Can't Be Muzzled: Amyl And The Sniffers Interviewed
"It’s always tempting to get drunk."
Thus opines Amyl & the Sniffers’ guitarist Declan Martens over the phone, having just commenced a thirsty 13-hour gap ‘twixt mid-morning soundcheck and midnight headline slot at Primavera, Barcelona.
"And there’s a lot of beers back here."
His band, a raggedy bunch of misfits from Down Under named after maligned teen party drug poppers, are unequivocally a buzz act right now. They’ve gone from bashing out 20-minute sets of scruffy punk in Queensland boozers, to some of the biggest festival stages in Europe and the US, and have just released a shiny new album produced by Arctic Monkeys hitmaker Ross Orton. I’m curious how they translate that spit and sawdust vibe to the big leagues.
“There was blood at our very first show,” recalls Declan of those swashbuckling early days. “[Lead singer] Amy chipped a tooth as well I remember, and we all just kept going.”
“We still get great crowd responses, but some crowds don’t want to necessarily party as hard. Europeans are a bit more polite than Americans, we’re discovering. ”
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So what do they do when the crowd is a bit lacklustre?
“We generally just hurl a bunch of abuse,” he explains “Shout louder, play harder – that does the trick.”
In the studio, too, with Orton (who co-crafted Arctic Monkeys international juggernaut AM in 2013) the bogan-haired quartet have somehow managed to niftily preserve the gung-ho energy of their larval stage and still create something with real radio polish.
“I guess we had more time to go over things this time. But we still just bashed it out as if it was live. The key is we don’t over-think. If it’s not coming naturally, it’s not Amyl and the Sniffers.”
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Singer Amy Taylor writes lyrics live in the rehearsal room, while Declan and drummer Bryce Wilson hammer out lean pop-punk riffs that manage to be both incendiary and uncannily danceable. They have this one song about having a pushbike stolen, and I wonder how it came about.
“Nobody’s bike actually got stolen,” recalls Declan. “That never happened. There’s a band back in Melbourne, mates of ours, called WOD. The singer of WOD ripped off the bass player’s girlfriend’s haircut, like, just straight up copied her look, and then wrote a fucken song called ‘I Stole Your Haircut’."
"They changed it to 'Bike' because they thought it would work better I guess, and we thought it would be funny to write a response.”
Apparently the whole poppers-name thing does raise the odd eyebrow when going through customs, especially in more drug-paranoid places like the USA.
“But, like my mum always says,” begins Declan, adorably, “If they let a band called ‘Megadeth’ in then they should absolutely let Amyl & the Sniffers in.”
And by the way, if any poppers manufacturers are thinking of endorsing the band: “Absolutely, if you give us a million bucks each. I’d probably be the face of poppers for a few hundred, to be fair.”
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They’re having fun on their adventures, that much is clear.
“We’re always the worst people in the room. We’re always the loudest, the drunkest. Our tour manager especially is an absolute nuisance. A rascal. He sprays us with beer, and like, always eats more food than anybody. Like, more than whole other bands put together."
So they're keeping it real. “We’re just doing what we used to do back home in Australia, at the pub, but with more encouragement.”
As we finish chatting, and as I sense we’re getting on quite well, I tell Declan Martens my favourite joke about Australian people. Basically: What’s the difference between Australia and a glass of milk? If you leave a glass of milk out for a bit it’ll develop a culture.
Fortunately he laughs.
“Yeah, that’s fair dinkum mate.”
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'Amyl And The Sniffers' is out now on Rough Trade.
Words: Andy Hill
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