Talking Music and Mullets with Aussie Punks Amyl and the Sniffers
For the uninitiated, Amyl and the Sniffers are a group of Aussie punks with perhaps the finest mullets in the music biz. The four-piece, renowned for their crazy, high-energy live shows, are made up of lead singer Amy Taylor, guitarist Declan Martens, bassist Gus Romer and drummer Bryce Wilson, former flatmates in Melbourne who decided to form a band in 2016.
They wrote, self-recorded and released their debut EP, Giddy Up, all in a span of just twelve hours and ever since then it’s been a whirlwind of gigs of ever increasing size.
With huge things on the horizon, not least the release of their searing self-titled debut Amyl and the Sniffers album, we caught up with guitarist Dec to get the lowdown on life on the road, touring with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and the importance of their magnificent mullets.
The MALESTROM: How’s the European tour going?
Dec: Yeah, it’s going really, really well. That was sort of our first proper English tour, so that was pretty awesome. We’re looking forward to playing places like Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin.
TM: Whereabouts are you right now?
Dec: We’ve just dropped in Amsterdam. We’ve got a show tonight at Paradiso Noord.
TM: Are you enjoying hanging out in all these European countries?
Dec: We played Amsterdam twice last year, so it’s good to be back. We’ve got some friends here who we met last time. I actually got to spend my Birthday here, so Amsterdam is close to heart. We’re playing Cologne for the first time this tour and Stockholm as well, so that’ll be cool.
TM: What was the reception you got in the UK like? Has that been good?
Dec: Yeah, really good. It’s always exciting playing new places. You get a bit nervous over what the turnout is going to be like. But it’s been a good mixture of old school punk fans – which is a dream to have their seal of approval, cause I know how crazy they are about their punk – and we’ve had loads of young kids too, which is cool. It’s good to have their support, so really good crowds yeah.
TM: Where do you get the craziest Amyl and the Sniffers crowds?
Dec: Sydney is usually pretty nuts. They’ve got these strict lockout laws for venues, they close at like 1am, it’s a bit fascist, so they party a bit harder. Manchester was pretty wild and there have been a few crazy ones in America like Seattle and L.A. as well.
TM: Is it just fans going crazy or do things sometimes get weird?
Dec: I actually feel like I had a weird story, but I can’t remember it now. Maybe it wasn’t even on tour. Oh, a bird pooed on me today in my hair, that was kind of terrible.
TM: That’s meant to be good luck though right?
Dec: Yeah, yeah. Hopefully, cause I just put some bleach in my hair last night and I really, really regretted it, cause I take my hair really seriously.
And then my first walk outside with my new hair and I got shat on by a bird. I thought I might have made a mistake with it maybe, but no, looking in the mirror I’m pretty proud of how it looks now.
TM: Are you still rocking the mullet?
Dec: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a big fluffy one. I get told a lot that I should shave it right down, but it’s always men who tell me that. I get a lot of compliments from girls about my hair, so I just can’t do it.
TM: Definitely keep it. Have you seen many mullets in Europe?
Dec: For me personally I want to make a bit of a cultural revolution with the band. If we can get a look associated with our music, like the mullet, then I’ll be really proud and chuffed with that. Bristol actually has had the most mullets so far. They had a lot of mullets.
TM: How important is style to the band? Because you have quite a definitive look…
Dec: It’s not super important, but it’s something that we value if you know what I mean. When we first recruited Gus to be in the band, before we heard him play bass, he had a leg up on everyone else because he did had a mullet. It’s just this thing I’m really passionate about and I think Amy is too, we had to do some convincing with Bryce.
For me I never did it to be different, that’s just how I wanted my hair and everyone else should have their hair this way too. If it became mainstream and really popular, it wouldn’t bother me.
We all talk about each other’s looks and clothes and we go shopping with each other and every time someone gets new clothes we compliment if we like them and help each other choose what we get.
So I guess the look is important, but not in a way that we take it too seriously. It’s just all part of the passion and the music and the sound and the look you know.
TM: And you were all flatmates originally before Amyl and the Sniffers got together?
Dec: So we were all housemates and we used to cut and bleach each other’s hair and we went out and partied together and had after parties at our house. We were like that classic, all on welfare, struggling to get by, eating shit microwave meals and spending about 90% of the money we got on alcohol and drugs.
We were just going out in Melbourne, a lot of clubbing and going to gigs and we thought we might as well start a band. I guess all of that atmosphere of being in that shitty sharehouse just went into the birth of the band and that’s where it came from.
TM: So it was all pretty organic the way it developed rather than forced?
Dec: No, not all. Seriously, we just set up the instruments and plugged in. We were never like, let’s play this gig or it’d be cool to play with this band or sound like this. We were just four people forming our own thing. It’s that crazy thing like all of a sudden three years later here I am in Amsterdam for the third time (laughs).
It’s just one of those things that as I stand here explaining it, I know this is one of these really rare things that happens every ten years in music or something where something really weird happens.
TM: We think the upcoming debut album is brilliant, how different was the recording of it compared to your first EP that was recorded in 12 hours? Guessing it was a bit different?
Dec: Yeah, it was heaps different because we did that first EP all in that time. This time it was done in a real studio, with a producer who actually produces for their job. It was pretty interesting, it made things a lot easier.
Akin to the original EP we were still very pressed for time, we had to record twelve songs, I think we recorded thirteen, but one got left off. We had to do like a song a day, and I think we did three on the first day.
So I guess that original element of rushing it and not overthinking it, just putting it down and letting it go. That’s all on this album too.
TM: What’s your favourite track?
Dec: I like ‘GFY’, which stands for Go F**k yourself. We wrote it about two weeks before we recorded it, that’s good, and I get to shred on that. ‘Monsoon Rock’ as well. I remember writing that riff, every time I start it on stage I love playing that.
We did an album version of ‘Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)’, we’ve already released it, but we re-recorded it for the album and there’s a four-part guitar solo that goes on for like two minutes, so I like that one too.
TM: In your new video for the single ‘Got You’, all the band are on leads and Amy feeds and waters you all. Does that reflect your relationships with her?
Dec: She’s definitely the boss. We’re very diplomatic, but she leads the band on the stage and off. She puts in all the hard yards, does the emails and organises all the bullshit that goes with being a band, she does all of that. Amy never tells us what to do musically, but behind the scenes, she’s definitely the boss.
TM: She seems like a proper force of nature, you all do on stage…
Dec: She’s like Superman or something, she’s crazy.
TM: Who’s the worst behaved out of all the band?
Dec: I guess it depends what you mean by badly behaved. In terms of partying, I guess us boys do a lot more. Amy doesn’t party as much as us. She looks after herself a lot better than what we do. She does it all on stage and we do it at the after parties.
TM: Do you guys have a rider that you ask for?
Dec: So we just ask for normal beers, no ales, just lagers, Pilsners. And then a bottle of vodka or Jameson depending on how we feel, what the night before was. Usually, if it’s the night before a big night then we have vodka and if we’re going to have a big night we have Jameson’s. And we also ask for fruit and vegetables for the next day and a couple of corn chips.
TM: What’s your go-to lager? Do you ask for Aussie beers?
Dec: In Australia we get VB, that’s my favourite beer. Usually, in America, we get PBR and Modelo. In England, it’s just Red Stripe and Fosters.
TM: Do you miss any Aussie home comforts when you’re out on tour?
Dec: The Last tour I took Vegemite with me, but I didn’t use it as much as I thought I would. And every time I flew into America they’d always open up my bag and check it. So I thought I may as well not bring that anymore.
I mean we’re only away for six weeks this time, so there’s nothing you really miss. Also the Crobar in London, we just went there, they have VB, so we had all the Rough Trade family buying us VBs all night.
TM: What was it like touring the States with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard?
Dec: It was amazing, really, really exciting. The thing that we learned most from King Gizzard was the work ethic that they put into it. I knew they worked hard – recording five albums in one year. But when I saw them rehearsing, during soundchecks, playing for an hour and a half to two hours and the discipline they have over when they party and how much they party, all that sort of stuff.
We got to play a song with them on stage in New York and it was one of the scariest experiences of my life musically as they’re just all such disciplined musicians. They’re all so talented and so tight, they’re like the All Blacks of bands, there’s no weakness. That’s why I really admire them.
Also, we did 22 gigs in 24 days throughout America and every single night they played for an hour and a half to two hours, so they’ve got incredible stamina as well.
TM: That’s impressive. What would you be doing right now if you hadn’t gotten a career in music?
Dec: I was originally studying politics at University and I had a job stacking shelves, but I didn’t want to do that my whole life. I’ve done some work before for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, like workers unions. I sort of fancied the idea of working for a trade union, who knows where it might have gone, that was my passion outside of music, dealing with workers rights. Very different.
TM: Who have been your main musical influences?
Dec: I guess a lot of the old Aussie rock. I get influenced by the energy and emotion of music. I wouldn’t try and rip off another band’s riff. I’d be like this riff makes me feel this way, I’m going to write a riff that makes me feel that way too.
My influence would be that Australian, real tough rock, drinking culture that AC/DC came out of in the 70s and 80s and a couple of other smaller bands. In terms of guitarists, my favourite is ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke from Motörhead, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple.
TM: All good influences. So with so much on the horizon, how do you see the future panning out for Amyl and the Sniffers?
Dec: I’m feeling really good about the future. The tour’s going really well. I mean it’s a really, really weird time, we’re about to have our debut album coming out and it’s going to be released by labels worldwide, which is the first time we’ve been pushed overseas. So, I’m really excited, but I’m also shitting myself!
I don’t know how big this is all going to get because every single week and day we have people from the industry and fans coming to our gigs that are really excited about the band.
I see the level that King Gizzard are on, they play to thousands of people and hopefully, we can get to that level. If it gets any bigger than that, then it’s a bonus.
We’ll see how we go, I guess it’s about getting on the grind and making it a thing, do an album a year or whatever. Who knows, hopefully, every time we come back the rooms get bigger and the money gets bigger as well (laughs).
The awesome self-titled debut album from Amyl and the Sniffers will be released on May 24th. Pre-order it from Rough Trade HERE.
For the latest on the band and to see the rest of their tour dates visit: https://www.amylandthesniffers.com/
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