Acclaimed Melbourne-based punk act and JOVM mainstays Amyl and The Sniffers — Amy Taylor (vocals), Gus Romer (bass), Bryce Wilson (drums) and Declan Martens (guitar) — formed back in 2016, and shortly after their formation, they wrote and self-recorded their debut EP Giddy Up. The following year, saw the release of the Big Attractions EP, which was packaged as a double 12 inch EP with Giddy Up released through Homeless Records in Australia and Damaged Goods in the UK.
The band exploded into the international scene with a set at The Great Escape Festival, a series of sold out London area shows and a Stateside tour opening for JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They added to a busy year with a headlining tours across both the UK and US before signing to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Flightless Records for distribution across Australia and New Zealand and Rough Trade for the rest of the world. The year was capped off with a Q Awards nomination for Best New Act and won the $30,000 Levis Prize.
Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Aussie punk quartet took 2019’s SXSW by storm. And then the band promptly released their self-tiled, full-length debut to critical applause globally while further cementing a feral and anarchic take on ’77 era punk. Adding to a breakthrough year, Amyl and the Sniffers won an ARIA Award for Best Rock Album.
Comfort To Me, the Aussie punk quartet’s highly-anticipated Don Luscombe-co-produced sophomore album was released earlier this year through ATO Records. Written during a long year of pandemic quarantining, in which the members of the band lived in the same house, the album’s material sonically draws from a heavier set of references and influences including AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Mötorhead, Wendy O. Williams, Warthog, Power Trip, Coloured Balls and Cosmic Psychos. Taylor’s lyrics and delivery were also inspired by her long live of hip-hop and garage rock.
“All four of us spent most of 2020 enclosed by pandemic authority in a 3-bedroom rental in our home city of Melbourne, Australia. We’re like a family: we love each other and feel nothing at the same time,” Amyl and the Sniffers’ Amy Taylor says in a lengthy statement on the album. “We had just come off two years of touring, being stuck in a van together eight hours a day, and then we’re trapped together for months in this house with sick green walls. It sucked but it was also nice. We spent heaps of time in the backyard listening to music, thrashing around in shorts, eating hot chips. The boys had a hard time being away from the pub and their mates, but it meant we had a lot of time to work on this record. Most of the songs were really intuitive. Main thing, we just wanted it to be us. In the small windows we had in between lockdowns, we went to our rehearsal space, which is a storage locker down the road at National Storage Northcote. We punched all the songs into shape at Nasho and for the first time ever we wrote more songs than we needed. We had the luxury of cutting out the songs that were shit and focusing on the ones we loved.
“We were all better musicians, as well, because that’s what happens when you go on tour for two years, you get really good at playing. We were a better band and we had heaps of songs, so we were just different. The nihilistic, live in the moment, positivity and panel beater rock-meets-shed show punk was still there, but it was better. The whole thing was less spontaneous and more darkly considered. The lyrics I wrote for the album are better too, I think. The amount of time and thought I put into the lyrics for this album is completely different from the EPs, and even the first record. Half of the lyrics were written during the Australian Bushfire season, when we were already wearing masks to protect ourselves from the smoke in the air. And then when the pandemic hit, our options were the same as everyone: go find a day job and work in intense conditions or sit at home and drown in introspection. I fell into the latter category. I had all this energy inside of me and nowhere to put it, because I couldn’t perform, and it had a hectic effect on my brain.
“My brain evolved and warped and my way of thinking about the world completely changed. Having to deal with a lot of authority during 2020 and realising my lack of power made me feel both more self destructive and more self disciplined, more nihilistic and more depressed and more resentful, which ultimately fuelled me with a kind of relentless motivation. I became a temporary monster. I partied more, but I also exercised heaps, read books and ate veggies. I was like an egg going into boiling water when this started, gooey and weak but with a hard surface. I came out even harder. I’m still soft on the inside, but in a different way. All of this time, I was working on the lyrics. I pushed myself heaps and heaps, because there were things that I needed to say. The lyrics draw a lot from rap phrasing, because that’s what I’m into. I just wanted to be a weird bitch and celebrate how weird life and humans are.
“The whole thing is a fight between by my desire to evolve and the fact that somehow I always end up sounding like a dumb cunt. So anyway, that’s where this album comes from. People will use other bands as a sonic reference to make it more digestible and journalists will make it seem more pretentious and considered than it really is, but in the end this album is just us — raw self expression, defiant energy, unapologetic vulnerability. It was written by four self-taught musicians who are all just trying to get by and have a good time.
“If you have to explain what this record is like, I reckon it’s like watching an episode of The Nanny but the setting is an Australian car show and the Nanny cares about social issues and she’s read a couple of books, and Mr Sheffield is drinking beer in the sun. It’s a Mitsubishi Lancer going slightly over the speed limit in a school zone. It’s realising how good it is to wear track pants in bed. It’s having someone who wants to cook you dinner when you’re really shattered. It’s me shadow-boxing on stage, covered in sweat, instead of sitting quietly in the corner.”
In the lead up to the album’s release earlier this year, I managed to write about three of the album’s released singles:
- “Guided by Angels,” a riotous, mosh pit friendly ripper centered around Taylor’s frenetic energy and punchily delivered vocals, buzzing power chords and a pub friendly, shout along with a raised beer in your hand hook. But underneath all of that, “Guided by Angels” is fueled by a defiant and unapologetic vulnerability and a rare, unshakeable faith in possibility and overall goodness; that there actually are good angels right over your shoulder to guide you and sustain you when you need them the most.
- “Security,” a Highway to Hell-era AC/DC-like anthem full of swaggering braggadocio, boozy power chords, thunderous drumming, shout along worthy hooks and Taylor’s feral delivery. Much like its immediate predecessor, the song is fueled by its narrator boldly and unapologetically declaring that they need and are looking for love — right now! “
- “Hertz,” an AC/DC-ike ripper fueled by the frenetic energy of the bored, lonely and trapped within their heads and those desperately desiring something — hell, anything — different than the four walls that they’ve gotten sick of. Interestingly, “Hertz” captures a feeling that I’ve personally struggled with during the pandemic, and I’m sure you have too. And it does so with a urgency and vulnerability that’s devastating.
Since its release last month, Comfort to Me has been a commercial and critical success: The album hit #1 on Billboard‘s Alternative New Albums Chart, #2 on both the Heatseekers and Top New Artist Albums Charts, #4 on the Independent Albums Chart, #7 on the Rock Albums Chart, #9 on the Alternative Albums Chart and it landed on the Top 20 on the Albums Sales Chart. In the UK, the album was named BBC 6 Music‘s Album of the Day, and chartered at #21 on the UK charts. And in the band’s native Australia, the album was named Triple J’s Featured Albums of the Week while charting at #2.
Australia had one of the world’s longest lockdowns — and shortly after their homeland opened up, the acclaimed Aussie punk rock outfit announced their long-awaited return to the States: the tour includes their previously announced, sold out Music Hall of Williamsburg show on December 6, 2021, which sold out in less than a day — and a 15 date North American tour that includes a May 19. 2022 Brooklyn Steel stop.
Last month, the Aussie punk rock outfit recorded a live session at Soundpark Studios in Melbourne, Australia for KEXP. Directed by Mark Bakaitis, recorded by Andrew “Idle” Hehir and mixed by Comfort to Me‘s co-producer Dan Luscombe, the KEXP set features a blistering version of “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” off their self-titled debut — but primarily centered around Comfort to Me tracks. including the aforementioned “Guided by Angels” and “Security.”