Amyl & The Sniffers: A Sniffstory

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Amyl & The Sniffers: A Sniffstory

Words by Mixdown Staff

Spinning A Yarn With Melbourne's Punk Globetrotters.

In Amyl & The Sniffers’ history – or “Sniffstory,” as they call it – you won’t find sweet melodies, pop hooks or production sheen. Instead, the Melbourne natives have always optioned for their sound to be live and loud – particularly when it comes to their high-octane live shows.

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When it came to creating the band’s all-important debut album, it was always going to be about how they captured the lightning in a bottle. “We’ve always known that the live show has been our key strength,” says Dec Martens, the band’s guitarist.

“We went into making the album wanting it to be as live as possible – almost using the fact that we’re a live band by trade as a bit of a crutch. We did our best not to overthink it, though. We went in and did it all the same way we’ve kind of always done it – not too many takes, making sure we nailed it as quickly as possible. I don’t think this album is the same as seeing us live, but I mean that in a good way… if you know what I mean. I feel like it stands up on its own.”

Unlike the band’s previous recordings, which were mostly done in and around their Melbourne homes, Amyl’s eponymous debut saw the band relocate to Sheffield in England’s mid-west. There, they shacked up with producer and “proud Yorkie” (as Martens describes him) Ross Orton. If his name doesn’t immediately seem familiar, several artists he’s worked with will: Arctic Monkeys, M.I.A., Jarvis Cocker, Roots Manuva and The Fall. A pairing made by the band’s European label, Rough Trade, Martens was excited by the prospect of creating with such a noteworthy producer.

“It all just worked out,” he says. “Ross had wanted to do a Rough Trade album, so we had a Skype session with him and we all thought he was really cool. It turned out that the time he was going to be available was during the time we were gonna be touring in the UK anyway. It all just fell into place, and we had a great experience working over there. I fell in love with Sheffield in the three weeks we were there. It was starting to get really cold when we got there, but it was still really special.”

The sound of Amyl & The Sniffers is very much a “what you see is what you get” prospect. Put it this way: There’s no chance of a string arrangement or layered synthesizers making their way into an Amyl cut anytime soon. The quartet make a point of being as true to their raw, gritty sound as possible – so much so to the point that Martens barely even touches guitar pedals. “I even felt guilty any time I used a delay pedal,” he adds with a laugh. “I seriously didn’t know if that was the producer’s job or not!”

“All I had for the recording was my Strat running straight into a [Marshall] JCM800. They happened to have one in the studio, and it sounded perfect for what we were going for. Nearly everything you hear on the album is just that. For a couple of other songs, I was playing a Yamaha Super Fighter. They’re really cool – they’re basically what the new Yamaha Revstar line is based on. It’s a pretty old guitar, but it still sounds like an absolute beast.”

Martens also makes mention of a “secret weapon” in his guitar set-up, and it’s something he means quite literally. “I have this boost pedal, and I have no idea what it is,” he laughs. “I bought it second-hand, after I found it at a pawn shop over in Brighton. There’s no identifying things on it, so it’s this complete mystery to me. I really want to clone it and make like 10 of them, but the PCB is glued in. If I want to see what’s inside, I’m gonna have to completely disassemble the pedal. It’s gonna take a lot of balls for me to try and do that. I don’t even mind calling it my secret weapon – mostly because it’s a secret to me as well!”

Amyl and the Sniffers’ self-titled debut is out now via Flightless Records.