Dom Gourlay heads backstage at the Bodega in Nottingham to meet the Melbourne band whose feral punk sound is taking over the world
Dom Gourlay
13:40 16th April 2019

Amyl and the Sniffers’ vocalist Amy Taylor is late for the interview. “Don’t worry about Amy, she’s always late!” insists her tour manager. Her three bandmates – Dec Martens (guitar), Gus Romer (bass) and Bryce Wilson (drums) – sit patiently in the upstairs bar of Nottingham’s cosy Bodega. In just a couple of hours time, the four-piece will deliver one of the most explosive sets this venue – or indeed city – has witnessed in a very long time.

Having only formed in 2016, they put out a couple of EPs ('Giddy Up' and ‘Big Attraction’) that brought them to the attention of UK DIY staple Damaged Goods before subsequently signing to the daddy of all independent labels, Rough Trade. While their raucous live shows are getting most of the attention, they wouldn’t mean a great deal if there weren’t an armoury of songs to back them up.

Which Amyl and the Sniffers have in abundance. Their long awaited self-titled debut album finally hits the shops on 24 May, while in the meantime the band continue to wow live audiences from city to city, and continent to continent. Tonight officially marks the first leg of their European tour (although they played a one off show for AMP at London’s Shacklewell Arms 48 hours earlier, bridging the gap between their American sojourn which took in a number of shows at Austin’s SXSW and beyond).

For a band seemingly always on the road, aren’t they worried about burning out before things really start to take off?

“SXSW was a lot of fun,” insists bass player Romer. “It was a really busy week but a lot of fun. We met lots of sick people."

"It’s all a blur really. Just non-stop touring like you said,” admits guitarist Martens.

Having only started the band as a bit of fun (“We just did it to play with our mates in pubs and stuff") they've rapidly become one of the hottest musical properties on the planet. Most of the European shows sold out well in advance of the tour, which shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise in the current climate where live, angry, aggressive music reigns supreme.

However, it’s here in the UK where Amyl and the Sniffers seem to have found an audience already in waiting. With comparisons to first wave punk bands like X-Ray Spex and Penetration not to mention the speed fuelled likes of Vice Squad and Discharge that followed, the UK has become something of a home from home for the four-piece, as Gus Romer explains.

“There’s a lot of similarities with those bands. We play similar music, and more often than not you're going to be connecting with people who are on the same level as you. A similar mind state in terms of the things you do.”

At the same time, their lineage can clearly be traced back to classic Australian rock n' roll bands from the same era. People like Rose Tattoo, The Saints, and of course AC/DC for instance.

“We’ve all got a pretty different influence base,” declares the bassist. “We all come from different backgrounds.”

What they also have in common with their aforementioned peers is a penchant for creating instantly memorable yet timeless music. Music that doesn’t discriminate by class or demographic. Which probably goes some way towards explaining why they’re such a hot ticket all around the globe right now.

“I hope so!” quips Martens. “Although sometimes I can’t listen to stuff I recorded in November.”

Back to their debut album, which is as giddy, explosive and exciting as anyone who’s witnessed one of their live shows would expect it to be. Recorded at the tail end of last year in Sheffield with producer Ross Orton, whose previous credits include AM by Arctic Monkeys and M.I.A.’s Arular. Gus Romer takes up the story: “We had several meetings with the people at Rough Trade, and eventually they hooked us up with Ross (Orton). We already had a plane ticket to the UK so thought we’d utilise that, which is how it all came about. His whole back catalogue is really interesting, and he’s drummed for Jarvis Cocker as well, which is cool.”

“It was fucking awesome!” says livewire singer Taylor. “There were a couple of people we were going to work with and everyone was sick. But when we met him he was wearing Adidas and he said in this thick, northern, English accent “You alright love?” which we thought was funny and he seemed really cool. He was down to earth and seemed to get it, and said I want to fight for what you guys do to make you sound more like you.”

Compared to the leafy suburbs of Melbourne from where Amyl and the Sniffers originate, the barren landscape that now represents Sheffield’s former industrial heartland must have seemed like a world away?

“It was fucking cold!” quips singer Taylor.

“We’d just come off a three months overseas tour,” continues Romer. “So we were pretty keen to get home. Also, the weather was miserable. But then I guess that’s a good environment for keeping you in the studio and trying to work on things.”

“I fell in love with Sheffield,” adds guitarist Martens.

It proved to be the perfect location for Amyl and the Sniffers to lay down what is almost certain to be one of 2019’s finest debuts. Comprised of eleven tracks in total, the majority of which have been staples of the band’s live set for a while now.

“There’s a lot of feeling in the songs,” reveals Taylor. “Mainly because we’ve been playing them in the set for so long. We love playing them live because they’re so relevant to us. We love the songs off both EPs as well but we put them out two to three years ago so it’s really exciting being able to play new music. ”

They also had a song to spare at the end, which they’re particularly proud of, as talkative bass player Romer explains.

“It was the only one that didn’t make it onto the album, mainly because we only had two weeks to record it. So it got down to the last minute, and we just needed that little bit more time for it to happen. Hopefully it might rear its head on the next release.”

“It’s called ‘Still Laughing’ and it’s about not caring what anyone says because I’m always going to be laughing even if you’re mad at me,” adds Taylor, who writes all the band’s lyrics. “We didn’t put it on because it didn’t have a chorus so we thought let’s save it for the next record. Maybe as a random b-side even.”

“We’d like to put out another album next year,” adds Martens. “We’ve been touring so much it took us over a year to get this album out. So we’re definitely hoping to have a quicker turn around next time around.”

“That’s the goal,” says bassist Romer following on from his colleague. “We’ll still be touring quite frequently, almost non-stop. It would be nice to have another album out, and I reckon we’ll do it. But there’s nothing concrete in the works as of yet.”

Being permanently on tour does have its drawbacks, as Taylor, Romer and Martens are quick to point out.

“Last year I found it really isolating because it was just me and the three boys,” declares singer Taylor. “You never get to chat to anyone except the three boys. I love them to bits but you can also drive yourself crazy. This time, we’ve got friends now. We’ve met other bands and random people around at gigs so it’s become this huge international family wherever we go.”

“Being away from home. I miss my mum. Trying to maintain a relative level of cleanliness. When you’re getting wasted every night…” adds Romer before Martens finishes his sentence, “That’s the hardest thing about being on tour. Everyone else’s hygiene!” before Amy Taylor has the final word. “It’s even harder to go apeshit every night on just bread and cheese!”

Nevertheless, it’s on stage where Amyl and the Sniffers feel more at home right now.

“I’d definitely say we’re more of a live band,” declares Romer. “I think this album represents a whole new thing compared to the previous two EPs and single releases. The production is way different, and even the songwriting process has changed as well.”

Singer Amy Taylor, a diminutive presence in her own right, is quick to reaffirm this. “We’re definitely more of a live band. Even our first recordings. We only put them out because we wanted to get booked so bookers knew what we sounded like and bands too so we could play with them. It’s the best feeling ever! Even if there were only ten people watching us every night I’d still feel the same way.”

Now firmly at the forefront of Rough Trade’s glowing roster. Not only for 2019 but also well into the future. While signing to such a prestigious label would be a daunting prospect to some, Amyl and the Sniffers appear to have taken it all in their stride.

“There were a fair few labels talking to us at the time,” admits Romer. “Geoff (Travis) heard about us after The Great Escape then he saw us in Hamburg along with Jeannette (Lee) from the label. After that, Rough Trade was the only place we wanted to be. They’ve done some incredible releases and have an amazing history. They take super good care of us and everyone is lovely. It’s awesome.”

“We love working them now. We’ve become part of the family,” adds Taylor. “It’s a really strange thing for me. Coming from Australia, I didn’t know that much about overseas record labels so it was really exotic and foreign coming to meet them but I’m so glad we went with them because that’s what it’s like; being part of a family. They come to our gigs and we just hang out.”

Having experienced Europe and in particular the UK on a regular basis over the past year or so, this part of the world has become something of a second home to the band. So much in fact that the prospect of relocating is something they’re seriously considering.

“We were going to relocate last year but ended up getting too many shows booked in between,” declares Romer. “There are no plans for the moment but it’s a definite possibility. We were thinking of moving to London or Berlin last time, so that might be an option again sometime in the future.”

“The original idea of doing that was because we’re going to be touring so much it would make sense to have a home base overseas,” admits Taylor. “But then because we’re touring so much there is also no point in having a home base.”

On the subject of Australia’s current music scene – and Melbourne’s in particular –, all of the band are wildly enthusiastic about the undiscovered riches that lie in waiting.

“There’s too many mention right now!” proclaims the exuberant Romer. “Melbourne is absolutely thriving. You should definitely check out Civic, White Dog and Coffin. I think Civic already have plans to tour Europe at some point this year, while Coffin have already been to the States.”

“There’s a lot of great bands doing their own DIY kind of thing and they really love doing it,” adds Taylor. “Nasho from Sydney for example or The Snakes from Melbourne. They don’t want to lose that community thing, so whether they’ll tour outside of Australia is another thing I guess. They’re all trying to get through the door at the same time so the door is jammed.”

However, with bands like Idles, Fontaines D.C. and The Blinders among a host of others riding the crest of a wave at the minute, now seems to be the right time more than ever over the past two decades for anyone making loud, angry and aggressive music. Something which Amy Taylor acknowledges almost instantaneously.

“There’s a lot of angry people out there. In America everyone’s pretty angry. In Australia everyone’s pretty angry. Not just with random politics and shit like that. It’s good to get rage out and this is the perfect setting I guess.”

“With a song like ‘Go Fuck Yourself’ (‘GFY’) I was listening to a lot of Australian hardcore. Lots of really punchy guitars and bass,” adds Romer. “Once the whole idea for the song was complete, Amy came along and threw some lyrics over the top.”

“I think there is a really vibrant international scene of like minded guitar bands right now,” concludes Taylor. “Everyone is really supportive right now. They’re always recommending other bands and we’re always recommending other bands. It’s really nice. I don’t have anything to compare it with because this is my first experience of it but this definitely feels like some kind of extended musical family at the moment.”

With the world at their feet, what advice would Amyl and the Sniffers give to a new band just starting out?

“Do whatever you want, but avoid people trying to pull you in different directions,” says Romer.

“The more you think, the less you know!” adds Taylor and with that, it’s difficult to remonstrate with a band whose ethos is simply to go out and play every night to as many people as possible.


Photo: Press