The New Cue #70 September 27: Amyl & The Sniffers, Mac McCaughan, Yumiko Morioka

27 September, 2021

Good morning!

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Today is the last Monday you will ever have in September 2021. Please treat it responsibly. Enjoy the edition, see you Wednesday.

Ted, Niall, Chris

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Start The Week With… Amyl & The Sniffers

Earlier this month, Melbourne punks Amyl & The Sniffers released their second album Comfort To Me via Rough Trade. It’s excellent, a souped-up, turbo-charged version of the no-frills racket they introduced themselves with a few years ago. Chris spoke to singer Amy Taylor over Zoom from his kitchen in East London to find out what it was like sharing a house with her bandmates in lockdown, what was on her Covid reading list and compared notes on breakfast cereal…

Hello Amy, how are you?
I’m good thanks, how are you?

Not too bad, thank you. What time is it over there?
It’s 6:40pm.

How have you been spending your day?
Well, we're in lockdown at the moment so I didn't do much at all to be honest. I went for a run, washed the dishes and that’s it.

Do the rest of the band help out on that front?
I don't live with them right now. I got out. But they know how to chuck out their own Uber Eats bag.

Ah I see, I thought you were living a house with the rest of the band.
Naaaa, I got out early. I left around this time last year. It was a three-bedroom house with a shed out the back. Dec [Martens, guitarist] was in there at the start and then I took over and it had heaps of worms and stuff in there.

Fair enough wanting to leave, then. How long have you been in lockdown? That must be frustrating, having gotten out once and then going back in just before your record comes out?
Oh god, yeah, it’s so shit. I think it's been like a month we've been in lockdown. We're gonna be in at least another month. We’ve got a 9pm curfew as well - I’m over it!

Maybe you can write another album during this one as well?
Don’t count on it.

The band all moved in together at the start of Covid - did you have a plan to make an album while you were locked down?
Yeah. We moved in together in September 2019 so our plan was always to live together and make an album. And then obviously Covid hit and it slowed everything down a little bit, but it also gave us more time. When we were in actual lockdown, I did some lyric stuff and the boys did a little bit, but we only wrote when we were open and we could actually practice.

Could you not play together in the house or would that have pissed the neighbours off?
Yeah, and because it was so tiny there was nowhere to put anything either.

What was the actual house like?
It was all painted bright lime green with lino floors. It had this weird little room that kind of came out of the kitchen that was attached to the tiny, tiny bathroom which was just a toilet. There was this Thomas The Tank Engine cupboard that was painted blue with Thomas The Tank Engine on it that went all around the room like a storage box too. It was nice. It's been demolished now.

That's a shame. Maybe they’ll put a blue plaque up one day. What was it like being stuck in a house with your bandmates 24/7?
It was pretty similar to being on tour if I'm honest, except without the gig. You just sit around all day and stare at stuff and then in the night-time you have a couple of drinks. The boys had a PlayStation so that was on quite a bit. I started doing some painting for fun and doing heaps of YouTube workouts. I can also run 10 kilometres now which is pretty dope.

What’s your PB?
I can usually do a kilometre in six minutes. Nothing crazy. It usually takes me about an hour to run 10K. So not too bad. And, plus, I’m tiny so you have to factor that in. Ten steps of mine are like one of everybody else’s.

How did you find not having the release of being on stage every night?
I didn't get that cathartic thing. Also, just being around people. I think that was the main thing. I got pretty dark last year and felt pretty crap because I just really missed all of that shit. You can fill it up with everything else and try and stay positive, but at the same time it's a weird situation. It was crap. It's still crap. But I really did love running and I found pleasure in books, which I've never really done before.

What were you reading?
I read  [Yuval Noah Harari's history of mankind] Sapiens, which I liked. I read a bunch of Malcolm Gladwell books, I think he's really interesting. I read a [US actress] Fran Drescher biography, which I thought was also interesting. What else? I read these short stories by this guy called Ted Chang. That was really cool.

Going through a bit of a dark period like you said, it must have been good to have an outlet to write lyrics, even if it wasn’t specific songs at that point.
I think just having a purpose was so special. Having something to think about and something to put my energy into was really important.

You went straight from living together all of the time to going into a studio to make an album together. Were you guys not sick of the sight of each other by that point?
In a way, but at the same time I don't know. It's hard. It's like a bit like they're my brothers and I’m their sister. At times you get sick of them but at the same time you feel absolutely nothing because you’re just together and you’re just one lump. It’s not like you’re necessarily sick of them it just is what it is. We love each other heaps so it’s pretty sweet.

Once you get out of lockdown are there plans to tour?
There’s plans. We’re meant to come to the UK in November but we’ll see how we go. I think we're all pretty realistic about it. Even though we'd like to do that and it's exciting to think about that, it also might not happen. So we'll see what happens.

What are your plans for the rest of the evening, if anything?
We’re putting out a single tonight. It’ll be 11pm our time so I’m going to go to my boyfriend's house and order heaps of Uber Eats and sit on YouTube and reply to people I don’t know and then probably get drunk. That’s what I’m doing!

Well, enjoy. Thanks for taking the time to…
What’s that cereal I can see in the background?

That's my old flatmate’s box of Coco Pops. He left it behind.
No, the other one.

Oh that’s Alpen, the healthy option. Keeps me regular.
Nice, well you’re looking well. See ya!


An Album To Blow Your Mind

Superchunk frontman and Merge Records co-founder Mac McCaughan selects the ambient debut by Japanese pianist Yumiko Morioka.  

Yumiko Morioka
Resonance (1987)

“The phrase ‘album to blow your mind’ has a slightly violent ring to it - I think Resonance falls more into the ‘album to sooth your mind’ category, which is what I think many of us haveneeded over the last couple years. It's a beautiful album of piano music living somewhat in the world of Japanese "environmental music" of the 1980s but with a touch more movement and purpose. While I can put this record on and let it drift by, songs like Rainbow Gate are super memorable and many of the themes and string melodies are stuck in my head. It’s oneof my most-listened to albums of the lockdown, along with Hiroshi Yoshimura's GreenKaitlyn Aurelia Smith's Tides and Mary Lattimore's Silver Ladders. While she wrote and produced pop music under an alias for years, this is the only album Morioka has released under her name. It was recorded in 1987 and reissued recently on Métron. I’m going to go put it on now.”

Mac McCaughan’s new album The Sound Of Yourself is out now on Merge.

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