Interviews

Dead heroes, King Gizzard and the problem with the music industry: a chat with Amyl and The Sniffers

Bassist Gus Romer may be Amyl and the Sniffers’ latest recruit but when it comes to summing up what this outfit is all about no other can put it better. In Romer’s own words Amyl is summarised as a band known for: “Having mullets and kinda playing Aussie pub rock.”

But what’s driving this group? Good question. Again Gus:

“It’s just good fun being in a band. It’s good fun playing gigs. It’s good fun hanging out with your mates. And so being in a band is just a natural progression from that. It’s just a good time because you’re playing with your friends and playing with your other friend’s bands.”

Of course, vocalist Amy Taylor might just clinch it:

“We’ve never really though too hard about everything… It’s fun good music we want everyone to have a listen to.”

And they’re doing it. Angry young dreamers with fast licks, dark bubblegum lyrics and an image which speaks. The four have been hitting The States while continuing to build an audience back home. Amy likens to the experience of touring with Melbourne compatriots King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard as being on the set of a C-grade movie. Drummer Byrce Wilson liked the scenery. Guitarist Declan Martens, both notably absent and a little drunk, does not offer an opinion. Yet it’s Gus again who puts it most succinctly noting that there was no shortage of “bloody weird drongos hanging about!” Not the least amongst them Gizzard fans.

Having listened to observations as astute as these for ten or so minutes you can only come away with the warm conclusion that these curiously Australian rockers are genuine in what they do. After all, statements like these can only come from a bleeding heart. So pay attention. Here’s more than a couple more.

Amyl and the sniffers

We caught up with our newest pub rock favourites, Amyl and the Sniffers, after their set at Splendour In The Grass to chat dead heroes, touring the States with King Gizzard, and (almost) the problem with the music industry.

AMY: So it’s just me and Gus. I don’t know where the other two are.

HAPPY: All good! Well, I’ll just start off by saying that I’ve been seeing a lot of footage of you guys over in The States popping up on the Flightless Records Instagram! I don’t know if you’ve been touring with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard or just hanging out…

(Amy readies an answer but is interrupted as Bryce emerges from the bustle of Splendour In the Grass’ backstage milieu.)

BRYCE: Hey there! Nice to meet ya. Hello.

HAPPY: Take a seat! So Bryce, as I was saying to Amy and Gus you’ve just been over in the states playing and having a good time with King Gizzard.

BYRCE: Yeah.

AMY: Yeah!

HAPPY: What’s it been like?

BRYCE: Bloody ripper!

GUS: Wild! Very busy. A lot of driving and playing shows.

AMY: America’s weird! It’s like a C-grade movie the whole time, like being on a weird movie set.

BRYCE: It’s beautiful though. There was some beautiful scenery!

HAPPY: Amyl has what you might describe as a fairly hectic edge to its live sets. People tend to lose it a little bit! Was there anything particularly crazy that happened to you while you were over there?

AMY: Lots of weird little stories, mainly around people being weirdos! Not weirdo weirdoes but like Arj Barker. He’s a photographer now…

BRYCE: And one of the Jackass guys was there at one of our shows. At one of our shows we hung out with him!

GUS: A lot of bloody weird drongos hanging about! The Gizz fans are funny in America…

HAPPY: What are they like?

GUS: Just pretty hardcore fans!

BRYCE: They’re about The Gizz, they love The Gizz! They’re like superstars.

AMY: It’s crazy – awesome – to see. Watching Gizzard’s crowd is the best thing ever.

HAPPY: Well I guess you’ve all talked about being over in The States and meeting all these weird celebrities you’ve always pictured as larger than life. But there’s an inverse which is also true. To Americans, King Gizzard and Amyl are bands from Australia which probably makes yourselves a little mysterious!

BRYCE: A novelty I think for them. Especially the way we all look and talk and shit!

GUS: Definitely! Having mullets and kinda playing Aussie pub rock, it’s definitely a bit exotic for American fans that might not know about a lot of the influences we have.

HAPPY: When you’re singing about Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge what do you think is running through these people’s heads? I mean maybe they could look it up on Google Maps…

BRYCE: Well they wouldn’t properly understand it I guess.

HAPPY: You recorded your first two records with Calum Newton from Lunatics on Pogosticks

AMY: He used to play in our band and we used to live with him. He recorded our first two EPs just purely because he lived with us and was in the band before Gus was.

HAPPY: I love the sound you’ve gotten out of those two records! It’s just got that classic balance of vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Was there a particular sound you were striving for?

BRYCE: Calum pretty much just did it. I don’t really know anything about mixing or recording! But we’ve got new stuff which we’ve recorded now which sounds pretty different. It sounds better I reckon.

HAPPY: Where have you been looking to go from Big Attraction?

BRYCE: Well we’re working on an album, so we’ve got some stuff coming out soon. Some singles. We’ve pretty much written a whole album we’ve just got to sort out recording and stuff.

GUS: A couple of bits, a couple of bobs!

BRYCE: A couple of bits and bobs pretty much.

HAPPY: Tell me about your songwriting. Does it start with the lyrics?

BRYCE: It’s a bit of a mix. The album we kind of all jammed together. We all worked on it, jamming one or two days a week in Gus’s old shed, just trying to pump out a bit of it. It was pretty collaborative.

AMY: The first EPs – because we’ve only put out two EPs, we haven’t done an album yet. The first one we literally just wrote and recorded and put out the next day. And the second we would just muck around with it, we’d jam it out and then recorded it. Once we had a couple of songs we went, “Alright. Sweet. We’ll put them out too.” We’ve never really thought too hard about everything. We’ve just put it out.

BRYCE: It’s pretty easy going.

AMY: It’s not that we haven’t put care into it or anything. But we don’t want to think about it too much and make it something that it’s not. It’s fun, good music we want everyone to have a listen too.

HAPPY: Tell me about Cup of Destiny. It’s was a big single, people love it live too.

BRYCE: That was just from one of the days where we were writing at Gus’ old house in Melbourne.

AMY: What happens is someone will usually come in with a guitar thing and they’ll jam it out. I think that one was Pissed Jeans-inspired. I think we just wanted a real dr-dr-dr-dr-dr!

(Declan emerges and for reasons unknown begins singing Happy Birthday)

DECLAN: I’m the drunk uncle! They tried to hide me in the green room! BUT I FOUND YAS! You fuckin’ idiots!! I found – alright, the interview starts now!

HAPPY: Alright. Well tell me–

DECLAN: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the music industry!

HAPPY: Shhh! We’re at Splendour! Don’t blow the hatch!

DECLAN: Alright.

HAPPY: Tell me about your musical heroes. Who is someone who gave you that confidence to go, “This is something I love. This is something that I really need to do.”

BRYCE: They’re probably all dead. They’re all too old! Like Bon Scott.

AMY: I used to go to a lot of hardcore and punk shows when I was younger. I’d watch the singers and go, “Eh! I could do better than that.” [Laughs] I dunno!

HAPPY: Everyone thinks that at those kinds of gigs but there’s very few people who actually follow through!

AMY: No, it’s not that I thought that I just didn’t want to be there sitting still. I don’t want to watch something. I like doing things not watching them. I don’t like watching TV!

GUS: It’s just good fun being in a band. It’s good fun playing gigs. It’s good fun hanging out with your mates. And so being in a band is just a natural progression from that. It’s just a good time because you’re playing with your friends and playing with your other friend’s bands.

HAPPY: And I guess people are seeing you and thinking. “Hmmm, maybe I should form a band too…”

DECLAN: That’d be nice!

HAPPY: Has anyone come up to you and gone, “This has blown me away! This is what I want to do!”

BRYCE: Kinda.

HAPPY: I just think people react to your band in a way you don’t always see. There’s points in your set where people just absolutely go nuts. Is that something you think about or do you just play?

BRYCE: We kind of just play! Well I do.

GUS: Yeah! We just do this thing. We just get up and play!

DECLAN: Do our thing, have a good time and then whatever happens. It is what it is! Not to sound too cliché or whatever! I dunno! It kind of just happens. At least for me.

HAPPY: Well the big question I’d like to know and I’m sure the readers would as well is this: what’s coming next for you? You’ve got a new record coming out, you’ve just come off a huge US tour and now have just played at fricking Splendour In The Grass! Is it still go-go-go or are you going to be taking it easy for a while?

BRYCE: The rest of the year is pretty easy.

DECLAN: We’re going on hiatus! We’ve decided to call it quits.

AMY: No we’re not! We’re going to Berlin in a week! We’re relocating to Europe for four months then we’re going back to America and then back to the UK to tour with another band but that’s unannounced yet. Then we’ll come back!

GUS: We got four months out of Australia. We’re not going to be back until a secret festival that we can’t say because it’s announced. But we’ll be back in November for a festival.

DECLAN: You can do the numbers! Punch the numbers and guess what festival it is!

HAPPY: I can’t speculate. If it’s too obvious I’ll get in trouble.

DECLAN: It’s a band who’s a friend of ours.

AMY: No!

HAPPY: Shh!

DECLAN: Do you know Jet?

HAPPY: Enough!