Amyl and The Sniffers
Amy Taylor looks like she’s trying to pick a fight when she sings. And by the razor-edged gnash of her voice, you know she’d win. Taylor prowls along the stage, body thrashing, knuckles squeezed so tight they’re white and ready to strike, teeth bared, her bleached mullet whipping, death glaring at the crowd as if we had murmured a snide comment at her on the street and she has a fist full of things to say about it. Taylor’s relentless adrenaline is astounding, as she rapidly darts here and there like a hot-wired car with the break lines cut. On their first tour in America, Amyl and The Sniffers did not come to fuck around.
The band has been head banging and wailing all the way from Melbourne, electrifying each stage with their street-fight-punk riffs, scathing choruses, propelled by Taylor’s hardcore gutty belting. The release of their first full-length album Amyl and The Sniffers takes this generation of over production back to the days of plug-in-and-play acidic magic, so raw it stings like a skinned knee.
On the first show of their tour at Burger Boogaloo, Taylor seizes the mic and begins her set by screeching, “This song is for everyone I hate and it’s called ‘Go Fuck Yourself!’” And isn’t there so much to hate in a time like this? Isn’t there so much to be angry about? Amyl and her Sniffers fight fire with fire, anger with even angrier music, through tongue-in-cheek commentary on everything from the sexism we know all too well, to ‘70s street munchies.
Even over the phone, Amy Taylor’s spark and spunk is undeniably blaring. From justifiably correcting me on the amount of female performers on the Burger Boogaloo lineup, to scorning the double standards that still exist in the punk scene, Taylor is blazing a trail for us mutts who can’t be muzzled.
Check out the Q&A below!
Punk rock can often be seen as somewhat of a boys’ club. What has it been like entering the punk scene as female lead singer? Was it ever difficult? At times, do you feel like you have to prove yourself?
Sometimes I definitely do feel like I have to prove myself. They expect me to think that I should, and I don’t really want to explain myself to people ‘cause I’m just doing what I’m doing and keeping my head focused on what I like. When I first started, when I was little and would go to punk shows or whatever, I wasn’t even that conscious that I was a girl. I was like, “Hell yeah I’m like the tiniest person in this mosh pit!” But it never really dawned on me that I was different than them. I suppose as I have gone on it’s sort of something I’m proud of. There was never a time where I was like, “Damn I’m a chick in a male dominated field.” I’ve always seen it as, “I can enter this scene as me, who’s tough and wild. And I can shout out any person in the way who disagrees with that or disagrees with us being around.”
Would you say punk is still this all boys’ club? Or has it evolved?
I do really think we have come a long way. There’s so many women in music who have sort of paved the way and made it easier for us. There’s definitely a lot of sexism still, and it’s sort of an underlying issue, where it’s not so blatant like, “Oh girls are pussies and they can’t play music.” But instead it will be, “Uh… yeah, they’re pretty but they’re not the best musicians.” Yeah I think it still exists but in a different way. There’s so many tough, strong women that it’s sort of irrelevant anyway ‘cause we can do our own thing.
Why do you think this is a good time to be making angry music?
There’s so much to be angry about! I mean there’s always stuff to be angry about. You know, the government is fucked up, everyone is pretty much broke: in Australia I don’t know a single person who is ever gonna own a house. I guess a lot of anger comes from feeling powerless, and trying to regain some sort of power. Just as well, it feels so powerful as a group to be rowdy and pushing everyone. That consensual violence that comes with shows, that’s something I always really loved. And you need it! Because I get so agro, and I love the aggression! You can get rid of that.
I completely feel the same way. Especially with moshing and crowd surfing. It’s like the most therapeutic way to physically get out your anger, with a whole group of other people.
Hell yeah! It’s just so exciting, you need to. And I think a lot of people are feeling the same way I am feeling, careless and angry. And it’s taken me awhile to figure out what I am angry about.
You emphasize and vocalize the sexism and the misconceptions of femininity that plague women daily in a very clever and comical way. Why do you think it’s important to embed these themes in your music?
Well I think it’s important for other people to hear it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and it’s comical. I don’t feel like you get anywhere yelling and saying, “You’re wrong and I’m right.” It’s sort of saying, “Hey here’s an experience I’ve had, that I’ve lived through.” But I kind of think it’s funny because it’s so ridiculous, you know? I’m sure lots of other women, or people who identify as a woman feel the same. And we can sort of laugh at it, but also rage with it at the same time and be like, “that’s pretty fucked up.” It’s my tongue-in-cheek commentary, and commentary on experiences really. I’m pretty lucky in the way that a lot of the sexism I face is in the subtleties. There’s a lot of stubleties, where it’s strange if you say something on the spot because it’s so subtle, but you go back and think, “No, that was actually someone being kind of sexist.” [laughs]
Totally! And then you think of the comeback in your head like five hours later
[Laughs] Yeah! Like a sassy, “Yeah I should have said that.” And I love people like Dolly Parton and Cardi B; I love flirty sexy women, and not even necessarily sexy, but women who show off their lady bits and just flaunt whatever they got! Especially in the punk scene, it’s sort of, “Oh you’re just a starfucker” or whatever. But hell no, we just like dressing like this! And I think that’s a lot of what I feel in the moment. When the hardcore dudes are up on stage and take their shirt off—they’re like “oh he’s working hard up there, that’s why he’s half naked.” But if a female punk singer is doing that—there’s often a bit of like, “Oh yeah, sure their band is great, but people are only here ‘cause she’s hot.” You know? That kind of shit, that kind of attitude, which I don’t really agree with.
I was wondering specifically with your song, which is both funny and so real, “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” is that song about someone in particular, and do you think they’ve heard the song?
[Laughs] Um not really anyone in particular. When I wrote it, I was going through some stuff with a dude, where he was seeing other people and whatever, and that really pissed me off. But it’s kind of… yeah he’s definitely heard it [laughs]. It’s also just a breakin’ up with society song, like “Does anyone here expect you to be all timid and on a leash and well behaved?” And when they walk away because you’re not, I’m glad you walked away, cause I’m still a crazy bitch and I’m lovin’ it!
How have you approached this new album, Amyl and The Sniffers differently than you have with your other releases?
Everything else we’ve done has been DIY. I was really proud to do it myself. We had a different bassist at the time, and he recorded everything in our house, and you know, we used to make our own t-shirts. The first two EPs we put out, we just put them on bandcamp, no body released it for us. For this one, we have labels and shit now so it’s a whole new and exciting thing for us. We recorded it with somebody else who wasn’t in the band, we didn’t live with them. So that was cool, because we had never done something like that before. We just sort of took some time off gigs, and it was maybe two weeks or something. And we already had most of the songs written, and we just kind of smashed the out and tried to make it sound as energetic and raw and live as possible. We wanted to be proud of it and we wanted to prove that we have gotten a bit better as musicians, because when we first started none of us could really play instruments. I couldn’t sing and shit, we were just fuckin’ around having a good time. I think we wanted to prove that we actually love doing this, and this is a bit better. We never wanted to be famous, or thought we would make money. Not that we are really either of those things now, but it’s definitely come a long way.
What’s your favorite ‘70s street munchies spot?
[Laughs] I did not expect you to say that. Well ‘cause we’re in America, we’re trying all your fast food out, and that’s pretty exciting. Even gas station hot dogs are so good. Like I tried that chilis stuff for the first time, I had a chili dog and that was so good. [laughs]
Wow I am now going to get that for lunch. To finish this off, what advice do you have for young girls trying to scream their way into the punk scene?
Don’t listen to what anybody is telling you to do. Just do what’s right for you. And just don’t listen to what anybody is saying, really. I’m sure you’re great and just fucking do it. And if you want to do it, just do it. Don’t worry if you’re shit, because there’s a million fucking shit old dude bands that their might as well be a million shit female bands. Hold your head high. Fuck the world. Stay hydrated. Fill the world with love and power and do what you need to do.