We’re always alert for and curious about new female fronted metal bands. That’s how we found Australian symphonic metal band ANA. Coincidentally, we stumbled upon their compatriots from Perth when we found out that a band named AMMIFY are going to release their debut album Lost, Not Hiding” on June 14th. A look at their two videos for Coward’s Way Out” and The Truth Will Set You Free” were convincing enough to ask the duo behind AMMIFY, vocalist Ammy Phoenix (who was in a joyful and talkative mood) and multi-instrumentalist Peter Renzullo (the DIY musical handyman), a bunch of questions.

Interview by: Henk van Nieuwenhoven

“This entire album actually was written after I’d had a little bit of a mental breakdown and spent some time in a mental health hospital” AMMY PHOENIXAMMIFY album

According to the posts on your Facebook page, AMMIFY is a brand new band. When, where and how did you two meet?
Peter: We met back in 2017, when Ammy came into my studio to record her own songs, just her and a keyboard. It was a couple of hours, and that was it for about four or five years! I’d actually forgotten that we’d recorded back then, as I have had so many other artists come into my studio over the many years since that recording. But then Ammy was hired as a vocalist to appear on another artist’s song (Jeremy Harry Harris) who I was producing vocals for on his debut album “Walking With My Darkness”. From there, I realized what an amazing vocalist Ammy was, and I knew then that I wanted to produce more music with her for my own productions. So a feature film I was filming for a local film maker called Emilie Lowe was in the final stages of production, and she wanted me to create a theme song for it. So I hired Ammy to do the vocals for it. It was magic! And I then decided I would just keep sending her instrumental productions for her to create vocals for, and in a relatively quick time, we ended up with 14 songs and our own debut album, “Lost, Not Hiding”!AMMIFY bandpicObviously, the band was named after you Ammy. Were there any other options regarding the name of the band in the beginning?
Ammy: Yeah! Peter had a shortlist of ideas and AMMIFY was on it and he said it was perfect. I’d forgotten that I’d used AMMIFY as a verb, (I must have been speaking in Ammlish) so I got to laugh again when he reminded me! But it did really just feel perfect, my name or not, you know? 😀 It’s the verb for making it us-like.

The genre you move about is called cinematic metal. What does this term mean to you?
Peter: Cinematic metal, or CineMetal as I like to refer to it (and Ammy likes to think of as being short for Cinnamon metal!) is a genre that lends itself to visuals very easily. Whether it be for it’s own storyline playing out in a short film style music video, or in a feature film, in a tv show, advertisement, etc… so essentially a style of music that has an atmospheric feel to it, and exists in the realm of heavier genres of music. I guess it’s what a film score would sound like if it was heavy!AMMIFY PeterRenzulloAmmy: To be 100% honest, I had no idea we would even be classed as metal, haha! But here we are! 😀 Cinematic is perfect though, its alllll about the emotion and the story and bringing people on a feels journey. It doesnt have to stick to standard formats and formulas and stuff and yet it is still so accessible, you know? It’s somehow both easy and complicated, and we’re free to do things a little off centre to tell our story. Part of the magic of AMMIFY I think is that it is somehow so complicated (seriously, there are all sorts of time signatures and a billion different vocal things and a LOT going on) that you would think people would be confused or leave them uncomfortable, but somehow, because there’s so much story telling thought behind it, from both of us, it’s easy to follow (or be pulled), and all works together to create something both emotional and epic. Emotional and epic = cinematic! 😀AMMIFY drummerIt didn’t take you long before you were picked up by Wormholedeath. What did they tell you they saw in AMMIFY?
Peter: Very encouragingly, it was the head of A&R at Wormholedeath, Max Enix, who said this of us: “Magnificent atmospheres! Very modern and contemporary! Delicate, even ghostly atmospheres conducive to reverie and others that are more aggressive and metal, even shoegaze! Music from the future? A beautiful voice that bewitches and makes you dream! Sometimes you think of Portishead, Sigur Rós, Akira Yamaoka from the Silent Hill period, among others! Or even Katatonia and Alcest… But when the guitars come in, we enter another dimension that fuses together different elements! It’s very original and you’ve got your own musical universe! I just love it!”

Your first video was for “Coward’s Way Out”. In a post on your Facebook page you explained the song by the visuals of the sound. But how about the lyrics on this one?

Ammy: Oooh yeah! So, this is quite an intense topic, and I was worried a bit about how to dance around it, because it’s a hard tone to deal with, especially in an interview, and I play my cards quite close to my chest, not a sharer at all. In fact you seem to have gotten me in a talky mode, usually I just make jokes and move on, haha. And yet, also, somehow at the same time, the entire album is a huge mental health journey, and a big part of what is important in mental health healing is talking about it, stop the stigma slash tabooness and just help eachother not feel alone so we can get through the hard times together. So… I have no idea what the lyrics are about. 😛 I KID I KID. This entire album actually was written after I’d had a little bit of a mental breakdown and spent some time in a mental health hospital, and this song is an almost 1:1 direct copy of a suicide note I wrote when I was unwell. Phewf, that’s litterally the first time I’ve ever said that, haha. I’m fine now guys, it’s the second track, it’s only the beginning of the story!! Hehe. 😀 Obviously, I didnt repeat things in the note, and there was more stuff, but otherwise, almost exactly the same. Once I was well enough to write, I thought it was a power move to turn it into a song like that. And from the feedback we’ve gotten so far, regardless of how people are interpreting it, they’re getting a lot out of it, so baring my soul as a non-sharer is helping. Deep breaths Ammy, deep breaths, haha.

In the video “Ammify – The Reveal” you explained this: “Ammify will be featured on a massive stage with a full 11-piece band, rhythm-synced stage lightning, smoke, multiple camera angles… …but none of it is in the real world.” Does this mean you’re going to operate as a digital live band only?AMMIFY AmmyPhoenixPeter: No way! In fact, we are already putting the wheels in motion to get our live show created and bring it to the stage very soon. I quickly realized that the massive sound we have created for AMMIFY would require at LEAST 11 musicians to bring it to life, so the idea for the virtual concert was so that we could actually make this happen now, at least in a virtual sense, to give people a feel for what AMMIFY WILL look like when we go on stage with our full band set up. But for now, since we don’t have a 50-foot stage, or 40-foot video screen behind us, or almost a dozen musicians at our disposal… virtual it is! We are, however, going to be testing the waters as a four-piece acoustic ensemble in the form of two guitars, percussion and vocals in the coming weeks!

On May 21st you released your second video for “The Truth Will Set You Free”. A really impressive video, I must say. How did you create the scenes in the castle, with real-time chroma keying?AMMIFY greenPeter: Thank you very much! We had a lot of fun with this one! The creation of the medieval, magical world that the Queen and King existed in were created using many layers of elements such as unique realistic art plates, candle fire and bon fire footage, ash and smoke footage, and some film scratch particles – all created through using my amazing Blackmagic Designs URSA 12k camera, and DaVinci Resolve. As for the placing of the characters in the worlds, I green screened them in my little 10 foot by 10 foot studio space, helped by a leaf blower to create the wind through Ammy’s hair (and a little secret technique, of getting her to sing at double-speed so I could slow it down to half speed in the final video, to create that nice fluid movement of her!) As for the King, a good friend of mine and regular featured actor in my films, Steve Kio, it was a very similar process. Although we used a powerful fan as we had more room in the space we set up the green screen for him. The chair he sits in was created by my amazingly talented sister, Justine (who is also the second guitarist in AMMIFY for our live performances) who is a props master and VFX make up artist! She did all the incredible make up and props design in this video – a very handy sibling to have on my team!AMMIFY videoBy the way, “The Truth Will Set You Free” is something that Jesus said according to the Bible in John 8:32. Is it also applicable to the lyrics on this song or is there a completely different story behind it?

Ammy: A very completely different story 🙂 This one comes right after “Coward’s Way Out”, basically a big ol’ cause of taking the coward’s way out is shame and guilt from ‘bad’ things you’ve done, especially holding in secret shames. This is basically admitting all your wrong doings and accepting the consequences. Like, ok I did, I messed up and I have no excuse and I can’t take it back, there’s literally nothing else I can do, but let karma punish me for it, so bring it on, I’m ready. Also, I always hear “AND THE TRUTHHHH SHALL SET YOU FREEEEE”  in Jim Carrey‘s voice from “Liar Liar”, I hope it’s in your head now, too.😛AMMIFY AmmyThe debut album is titled “Lost, Not Hiding”. What exactly do you mean by that?
Ammy: It was one of Peter‘s shortlist for band names actually! I heard it and it was legitimately perfect. With everything this album is about lyrically, literally having gone into isolation mode and watching myself disappear both literally and metaphorically, it’s like, I’m not hiding, I just cant find my way back. Haha, that’s making me tear up for some raisin. Stupid dumb feelings. 😛

As for the songs, Ammy is responsible for the vocals and the lyrics and you Peter for all the music. Did you get any help from the outside at all or was it just the two of you all along?
Peter: It is all us! Just Ammy and I have done everything. No other musicians are featured in this album. In fact, even in my production, there are no pre-created rhythmic or melodic loops. Every single note, every percussive shot, all of it was performed from scratch. It’s funny, seeing this written down makes it seem like it was SO much work, but I don’t remember it being like that. I remember in some cases, such as for “The Truth Will Set You Free”, “Evaporate”, “Hey! You!”, “Homesick”, “Favourite” and “Grief” – the writing, recording, mixing/editing, and final bounce down was all done within 24 hours. They just came together so quickly and easily, that I forgot how ‘in the zone’ I was while creating them! I even decided to document the creation of one of the songs – “The Truth Will Set You Free” – from scratch. So I got my cameras out and filmed every step of the process, as I felt it would make for an interesting reflective experience for me! In short, this album was a LOT of work that felt like very little. I great sign that in some way, this musical union between Ammy and myself was inevitable, I feel.AMMIFY duoIs there anything you want to tell us about any of the songs on the debut album?
Ammy: For some of the songs on this album, I got to rewrite some of my songs I started like… 20 years or more ago. I really loved them but they never quite said what I wanted them to, and some of Peter‘s music just seemed to be perfect for them, so it’s been amazing to get to rework them and watch them grow into what they always should have been. 🙂

Peter: Yes, I have some elements in this album that have existed for two decades, but never manifest into anything of real substance. I think they were waiting for the right project to really bloom in! The song that took the longest to produce, was “Fluffy Little Rats”. It’s the most electronic-driven song on the album, which is so cool! It’s just so dark, dirty and gritty sounding, a really fun one to spend time on! The song that came together the fastest from my end of the production process was “Hey! You!” I put that whole song together – from writing it to finished recording – in literally six hours. It was so good to get it put together, but I honestly don’t remember the process as it was so quick from part to part! I’d never been able to produce anything of that level of production so quickly before or since!AMMIFY bassAfter “Lost, Not Hiding” has been released on June 14th, what are your plans?
Ammy: Peter and I have pretty much decided that we never wanna stop making stuff together, haha, it’s too good, both the output and the soulfood, hehe. So I’m keen to get performing these live and also, we possibly maybe may or may not have started on the second album already… woops! 😀

Thank you for the interview!
Ammy: Thank you for the questions!

Peter: I am grateful you want to know about AMMIFY at all! This was a lot of fun for Ammy and I to create, but we didn’t expect so many people to enjoy it as well!