Photos by Daggers For Eyes.
Amyl and The Sniffers are ferocious. From the speakers, their EPs are sharp, fast, and undeniably punk, such as the brilliant “I’m Not A Loser.” Live, however, things take a turn towards metal and the four-piece Australian powerhouse pummels the audience with a landslide of shredding, bass drum, and their lion of a lead singer, Amy Taylor. Rocking a mullet and vinyl platform boots, Taylor is a spitting image of the best icons of 70s glam rock while the three guys behind her (two of which also sport mullets) only concern themselves with their instruments and beer.
The last two years have been a bloody whirlwind for The Sniffers. What started as a joke of a pub band turned into shows that packed whatever venues they played in Melbourne’s underground scene. With two rip-roaring EPs out and about, Giddy Up and Big Attraction, they eventually caught the attention of Eric Moore from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, signing them to their own Flightless Records. The last few months, the band has played their first UK shows, their first US shows) and joined the Lizard Wizard on their US tour. And just between us, Amyl’s opening set may give King Gizzard a run for their money.
Backstage at Brooklyn Steel, they still look like they’re recovering from the whiplash of everything that’s happened in 2018. They love to shoot the shit with anyone who loves good music, but they’re still a group of misfit 20-somethings figuring out this whole serious band thing. Based on their first single on Flightless, “Cup of Destiny,” they don’t need to worry. They’re doing their local pubs proud. About to make their NYC debut, I chatted with Amy, guitarist Declan Martens, and drummer Bryce Wilson about what’s led them to where they are today.
Brett: I know you’ve only been touring for a few weeks, but is there anything you miss from home yet? An Australian friend of mine told me to, in particular, bring up something called “sausage sizzles?”
Declan: Bunnings sausage sizzles! They’re just two-dollar sausages in a piece of white bread with onions on top.
Amy: Meat pies! I miss a mean meat pie.
There’s a really good spot in the city for meat pies and I went on a date there once. He was also one of the few guys I’ve been on a date with that’s also into punk music.
Amy: Did you marry him?
Declan: I miss Australian bacon. The bacon in England and America is so different. It’s thicker and it’s pink, not red. When I look at American and British bacon, I feel like someone’s put red food dye in it.
Everything’s got food dye here. I’m surprised our skin isn’t discolored at this point.
Amy: Give it a year.
But, while you’re here, I heard that you were particularly excited to see Texas?
Amyl: We’re all looking forward to Texas, yeah.
What parts of the States have you gotten to explore the most?
Amy: Well, we were in LA for the week and the rest of them, we’ve just driven in during the day, played the gig, and driven out the next morning. We haven’t seen a great deal really, to be honest. Except for LA.
Declan: Yeah, just that week in LA. And then, the second most we’ll see will be New York.
Are there any bucket list things you need to do here before you head out?
Declan: When I was 18, my friend told me that he went to the house where Biggie Smalls used to live and he said that it was really rough and he was really scared and I was thinking he was just talking it up. So I want to go there so I can see, six years later, whether he was talking shit on.
Oh, I’m sure it’s super gentrified as well. There’s probably a Whole Foods or something nearby.
Declan: I bet it was back then, too.
That friend of mine from Sydney once told me that, in Australia, you’re raised with a ton of media from the States, music, movies, whatever…
Amy: Yeah, any celebrities you see are most from the States.
Is there a way to compare American attitudes towards music and art and stuff against an Australian way?
Declan: I think, because there’s Hollywood and Broadway, people have that sort of “I wanna be a star” attitude. And in Australia, I think it’s a lot more easy going.
Bryce: Everything’s much smaller. Even the big cities are much smaller. Most Australians don’t take themselves that seriously.
Amy: I think Australians can take the piss, but also get the job done. In America, it’s all up in lights and stuff and, in Australia, it’s just up on a chalkboard.
Americans also get the impression that there’s not as much difference between the major cities there compared to here.
Amy: There’s definitely different styles of music that come out of each city. But, here, every city we’ve gone to, the crowds seem different, the venues seem different…like, the whole habitat seems different. But in Australia, it’s much more similar, but there’s still differences. Me and Bryce are from New South Wales and Declan’s from Western Australia and we have different ways of talking.
Declan: There’s different slang, but there aren’t different accents.
Amy: Well, you’ll say things like “dance” differently…
Declan: That’s because my parents are from New Zealand. I’m not the best example of a Perth accent. If you can pick up where someone’s from in Australia from their accent, I don’t know how the fuck you can do that.
Do you think any Australian cities are better than others for music?
Amy: Melbourne’s got a pretty strong scene at the moment, I reckon, just because Sydney’s got a lot of lockout laws. Adelaide and Perth are just like big little towns, I wouldn’t call them big cities. It’s a funny one, though, because Sydney is always really fun for us. There’s always good people coming out. Melbourne’s fucking thriving, though.
Declan: Do you know what a lockout law is? Do you have those here?
No, I didn’t catch that at all.
Declan: In Sydney, all the bars are shut down by 3am and you can’t enter a venue after 1am. So it’s really damaged the nightlife over there because businesses can’t afford their licenses.
So this is a new thing?
Amy: In the last couple of years, yeah.
But I assume this hasn’t gotten in the way of any of your shows.
Amy: Not for us. But we’ve seen mates who play in bands and there’ll be a festival on and the cops will come at 10pm and shut it down. Like, at a venue, just because it’s too rowdy.
Declan: That’s not in Melbourne. Melbourne gets to party more.
Amy, I know you’re a huge fan of The Runaways and I’ve really gotten back into them lately. And I was trying to really pinpoint what it is about them that’s so amazing since the music isn’t exactly mind-blowing…
Amy: So many people hated them or just thought they were sexy, but they’re actually fucking awesome as a group. They’re badass and just ran around at 17, doing business and shit. It’s really impressive. And just the fact that they were little sex symbols, but they were just killing it.
And it seems like almost every band these days draws inspiration from older bands like that. So how do you think you can draw from these bands that a lot of new bands are also inspired by while being original and not coming of as a band that just wants to sound old?
Declan: It’s hard to describe. For me, I want to make music that’s relevant now but be in the mindset that I’ve only got the tools and what I’ve heard in, let’s say, 1975. So this such and such music has come out and they’re all my influences. So I imagine what’s going to happen in the future and be the person, in the past, who sparks that. Does that make sense to you? I like to imagine that I’m in 1980 and I’m about to change the path of rock and roll. Is that schizophrenic?
No, I think you’re all good.
Amy: For lyrics and performing, I’m not hugely influenced by it. But some of my favorite music and performers came out of the 70s. I like how sunburnt and tough it all seemed. Like, there was that huge fucking moment where everything was so soft and indie in music and I was like, “Fuck this shit!” It was either hardcore or some soft cunt and I went with hardcore. In the 70s, I feel like rock music was just the music. It wasn’t real hard and it wasn’t real soft. It was perfectly tough. When you’re underage where I grew up, in Mullumbimby, the only thing you can do is watch some busk with dreadlocks or go to a hardcore show.
You had to choose one or the other and you chose hardcore.
Amy: Yeah, kinda, and I just loved being in it. Everyone was so tough and shit. It was just all these blokes and then I would get into the mosh pit as this tiny 14 year old. Really sweaty and fun and rough.
I wish I hadn’t been such a wuss when I was that age and gone into those mosh pits.
Declan: I used to get into moshing when I was young and now I look at people and I’m like, “How the fuck do you do that?”
Bryce: Me too. I just want to sit down and drink a beer. Ideally, I’d smoke a ciggy while I watch a band.
That’s what it’s like in New York. You’ll probably see it tonight. I can imagine, as a band, it’s almost insulting how little New Yorkers will respond.
Amy: In Melbourne, I feel like we’re spoilt for choice. Eight days a week, you can go out and see a band, five bands in 18 different venues. So you do it and, after four months, you’re like, “Why am I still moving for these people?” And I do it, too. Maybe it’s similar in New York. You just get spoiled, I think.