When Amyl and the Sniffers lead singer Amy Taylor pops into our Zoom room, I’m expecting the spastic, hyper person I’ve seen in the Australian rocked-out punk band’s videos and live show footage. Instead, I get offstage Amy who today is, in her words, “chill.”
The band’s new album Comfort to Me is anything but chill. The grimy, steamroller punk the band’s become known for since their formation in 2016 has been fine-tuned on their second album. If 2019’s self-titled album is akin to The Stooges’ debut, Comfort to Me is the Amyl and the Sniffers’ Fun House.
“I’m really proud of the boys in the band because they’ve evolved and they’re all pretty much self-taught,” says Taylor. “We’re all pretty young and we spent so much time touring before last year, so we all grew together.”
Bassist Gus Romer is about to leave the same Zoom room, giving Amy and I time to talk about some of the lyrical themes on the record, but not before he chimes in on the band’s progression since their first album.
He says he’s still cool with being grouped together with straightforward rock and punk bands— an obvious comparison is countrymates and biggest Aussie band ever, AC/DC— but the extended time between albums (you know why) is evident in the new songs.
“A bunch of them are classic and true to what we’ve done in the past, but we’re also exploring some new sounds and ideas,” says Romer. “We’ve got some heavier, louder, and faster tracks than we’ve ever done before. There’s a complexity in how we’re playing and definitely in Amy’s lyrics; they’re a lot more political.”
Amy is quick to point out Comfort to Me still has some of her patented, uber-literal lyrics— the band’s first album had a song called “Shake Ya” and, like most AC/DC songs, there’s no double meaning there.
This time out we’ve got “Snakes”, a song about “growing up in my hometown where it was humid and there were snakes and I worked at a supermarket. I look back on those days fondly.” And “Laughing”, about basically laughing in people’s faces.
“It’s, ‘Fuck everyone, I’m gonna be what I’m gonna be and I don’t care what you think,’” Taylor says. “That’s a pretty big theme on the album, actually.”
One of the pure punkiest songs on the album is “Freaks to the Front.” When played live, it will be the perfect backdrop to Taylor’s spastic onstage Calisthenics. She’s become known for her wild abandon during live shows, including badass-weirdo dance moves, hurling herself into the audience, and thrashing around in the mosh pit.
Growing up in New South Wales in a “super hippy/farmer” small town, Taylor was floored to discover all-ages punk shows, and it wasn’t long before she entered the mosh pit fray.
“I really liked the consensual violence of it, and I had so much energy and I could get rid of it. I liked that I could smash it out,” she says. “‘Freaks to the Front’ is a tribute to that energy.”
Besides the lyrical punches in the gut, the new album also sees Taylor digging deep after having some much-needed time to herself. This included a newfound interest in philosophy, shown in the song “Capital,” which provides the album’s name in its opening lyric.
“It’s very level-entry philosophical thought and I discovered it in a general way,” Taylor says. “The song is about disdain for the government and society. It’s a weird cult and a scam. But the song’s also about feeling really strange as a human, and what does that even mean to exist as human, and what the hell is life?”
She chuckles, showing off one of her chipped teeth.
“Last year was a big existential year.”
Choosing the first line of “Capital” as the album title was Taylor coming to realization about the idea of comfort. Before last year, she didn’t really know what comfort was, she says.
“I lived on people’s couches and was staunchly independent, and never liked showing my vulnerabilities,” Taylor says. “But with this time off to think I made the switch and decided to be really open with people, and get a bedroom and a bed, and put nice blankets on it and stuff. Just appreciating that comfort is actually pretty dope.”
With philosophy top of mind, Taylor jumps back into existentialism and digs out more meaning for the album title.
“Comfort is a question and the opening lyrics of the song ask ‘Comfort to me, what does it all mean? What reason do we have to persevere?’ It ties it together and asks, ‘What the fuck are we all doing this for?’”
Taylor has other philosophies, ones that most punks will recognize by now, and which are reinforced by the rocked-out punk rock on Comfort to Me.
“Music should be for everybody and about expressing ourselves,” she says. “Just a place that’s free of any kind of judgment to be whatever the fuck you want and to represent yourself.”
Watch the video for “Security” here:
For more from Amyl and the Sniffers, check out their official website.
Photos courtesy of Amyl and the Sniffers and Alan Snodgrass.