Old rona may be hanging around like a party guest who’s overstayed their welcome, but …
There are countless stories of how COVID-19 has affected musicians at pivotal points in their career—so much so that it almost seems moot to point it out when discussing music in 2021.
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However, for Melbourne’s Amyl and the Sniffers, the leading standard bearers of modern Aussie pub rock, the timing was so bad that it’s hard to think of any artist on a global stage who could have copped it worse.
Fresh off the back of their self-titled debut, the band had leapfrogged the usual 1pm Falls Festival slots occupied by up-and-coming guitar bands, instead being playlisted by BBC’s Radio 1, scoring international tours alongside hometown heroes King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard and even booking themselves an appearance at the ill-fated 2020 edition of Coachella.
The subsequent 18 months of cancellations and lockdowns may have been particularly hard to swallow for a group with the literal world at their feet—but the break in-between tours allowed them the time to finish their sophomore LP Comfort To Me.
“We weren’t able to get into the studio for about 12 months to record this … and then it took another 11 months to do overdubs, mixing … it was like a 22 month record,” says the shaggy haired Dec Martins, speaking to us over Zoom on the eve of release.
“There was more thought that went into this record in terms of song structure too … we’ve got a dropped tuning song … I don’t wanna travel with two guitars though.”
When we started out we had no idea what we were doing—we never performed well at those early gigs—it was all based on crazy shit happening.
[ Dec Martins ]
There’s an air of casualness around the band, both in a musical and personal setting.
With short answers and a laid back demeanour, the simplicity of the conversation with the boys is much the same as the meat and potatoes pub rock churned out by the group—music that Martins says is designed to give fearsome frontwoman Amy Taylor the best platform possible for her defiant contrarian anthems.
“It’s our job to give Amy the platform—to be a safe musical vessel for Amy’s lyrics” he says, noting that the band grew into their live rolls after “going on tour with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard for a month … that was what set the bar for us in terms of replicating an insane live show every night.
“When we started out we had no idea what we were doing—we never performed well at those early gigs—it was all based on crazy shit happening.
“That obviously changed in the lead up to doing this record—a lot of your identity as a musician comes from playing shows—when you have nothing to rehearse for it’s super weird.”
Comfort To Me will be a pleasing return to the air for the Amyl devout, with its old school punk sensibilities tinged by the slick production of Dan Luscombe (Courtney Barnett, Paul Kelley) and a sharper focus on concise songwriting.
“Dan had this crude studio set up near where we lived, so that was the first time that we were ever able to do demoing and pre-pro,” says Martins.
“We’d never done that before—so he was a huge part of the process of writing this album—he only stepped in when he felt he needed to.”
With a steadily growing international cult-following and new album to boot, it’s highly unlikely that the temporary pause on the live front will derail the Amyl and the Sniffers train.
With defiant hooks and gritty riffs, they’re the kind of band that fans of The Ramones and Rose Tattoo can love in equal measure—and with the songs on Comfort To Me meeting that brief, the world can look forward to what is sure to be one hell of a touring cycle when AATS are let out of the lockdown kennel.