Album Walkthrough: Amyl and The Sniffers break down the mayhem of Comfort To Me
On their daring second album, Amy Taylor and co. show off a slick new edge without losing the chaos that's made them one of Australia's most brilliant acts.
Header image and in-article image by Jamie Wdziekonski.
Amyl and The Sniffers are a band that needs no introduction, mostly because they're a band that makes themselves known by the time you reach the first chorus of any of their songs, or within the first few minutes of their anarchic live show. Led by the ever-charismatic Amy Taylor, the Melbourne-based outfit have become one of Australia's defining modern-day acts over the last few years; a gleaming light amongst the rough-around-the-edges rock world that is synonymous with the talent and prowess captured within, as well as the charm and personality that brings it to life.
This charm and personality is something Amyl and The Sniffers have oodles of - if you couldn't tell by their name. In recording, Amy Taylor darts amongst a flurry of instrumentals pieced together by the band alongside her (guitarist Dec Martens, bassist Gus Romer and drummer Bryce Wilson), as evident through their vision-defining self-titled debut album back in 2019. Then, on the live stage, their music transforms into an entirely different beast; a beast that plucks the controlled chaos of their recordings and emphasises it with all the charisma and talent that one can hold.
Over the last two years, however, that live show hasn't had the chance to shine. Instead, the band spent much of that time navigating the pandemic world within the confines of a three-bedroom Melbourne rental, where - with no distractions and nothing else to do except "listening to music, thrashing around in shorts and eating hot chips" - they began to work on their second album. "For the first time ever, we wrote more songs than we needed," says Amy in a statement accompanying the album's release. "We had the luxury of cutting out the songs that were shit and focusing on the ones we loved."
The end result is Amyl and The Sniffers' concise and focused second album Comfort To Me, which unveils an energised and evolved form of the band that has come a damn long way since their debut put them on the map three years ago. It's a little slicker and a little more polished; a clear sense of evolution being shown throughout the album without losing the trademark charm that made the band such a reckoning force from their introduction. "My brain evolved and warped and my way of thinking about the world completely changed," she says.
It's something shown through the album's production right down to its emotionally charged and often-reflective songwriting. There are songs like Freaks To The Front - fun and unbridled punk energy - side-by-side with songs like Choices, a self-empowering reminder of one's journey, and that growth through mistakes is a valid and very real thing. Songs flick between analysis on consumerism to thoughts about the bushfire crisis; Amy Taylor swinging between topics with an introspection and self-familiarity that brings the power out of each and every topic - something that developed over the course of the last year.
"This album is just us — raw self-expression, defiant energy, unapologetic vulnerability," Amy summarises the record. There's a sense of self - for Amy and each of Amyl's members, as well as the band as a whole-encompassing form - that defines Comfort To Me, and as much as that is a moment of victory for the band as they hit a newfound peak and put out their best record yet, it's also just something that comes naturally from Amyl and The Sniffers amongst the chaos of the world - chaos their music has long reflected, and now, grows from. "It was written by four self-taught musicians who are all just trying to get by and have a good time."
Comfort To Me is out now, and has already been boasted as one of the year's best records. Take a dive into the record if you haven't already below, and then underneath, read a track by track walkthrough of the album written by Amy and bassist Gus Romer, going through each track and its meaning and creation one song at a time:
1. Guided by Angels
Amy: Guided By Angels is a song about my energy – a song about being guided by something that might not necessarily be good or bad, but it’s still guiding you through. Kind of abstract, but also intense.
Gus: I wrote the music for that in Tasmania, recovering from eye surgery.
2. Freaks to the Front
Amy: A song about getting rowdy and sweaty and being at a live show and making sure all the weirdos – everybody, no matter what – that there’s space for them.
Gus: It’s a lockdown punk song. I feel like there’s been a lot of that. From what we had, and wanted, we needed some more punk, we needed more energy. Some fast aggression.
Amy: Also, the Jamie in that track when I say: “I send you a text, hey Jamie where's the party?” That’s SUB-LATION [photographer: Jamie Wdziekonski]. He’s like the fifth band member really, so it was important to give him a little shout out.
Gus: Fuck. Another one written in lockdown, another fucken one.
Amy: Choices to me, is kinda just a reminder that nobody knows what I want and nobody knows where I’ve been except for me, and the people close to me, so they shouldn’t be handing out advice. Especially, as a female, I should be allowed to make as many mistakes as I want and learn from them. And I want to make heaps and heaps of mistakes – I prefer that way of learning rather than just being told how to do everything. That’s what I love.
Gus: Security was the first song that was written on the album, on the first day that we went in the studio to write it. I wrote it in Milan when I was doing the Gucci runway thing – I was in the fucken hotel room in Milan for like a week, and I was fucken like “Milan sucks” and I was sick of doing touristy shit. We went to Rome and Venice and shit, which was fresh, but I was fucken over Milan, and I had a bass, and I just fucken wrote that there.
Amy: It’s just a fun story about when you get into a pub and stuff like that. It’s a made-up love song.
Gus: The verse of Hertz came from a draft of the chorus of Freaks To The Front, so I was trying to write a chorus for Freaks for a while, and I kept on working on it afterwards and that become the verse for Hertz.
Amy: Hertz is a fantasy about wanting to feel all the good things about nature – like the rain on you, feel salt air, feel sand, feel dirty, feel mosquitos near your face, feel human, feel sticky, feel free – see lots of grass, heaps of kilometres, and cane fields, and be in a car with fresh air coming in, and feeling hot. Also, it’s a bit of a love song fantasy as well.
6. No More Tears
Amy: Dec and I wrote that in one go. I just came over and Dec had that whole song, and he played it through, and I sung on top of it, and recorded a demo on my phone, and that was pretty much it, we didn’t change much about it. It’s about trying to start a new relationship, but having bad mental health and feeling a bit inadequate because of that.
Amy: Maggot’s about someone really, really special to me, and I spent ages writing the lyrics because I wanted it to be really sincere. The chorus is kinda about when there’s a dead carcass that’s filled up with maggots and then it looks alive again ‘cus it’s all wriggling around, because that’s kind of what love’s like.
Gus: Just before recording, we had to change the key of the song, because it wasn’t going well with Amy’s voice, and then we had to change the chorus – and it really fucking bummed me out, and I was losing the plot about it, because the bass line had to be changed. But in the end, we changed the melody in the chorus and then it went back to how it was initially intended, which I was very very happy about. It sounds way better.
Gus: Bryce and Declan wrote that – it was one of the few organic songs, musically, that came about. I think Bryce was just kinda messing around with the first bit and then him and Dec vibed off each other and wrote the rest of the song. It doesn’t happen like that for us that often.
Amy: Capital is a heavier song that’s kind of about how bizarre and strange capitalism and consumerism is and the fact that even as a band, we’re not exempt from being part of that. And as people, nobody’s really exempt or apart from that. And also, it’s a bit existential, like what’s the meaning of anything? I actually don’t think there is much meaning – we’re all just doing whatever we’re doing for some reason, which kind of sums up music as well, because you just do it to do it, because it feels good and it’s fun or whatever.
And that’s why the album is called Comfort To Me, which is the first words in Capital. It also touches on a lot of different social issues, especially within Australia – like the mistreatment of indigenous people; the fact that as a female, it’s like everybody else can sexualise me, but as soon as I do it, there’s something wrong with me. I should be allowed to exploit my body just as much as anybody else can. It’s talking about government taking tax from the pokies and ciggies, which I think is bullshit when they don’t tax big business as well.
9. Don’t Fence Me In
Amy: That’s one of my favourite songs, it’s just like a livestream of my brain, really. About not wanting to be limited at all, and not wanting anyone to hold me back and trying to prove myself. If anybody says I can’t do something, I can do it, and I want to be a part of everything, and I want to experience heaps and heaps of different things.
Gus: Another lockdown fucken track. I wrote the verse for that and then, I couldn’t write a chorus – I tried for fucken ages – couldn’t write a chorus for it, I’m not very good at writing choruses. But then Bryce came in, and pretty quickly, wrote a banger for it.
Gus: Knifey’s my favourite track on the album, for sure. It was one pretty organic song – it came from all of us, we were kind of jamming around and I came up with the verse, and Declan wrote the chorus.
Amy: That song to me is just about my experiences feeling afraid to walk around at night, that it’s unsafe. And as so many females can relate, that after dark, you can’t really walk around at night because you actually don’t know if it’s safe or not. I feel stuck by that, and I feel stressed by that, and I just want to go out and get amongst it and walk around and enjoy it. It’s something that’s so small that shouldn’t be impossible, but it borderline is. It’s talking about the fact that I would rather carry a weapon and seriously hurt somebody than have something horrible happen to me.
I don’t want to be violent, and I don’t want to be intense, but the fact is that I’m scared and I would prefer to defend myself, and I feel pushed into a corner about that. I think lots of females do, and we don’t want to be tough, but we feel we have to, because we’re scared. It’s bullshit. Even with the lockdown curfew now in Melbourne, it’s kind of like: “Well, my curfew’s always been when the sun sets, anyway.” If I know it’s gonna get dark, I don’t go for a run – something so simple, like exercise – I’m pretty athletic, and I’m pretty capable, but I still know my place, and that’s that it’s dangerous.
11. Don’t Need A Cunt (Like You To Love Me)
Amy: I love Don’t Need A Cunt, it’s just dirty rock ‘n’ roll and it’s so much fun and I love that the boys sing on it. I love that it’s short – I love short songs, and I love fast songs, and it’s fun. It’s the shortest track on the album.
Amy: I love Laughing as well. That’s just my song saying “I can be lots of different things – I can wear slutty clothes, and I can be smart; I can be cooked, and I can be dumb, and I can be anything, and you can just ‘laugh, laugh, laugh’, but I don’t mind, because I’m laughing too.”
Gus: I think that was the last song written for the album before we went into recording, from memory, but also, I have a dumbshit memory, so I could be potentially very wrong. It was written pretty quick, the last song before we went in to record.
Amy: Snakes is a sort of autobiography. Just about my upbringing in Mullumbimby, that I’m mostly quite fond of and just growing up. Dad was a crane driver, and mum worked at the post office and she studied, and I worked at IGA and was pretty fond of it, and now I’m famous, and there was snakes everywhere.
Gus: I remember that Bryce wrote this one, I was real pissed off at him because there were too many parts to the song that I had to learn, and I was mad about that, and they were kinda hard to play. Took me ages to get it, and I was like “Fuck you Bryce, why are you writing songs like this? I don’t wanna fucken learn all these bloody parts, can’t you just give me three notes, and a verse and a chorus?! Fuck!” I know how to play it now…