, you know, because we only ever work with ourselves on our own albums. Like in terms of instruments and singing and shit. So, it’d be fun to have a duet or something. I’d like the boys to even do a duet. Sing something with me a little bit more. But we’ll see.
Yeah, nice! That would be cool. Are there any weird or funny stories you’d like to share about things happening on stage or on tour?
Amy: I feel like something happened recently, but I can’t remember what.
Declan: Last night Gus went for a piss and Bryce did a shoey out of a cowboy boot.
Amy: Do you know what a “shoey” is?
No. A “shoey”?
Amy: It’s a fucking disgusting Aussie tradition. But it’s like you get someone in the audience to give you a shoe. So, last night it was a big old boot and you pour a drink into it and then you drink it out of the shoe.
Who drank out of the boot?
Declan: Bryce, our drummer who just came in. And our bass player went for a piss.
Amy: And we have Gus playing on this tour recently and he tried to do something fancy. He’s never done it before. He tried to like, what do you call it? You swing your bass around like 360 degrees. So, he went to swing it and we all moved out of the way and he’s like, “move everyone! I’m gonna try it!” and went to swing it and it just fucking flew off his back!
Declan: It’s got a big bend in the headstock now.
Still sounds okay?
Declan: Ah, it always sounded bad.
Amy: But that’s not the bass’ fault.
Maybe it sounds better now. So, doing a big tour across the US involves lots of travelling. What are you all listening to when you’re on the bus?
Declan: Mainly if there’s music playing on the bus it’ll be like party mode. So, Amy plays a lot of new hip hop.
Amy: Yeah, I play a lot of hip hop and stuff. Last night I was listening to Posseshot, which is like a Melbourne rap crew. They’re friends of ours. Listening to VV Pete, she’s an Aussie rapper. Listening to BigKlit. She’s a rapper. She might be from Austin but I don’t know. She’s sick. What else am I listening to? A band from Australia called Cupid and the Stupids. They just put out a new album which is pretty good. And what else have I been listening to? I feel like there’s been some other shit that’s new that I’ve been like “hell, yeah.” Bob Vylan. They just put out a new song. They’re from the UK, they’re a great band.
What do you get up to when you’re not making music? Do you all have other non-musical hobbies?
Amy: Yeah, I read heaps of books. Declan likes sports. The boys are all watching the rugby world cup final. And I don’t know why, but they kind of started going golfing.
Declan: What do you mean you don’t know why?
Amy: I don’t know why you like it, but I know that you’re doing it. Have you ever done golf?
I have not done golf. Just miniature golf with the windmills and shit.
Declan: I got my eyes back and so I could see where the golf ball was going. Yeah, I got laser eye surgery. So, that’s how I got back into golf.
Amy: But yeah, I read heaps of books. I never used to read before. I was like, “books are for dumb cunts.” But now they’re really fun. So, I’ll do that and like work out heaps and what else? I don’t know. Just random shit. Hanging out with friends but no real hobbies.
Declan: You like driving.
Amy: Oh yeah, I drive around. I paint sometimes.
Declan: You ride a bike.
Amy: Yeah, I ride a bike.
Declan: Is that a hobby?
Amy: It’s not. Definitely not a hobby. I just do it because I want to get somewhere. Then I want to drive.
Declan: You played Playstation.
Amy: No, I don’t play Playstation. I played for a bit once but I would not say that was a fucking hobby.
Do you get to see a few shows and stuff before you have to leave town?
Amy: No, we are off tonight. Tomorrow we’re going to Jackson and then after that we go to Atlanta and then we go to Florida. We’re basically in a new city every day.
Declan: I want to try to see The Dandy Warhols. Playing today with The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Black Angels that put on the festival.
Right on. That will be a great show.
Amy: Who are you gonna see?
I will definitely be here to see y’all and Die Spitz play tonight. I think tomorrow, I’ll be back here at Stubbs for Beach Fossils. That’s probably it. I’m trying to take it easy this year. Last night I saw High on Fire with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats.
Amy: Cool. That would be good.
Yeah, it was really good! So, my girlfriend wanted me to specifically ask, do you hate it when Americans attempt Australian accents?
Amy: I love it. I think it’s fun because they are so bad at it.
Right? Yeah, she’ll try to do one sometimes.
Amy: Does she? Can you?
I can not. Or would not.
Amy: I think it’s entertaining. It’s fun and some people are really really good at it as well and you are like, “oh my god”. Like one of the girls from Die Spitz, from Austin and our support band on the tour, but one of them was doing it real good for a couple of words.
Declan: I don’t hate it. I think it’s funny.
Amy: Tell your girl to keep doing it. Keep up the good work.
I will tell her! Yeah, I’ve been watching some of your videos. I love your dance moves. Any particular inspiration behind your moves?
Amy: Thank you. No, I just like dancing. It’s all just… I don’t have a choreographer or anything. I just dance. You’re like, “obviously, bitch.” But yeah. I just like dancing. I got heaps of energy and it’s like when I get into it, and you can hear the music. It’s like if I wasn’t performing and I was just at a show or a fucking club or something, I’d be dancing just as big and crazy as I do anyway.
Very cool. Well, that’s pretty much all of the questions I have for you. But, do you have any final words for readers of It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine?
Declan: Psychedelic Baby Magazine! Keep them babies psychedelic.
Amy: Keep them babies psychedelic!
Alright, right on. Thank you so much. I appreciate it!
Interview and Illustrations by Justin Jackley
Interview Questions by Noelle O’Donnell