It’s a Sunday night in Brighton. Nearly 400 people are crammed into the basement of The Haunt, but any illusions that they are going to take it easy on a school night are soon put to rest. Melbourne’s punk sensations Amyl & The Sniffers are in town, and by the end of the first song their irrepressible singer Amy Taylor has thrown herself deep into the crowd - surfing perilously close to the lighting rigs just millimetres above her. Pinballing back, she crashes back to what should be the relative safety of the stage, landing awkwardly on her head. Cackling wildly, she bounces straight back to her feet and continues with a ferocious set of frenetic bangers that thrillingly merge punk and hardcore into one breathtaking concoction. This is their world, contained inside a whirlwind that is still only gathering speed.
Their forthcoming self-titled debut album confirms what many have discovered over their startlingly rapid rise. Just three years after starting life as a band in their shared flat, Amyl & The Sniffers have lit a fire around the world. “Melbourne was always a pretty fun scene,” Amy explains en route to causing more chaos in Köln. “When we started, we thought we would just be playing house shows and stuff. We were listening to a lot of garage music, bands like Drunk Mums, Cosmic Psychos were a really big influence and AC/DC too. But we were heavily into the Sharpie scene (a 1970s Australian sub-culture similar to skinheads) as well, lots of raw and rough punk music.” As big now as it ever has been, the punk movement seems to be unstoppable once more. “I think there’s always been a bunch or people who loved punk, but it just comes in waves. Like low tide and high tide.”
Those influences bled into the recordings. “Angry songs are fun to me,” Amy laughs. “I like songs that are fast and punchy, ones that make you wanna kick something.” Their debut contains plenty of moments like that, tracks like GFY and Gacked On Anger containing a savage intensity. On the latter, Amy roars in her distinctive drawl that “I’m working off my ass every single day for the minimum wage and I don’t get paid… I can’t pay my rent, I’m sleeping on the floor, in a car, in a tent.”
Talking about the lyrics, she states that they come from a mixture of sources. “Some are a reaction to things; some are from specific experiences, or my habitat. Things I’ve been influenced by, just a bunch of random shit really but sometimes I write them down.” She may appear casual, flippant even, about her song-writing talents, but these are some big themes from life’s edges, all delivered with a high-intensity that takes the breath away.
“When we wrote half the album, we were listening to a lot of The Brats, heavy rock, lots of Motörhead and shit like that, so that comes across. Declan’s really gotten better at guitar too, so he wants to be able to show that off,” she laughs.
That burst of energy, so hard to capture on record for some legendary live bands, electrifies both the shows and the album itself. Bassist Gus Romer explains it, “I think that is mainly because we had been sitting on those songs for so long, we just wanted to get them out and done as quickly as possible so we could move on to other things!”
Recording in Sheffield with Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys), this was the first time that the band had even been in a studio - their former EPs being recorded at home. Recording a track a day, the band worked hard to translate their live power in the studio.
“Making sure it felt raw was definitely something we were conscious of, because our live shows are our favourite thing. Even just starting out, we only recorded stuff so we could have more things to play at the live shows. If it comes across as something weak or boring as a studio record, it wouldn’t really sit right because that’s not who we are,” explains Amy.
All over in less than half an hour, that intensity is another deliberate decision. “Everyone’s got short attention spans, you get what you need from it quickly” states Amy, again sticking close to that live template. “Even if they’re my favourite fucking band in the world, I’d never wanna watch them play for an hour and a half or so.”
Even so, there is time for some (relatively) slower moments - tracks like ‘Angel’ and ‘Got You’ add an emotional quality that hasn’t been seen before until now.
One thing that this latest tour is confirming is that they’re on to a winner with the new songs - everywhere they go, despite any language differences, Amyl & The Sniffers are kicking down the doors. So what is the secret?
“You’ve just got to be aware of Amy really,” laughs Gus. “She is all over the place, so you’ve just got to make sure you don’t accidentally hit her or anything. But I kind of just black out when I’m playing, and I don’t really pay much attention to anything else! But even in Europe, they’re just reacting to the energy and how we are as a band.”
Every night is party night for this gang.
“I think the wildest thing I’ve done so far is I drank breast milk, that was pretty weird,” admits Amy. “Not from the breast, out of a shot glass though!” she states as if that makes all the difference.
Talk turns to the upcoming festival season and who the band are excited about seeing. “I don’t even know who’s playing at any of them,” admits Gus, while when asked to pick out his favourite moments on tour he shrugs. “It’s all a big blur; wild shit happens every night.”
Rather than being evasive, it’s much simpler than that. If ever a band live in the now, it’s Amyl & The Sniffers. There seems to be a refreshing lack of corporate ‘strategy’, no attention paid to what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. There is only now, only the next gig and the next awestruck audience losing their minds to one of the most exciting live bands on the planet.
Taken from the June issue of Dork, out now. Order a copy below. Amyl & The Sniffers’ self-titled debut album is out now
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