Lassoing old and new influences from the paddocks of rock’n’roll, hardcore and punk, Amyl and the Sniffers’ second album Comfort To Me busts the barriers completely, and finds the four-piece with both motivation and message honed to a pike.
When you strip away all of life’s decorations– money, possessions, other peoples motivations, even your CV of achievements – the only thing you really have control over in the here-and-now is your energy, and where you choose to direct it. That idea could be interpreted as the driving message behind Amyl and the Sniffers’ new album Comfort To Me, made most manifest in its lead single Guided By Angels: “Energy, good energy, and bad energy/ I’ve got plenty of energy/ It’s my currency/ I spend, protect, my energy, currency.”
“All I am is my energy and how I choose to use it,” Amy Taylor attests. She’s sitting in her kitchen for our Zoom call, having just flipped her wet hair out of a towel alongside a quick tete-a-tete with Declan Martens – the band’s guitarist, also on our call – about whether or not she remembers what a scratch track is. (“You should know what a scratch track is, Amy!” he chides. “I don’t!” she insists. More on that later.) “For example,” Amy continues, “if I want to get better at something and I don’t put much energy into it, then I’m never going to get better at it. Or if I have no energy, all I am is a pile of human in a bed. So I guess it’s the only tangible thing we actually have. That’s kind of the real currency, to me.”
The rest of the songs can be considered as frank expressions of how to invest that currency. Freaks To The Front is about reserving your precious energy for those who will salute your freak flag (“If they don‘t like you, just ignore the c-nt!”); Choices is about the frustration with having to spend energy on navigating equality (“Does my opinion really make you that sick?”); and Knifey is the exhaustion of energy spent on personal safety (“All I ever wanted was to walk by the park, all I ever wanted was to walk by the river… Please, stop f-cking me up!”).
Then there’s the joyous and brilliantly-titled Hertz, about the pleasure of spending energy on the bliss of driving out of the city and into the countryside.“I went for a drive yesterday, just an hour out of the city, literally just had a look around,” Taylor says with a huge grin of remembrance. “I had the best day of my life! I was sprinting up and down piles of mud just going, ‘Yee-ha! Yee-ha!'” (In his own Zoom window, Dec is smiling to himself.) “I felt so happy out there,” Taylor continues, “I was laughing all day. I saw a full half-rainbow, and I was like, ‘If I was in the city I would only have seen a little quarter of that motherf-cker!’ Then just before I got on [Zoom with you] now, I went for a run in the city. And I was like, ‘Yeah, this is kind of crap.'”
The elation in the track comes through in Declan’s guitar, one of many wild-eyed solos across the album. Here‘s where the scratch track detail comes in: Dec was playing the solo with no intention of actually using it. “The only thing you use from the scratch track is the drums and the bass,” he explains. “The guitar and vocals just play along, so the drummer and bassist know where you are in the song. So I was just mucking around on that solo – I just went for it. I had a weird phaser effect on, a similar effect to what Eddie Van Halen uses. We finished and I was like, ‘Hey Dan [Luscombe, producer], were you recording that?'”
If the lyrics and sonics somehow weren’t enough to convey the memo, take a glance at the video for Security– a track in which Taylor laments a bouncer‘s reluctance to let her in to the pub, even though she’s simply “looking for love” – which is a one-shot take of Taylor dancing alone in a cemetery. It’s kind of disarming to see someone dancing for all she’s worth with nary a practised, TikTok-ready move in sight. “Completely spontaneous and expressive,” Taylor agrees with glee. “No routine, no choreography. It just came out weird. Just celebrating life. And where’s a better place to do that than where everyone’s dead?”
You might have recognised the aesthetic of Comfort To Me‘s cover art; it‘s the work of Portuguese/NYC artist Braulio Amado, who (in addition to his own work) produces a lot of material for musicians, such as tour posters for Robyn and remix cover art for Roisin Murphy.He came to the band’s attention as a collaborator with PHC films, which created Comfort To Me‘s high-spirited clips. “I saw [his art and] was like, ‘That‘s sick’,” says Amy. “The cover to me is kind of, my face and my brain and it’s all exploded everywhere. And I felt like that, lyrically… that’s what [the album] sounds like to me. It’s perfect.”
COMIN’ IN RED-HOT
Comfort To Me comes in fire-engine red vinyl exclusive to JB Hi-Fi (pictured above), and the story behind the choice is a classic affectionate stitch-up. “We went through a bunch of colours and options, and then were like, ‘That [red] one’s cool!'” says Amy. “And our bassist Gus, his last name’s Romer, and he‘s got red hair. So we were like, ‘Let’s call it Romer Red!'”
Comfort To Me by Amyl & the Sniffers is out Sep 10 via B2B Records.
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