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Sweet 16 podcast: Amyl & The Sniffer’s Amy Taylor recalls her pivotal teenage year

"I remember for my Year 12 exam I rapped ‘Ice Ice Baby’ with a full band"

From issue 148 of Loud And Quiet, our Sweet 16 feature with Amy Taylor from Amyl & The Sniffers is below. 

Listen to its 8-minute podcast version via your private L&Q membership RSS feed. To access it and listen to previous Sweet 16 episodes, hit the ‘subscribe to podcast’ button here. if you get stuck.  

Amy was talking to Stuart Stubbs

Amy Taylor: My birthday is January 4th, so I turned 16 at the beginning of 2012. I was living in Mullumbimby, which is in northern New South Wales, right by the beach. All you UK people would know Byron Bay, and it’s not too far from there. It’s a small beach town that’s pretty gentrified now, but when I grew up there it was heaps of hippies, farmers and bogans, who are kind of just really Australian – y’know, someone who swears and has cars. I was a bit of a hippy and a bit of a bogan. I grew up on three acres and we lived in the shed. My mum and dad grew up in western Sydney. Then they moved up to Mullumbimby. They bought that property for really cheap – it was farmland that was sub-divided. There was nothing on there and they lived in a caravan for four or five years and just planted trees with no electricity. So they were hippies then, and then they builtthe shed, which we lived in. And when we were living in the shed my dad built the house.

I had two jobs then. One at this small business where a woman made crafts and ribbons, so I’d put ribbons onto little spools and make up craft packs. And I also worked at the supermarket. I loved chatting to the customers. It was my favourite thing. I just like being around people who aren’t like me – I like talking to old ladies: people who do things that are different to me. I’ve always preferred that to being around my peers.

My social life was pretty small; I didn’t have a lot of friends at that stage – I was a bit of a loner. I had a boyfriend at the time and he was intense, in hindsight. He was homeless, and he’d move back in with his parents and get kicked out again constantly. He was like my best friend at the time, and because of that I lost most of my friendship group. But it happened over a couple of years, and because I was a kid, I was like, “This is normal, this is chill.” But I was definitely not equipped to deal with that.

I liked school when I applied myself, but I had a real problem with authority when I was told what to do. I never wore uniform ever; I wore other stuff and was always getting into trouble for that. It was just a public school, so it was just black pants and blue tops, but I couldn’t even stand that. But I was polite and straight-up with the teachers – I was able to talk to them like humans, and I loved learning. I still do. I guess what was going on in my personal life, when it came to authority I was like, fuck that shit.

One of my electives was music class, so I learned the drums really basically. I remember for my Year 12 exam I rapped ‘Ice Ice Baby’ with a full band, and then my teacher came up to me afterwards, after the markers left, and he was like, “Amy, I really thought you were going to do well.” I mean, he was playing piano in ‘Ice Ice Baby’, but he thought I was going to nail it, but I just fucking cooked it. I lost my voice. Y’know, it’s constant rapping, and I had no breathing techniques at all. But look at me now, Mr Fletcher!

I had no plans. I thought I might go to Japan and teach English as a second language for a bit, but I didn’t really know. We didn’t form Amyl and the Sniffers until 2016, and I moved to Melbourne when I was 17 or 18. I just worked in weird places, and then I thought I’d go and study something, so I studied music business. I like all of that stuff, and I like business, heaps. I know that I’m smart and I don’t want my brain to rot – I want to learn.