Any blonde woman in a punk band is probably going to elicit comparisons to Courtney Love sooner or later, but Amy Taylor of Melbourne’s Amyl & the Sniffers gives off some serious Nancy Sinatra vibes.
“Sick!” she says in approval, by phone from Australia. “Yeah, I love that bitch. I’ve never seen her do a live show, but I really love Nancy Sinatra and I think she’s cool.”
Also, she adds, “I’ve never listened to Courtney Love.”
Amyl & the Sniffers are cheekily named for a certain semi-legal chemical that’s often marketed as a VCR head cleaner but also used for recreational and medical purposes. Arguably, Rush is also named for poppers, but Geddy Lee and the rest of those Canadian prog rockers probably took themselves a little more seriously than this Aussie quartet does.
As punks, they’re firmly in the 1970s tradition of loud guitar shredding and screamy lyrics, accentuated by Taylor’s not-quite-girlishness. They’re gogo boots and mullets and all-night parties and AC/DC and trashing the venue and short songs with lyrics about junk food or which rhyme “hooker” with “club booker.” Seeing Taylor perform, often in very short shorts, brings you in close approximation to what it must have been like two generations ago, in 1977, when all this was new for the first time. There’s a bit of Yolandi Visser from Die Antwoord in there, too, but Taylor is not an art-school drop-out. She used to work for a gas company until she got tired of it.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to pick something I like and use my brain a bit and I’ll get on government benefits so I can experience Melbourne a little bit instead of just working all day,’ ” she says.
There’s not a single American who can read that remark in its full flippancy and not die of envy just a little.
The breeziness doesn’t end there, either. Taylor says she lived with her bandmates, who were all in other bands, and she had a drum kit in her room. Calum Newton, the bassist at the time, decided to mike everything up, so they wrote and recorded their first EP, 2016’s Giddy Up, in one go, mixing and mastering it that very night.
“We made some shitty artwork and put it out the next day,” Taylor says. “But if you look back, they’re pretty much just demos.”
The Sniffers took greater care with subsequent releases — an LP is due out in a couple months, with stomper single “Monsoon Rock” already available — but almost as quickly as they threw the whole project together, they started blowing up, opening for Foo Fighters and leaving a trail of moderate destruction behind them in London. One day they were on a five-date tour of Australia and the next, they were on the road for six or seven months, a nice palate cleanser from all the atmospheric synthpop acts emanating from the seventh continent these days. Another EP, Big Attraction, followed in 2017. Celebrating the band’s third birthday on Twitter a few days ago, Taylor was surprised at the order and pace in which it all happened.
“We were going to put it out last year,” Taylor says of the soon-to-be-released full-length, “but we got busy and lazy.”
Suddenly, the musician who almost sounded like an antisocial dropout is reproaching her own work ethic — which has to be prodigious enough to vie for and win the Levi’s Music Prize and the cash that comes with that. It’s what enabled them to travel to the U.S. without going further into debt, in fact, although it’s kind of funny to imagine raucous punks sitting down to get all the documentation together on their application.
“Fuck yeah,” Taylor says, laughing. “We’re a business band.”
Amyl & the Sniffers are as much a visual as aural experience, as San Francisco will see on Friday, March 22, when they play Thee Parkside, but not without some consequences. Taylor has started to favor performing in sneakers over boots, owing to an injury she sustained on stage last year during their first Australian headline tour, squatting and feeling a rip.
“I was like, ‘I think I’ve done something,’ and we ended up staying out until three o’clock and then I hobbled home and I was in so much pain I couldn’t sleep, so I sat in the backyard until dawn, like, ‘I’m fucking hurting!’ ” she recalls. “Then we were in Brisbane for another three days, and I was like ‘I gotta go to a doctor, this is getting worse.’ The doctor was like, ‘Yeah, you’ve torn your cartilage.
“I was meant to get an operation but I didn’t. It’s mostly chill but sometimes it hurts or clicks or something,” she adds. “At least I got legs.”
Amyl & the Sniffers with Nopes and Manback, Friday, March 22, 9 p.m., at Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St. $13, theeparkside.com