Like a lot of us, Amy Taylor and Gus Romer lost track of time a bit over the past few years. When the Amyl & the Sniffers frontwoman and bass player talk to Broadsheet, they can’t agree what year they recorded their most recent album, Comfort to Me. (2020, ahead of a 2021 release, for the record.)
Led by powerhouse punk and pub rock tunes like “Security” and “Hertz”, it’s a fitting product of Melbourne’s lockdowns – a little bit reflective, a lot unhinged.
The pandemic was a “transformative time”, Taylor says. “Everyone in Melbourne was hit so hard. And there were so many different stages. The first one where it’s kind of a funny joke. And everything’s crazy. And then the months go by and you’re like, ‘Oh wait, I’m kind of losing my mind. Where’s everything I loved? And who am I? And what is life?’ So yeah, frustrating, but also kind of formative … It definitely changed who I was and who I am.”
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Members of the band, which formed originally in Balaclava (“Chapel Street across from the cop shop”), lived together during the first year of the pandemic and spent their time writing ahead of studio sessions for the album. Then, of course, nothing. No gigs, no tours. For an outfit known for its blazing live performances – which had been gathering momentum overseas ahead of 2020 – it felt like a whimper rather than a bang.
Was there ever concern the band’s trajectory might stall? “We don’t think too much about the future,” Romer says. “We think of stuff we want to do,” Taylor adds. “We get excited and make plans. But we don’t think of it in terms of how much success we’ll get.”
Amyl & the Sniffers is very much a live band – great on the stereo, transformative on stage. Thankfully, the “bang” happened (and keeps happening). In the past 18 months the band made its US TV debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers, supported Liam Gallagher at England’s iconic Knebworth Festival and toured with Smashing Pumpkins. (Next year there’s a US jaunt with Foo Fighters on the cards.)
In typical bass player fashion, Romer describes his performance style as quite muted. “I just go off on random tangents mentally, whilst kind of engaging in what I’m doing,” he explains.
Meanwhile, no one can miss Taylor. Thrashing and shadow-boxing; half singing, half shouting; bold red lips and somehow-chic mullet; crackling with energy. After the forced hiatus of lockdowns, she doesn’t take her stage time for granted. These days, performing is something like a “flow state”, she says.
“I feel like I’m both like highly present and also nowhere at all … I’m just hearing the music. And I’m just dancing. And I’m just thinking about how to perform the song. And I’m looking at everybody and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, this is cool.’”
Right now, the band is gearing up for Always Live – 17 days of live music across Victoria that will see Amyl & the Sniffers play regional towns around the state (including Meeniyan, Castlemaine and Wodonga), finishing with an under-18s gig in Melbourne on December 8.
The mostly sold-out shows are the last of the Comfort to Me album touring cycle and will be the band’s final Australian shows for at least six months. Romer is looking forward to playing for rural crowds (always “down to get rowdy”) and sampling rural bakery pies, while Taylor is particularly excited for the under-age show.
The band attracts a diverse crowd, she says. Tradies, punks, grandmas. “Pretty much everyone, to be honest. There’s a lot of dads with their daughters – like a 22-year-old daughter and a 50-year-old dad. There’s lots of couples. People from literally all different age groups … I feel like there’s like all different genders and different colours and people expressing themselves in different ways.”
Always Live events run from November 24 to December 10.
This article first appeared in Domain Review, in partnership with Broadsheet.
Want to know more about Always Live? Head here for the full program.