It was only a year ago that Sydney band Little May released their debut album ‘For The Company’, but the band have already played a string of sellout shows through Europe and Australia. – “To have that many people turn up in a country that we hadn’t really been to before was really quite special”. The trio recently joined City and Colour on their national tour and will be back in May to play their own set of headlining shows throughout Australia.
We caught up with Hannah Field, Liz Drummond and Annie Hamilton of Little May to talk about bringing their debut LP ‘For The Company’ to fruition, touring overseas, and plans on for their sophomore album.
How would you describe the bands overall creative collaboration ? You probably all have your own way of writing and expressing yourselves.
Annie: I think it changes depending on the song, really, like sometimes we’ll all sit down and work on a song together and other times we might work on ideas and email them to each other and there are a few songs on the album that Liz wrote on her own. So yeah, it kinda changes.
Do you feel like over the years the bands dynamic has changed ?
Liz: It definitely has. It started off with just Hannah and I, writing and doing covers together and sort of just mucking around by ourselves. When we decided that we wanted to really do it as a career, we decided we wanted to have a band and we got Annie to come play with us.
I think we’ve all just found our own ways of writing individually and together as well, which I think is really important and I think just over the years we’ve like gelled really well but it’s taken a long time.
Your debut album “For The Company” came out last year and you don’t get a second chance at a debut. Would you say the album is a great representation of the bands identity ?
Annie: I think it definitely is very us at its heart. I think it’s insane that there’s also a bit of restraint in there. I think we wanted to create an album that was like really cohesive and all the songs worked really well together and flowed really well together. That was the style for the album, but then in saying that, there are definitely parts on the album that get a bit heavy where we could then branch off on the next album
How long had you been working on your debut album and what were some of the biggest challenges you faced while bringing this album together ?
Liz: We had been writing for quite a while, like the new songs just sort of organically came together. We didn’t really sit down and try to write a lot. Although we did go away for the purpose of writing, it wasn’t really like a hurried sort of thing.
Having said that though we didn’t have like 50 songs that we chose from, we kind of just went with what we had and really tried to make everything as good as it could be. I think the challenge for us was making the album over 5 or 6 weeks, especially in a different country. That was really different to what we had done before.
After the record was done, did you go back and revisit it ? Would you say you were quite critical of your own work ?
Liz: We didn’t really get a chance to do that.
Annie: Yeah, I think the whole process was quite rushed. So it was kinda like, it was done and then we were overseas and it was getting mixed as we were touring. By the time we got home the first single had already come out and we didn’t really get a chance, like there was never potential for us to sit back and go ‘hmm, should we change this or you know’. It was kinda like, it’s done now let’s just go with it.
How did you choose the track list ? Are there songs that didn’t make the cut, that you’re thinking of maybe releasing in the future?
Hannah: “Monkey Hands” didn’t make the track list. It was one of the first songs we ever wrote and it was kinda funny… like there were times where we tried to change to make it really slow but it was this really upbeat and incredibly folky song but I think I personally had the strangest attachment to it because it was one of the first songs that Liz and I wrote together.
When we slowed it down to try and make it sound like present Little May, I was like ‘this is cool’ but then you look at the lyrics and you’re like, nah. That was one that was never really on the table to be on the album but I secretly did hope that maybe it would of made it.
People’s perceptions of your music can be quite varied, is that something that affects you ? do you let what others write about you change your approach to making music?
Hannah: I think early on, it was really difficult for us at times to hear what people kinda had to say because we were really defensive because we were so young like in relation to being a band. Whereas now I feel like we can really laugh about what people have to say, good or bad, whether we agree or disagree… they have every right to feel that way because it’s their opinion and everyone is different, as cliché as that sounds.
If you don’t like something, that’s totally okay. It was difficult to not take offence in the early days, I think. Maybe we still do struggle with it but I don’t think that’s really as big a deal as it used to be.
You’re often described as “indie folk”. Do you find it hard to branch out artistically as a musician and try different sounds when you’re constantly being confined to one particular genre?
Liz: Yeah, I think that the whole genre thing is probably like a musicians worst nightmare in some ways, just trying to define your music because the whole idea of making music is that you don’t want to be defined and it’s kind of like a creative thing.
I mean that’s for some musicians, probably not all but for us I guess we’ve never really had a genre in mind. Having said that we did start off sort of folk and we were influenced by a lot of folk stuff in like 2011 and 2010 when we started writing and stuff. That’s probably where the folk thing comes from and you know we still have an acoustic guitar and we still love a lot of folk music but there are a lot of undertones of other genres. I don’t really know what “indie” means to be honest.
Hannah: Isn’t it short of for ‘independent’ ?
Liz: I mean I get it, people need to define things for themselves and then to portray it to other people
Annie: I can understand why it’s good to have, like they are like this or they sound like that because then people have something to kind of go by. I think when we’re writing we don’t think, ‘okay lets write a folk song or like an indie rock song’, we just write a song and then we see how it turns out.
Your album consists of around 12 tracks, how do you go about making a setlist for your shows? Do they change with each show depending on the vibe of the crowd?
Liz: To be honest a lot of our set lists have revolved around what is practical with like our instruments. We really have thought out what is the best flowing sort of set, but actually works practically for all of us and for an audience. You have to think about how you’re going to tackle certain parts on stage because it is, especially for a band where we’re at, we don’t have a million techs and like heaps of gears to use.
Annie: You kind of have to make do with what you got
Liz: And I think what we got now, the setlist that we’re doing on this tour is working, but it does switch around depending on the tour or the time limit that we have
One my favourite tracks is “Bow and Arrow”. Can you tell us the inspiration behind it, and what was on your mind while writing the track ?
Hannah: We wrote that song at liz’s farm and I think at the time I would of been like 21 or something and it’s just about a boy that I really liked and yeah, he didn’t like me anymore.. and yeah that song is basically about just kind of wanting to come home to someone who’s not there.
Annie: The interesting thing about that song is that, that was one of the first songs the girls ever wrote and then we’d kinda stopped playing and completely forgot about it. We were in the studio and we actually ended up completely reworking it, so it got a whole new chord progression. The lyrics and melodies stayed mostly the same, but it was like a completely different to how it first sounded.
Liz: The first time we played it like when we used to play it at acoustic gigs and stuff, it was quite… actually we recorded a version of it first at another studio
Hannah: Yeah, it was never going to be considered for the album and then Aaron Dessner was like, “do you guys have anymore songs?” and I think I was like, well we do have this song and everyone was like “no no no no”. But I think it became something really beautiful.
Liz: It just goes to show that some of the old crap that you don’t like can turn into something wonderful.
Do you feel like it’s important for songs to be relatable and for the artist to be able to connect with the lyrics instead of just writing a “one hit” song ?
Liz: 100 %
Annie: I think that’s the only way we know how to write. I guess we all have different writing styles, but I know for me if I can’t access, if I can’t write about how i’m feeling I feel really lost and I don’t really know what to write about so that’s why even if i’m really happy, I’ll be like ‘remember that time when I was feeling really down in the dumps’, I’m gonna write about that and people can relate to that. So I guess you write about what affects you, it’s quite therapeutic.
Liz: I guess our songwriting came from a really selfish place, when I say that I don’t say it seriously, I say it as kind of a joke but seriously. It’s just a passion that we all felt together and individually. It was just a really good way of us feeling good and then i guess if people responded well to it, it’s really good for us.
How would you describe your songwriting process ? Were the songs written over a span of years, months, weeks ?
Annie: We started songwriting and then everything began really quickly afterwards that we didn’t really have time to sit down for a year and write 50 songs. We just had no time and all these things were happening with Little May and we just had to keep moving with that traction that we were having. We had to pull all the song that we had written over the 2-3 years that we’d been together and make them “present” little may. I would say years
You’ve had the opportunity to play shows across France, Germany, the US, UK. What’s been the best part of being able to play overseas?
Liz: It’s really quite surreal, actually. For me, I never thought that I’d be travelling so much, especially at this age to have travelled quite a lot. It was really amazing because we didn’t expect as many people to turn up as they did. I think the biggest surprise was in Germany. We had most of the rooms, even though they were quite small to some people, but they felt quite big to us. To have that many people turn up in a country that we hadn’t really been to before was really quite special
Now you’re on a national tour with City and Colour. Can you tell us a bit about what that experience has been like ?
Hannah: It’s been awesome. The band, the crew and Dallas have been a massive bunch of legends. They’re really easy to tour with and really welcoming, and incredibly talented and inspiring. Yeah, we’ve had a really good time so far. It’s been nice to be in Australia, to be home and have a couple of days off in between each show. It’s a nice chance from overseas, so yeah I’ve been enjoying it.
There’s such a great local music scene in Australia with triple j unearthed giving up-and-coming artists a platform to share their music. But do you feel like more could be done to promote more local acts at festivals ?
Liz: It’s interesting cause I think radio wise, I think there should be more radio stations that do unearthed, like new bands nationally – you know what i’m trying to say
Annie: There’s a lot of support for music in community radio and like triple j unearthed is great, but i think that a lot of problem is that a lot of people just don’t go out to see gigs and don’t really support local music. If a band comes from overseas a lot of people will be like, ‘omg quick by tickets’ but like if an Australian band tours it’s really hard to get your average person to go out into their city to see a local band. It does make it hard for local bands, I think.
There also needs to be a lot of from like festivals bookers and radio.
What are your top 4 goals for 2016?
Annie: I think, write a lot. We don’t have nearly as much touring this year as we did last year, so we kind of want to knuckle down and write as much as we can. I guess another one would be to have a really good tour in May, our national tour. A big goal is making that set like to blow people away.
Liz: Learning more in terms of production and gear, and adding to our sound and that comes with writing as well. We have the time now that we’ve never really had to actually really knuckle down and just learn more and have the time to sink our teeth into something more than we did last time with the album.
Hannah: Fourth goal would be to get a band puppy.
There’s Uber puppies… You can get an Uber puppy
Annie: You can get Uber babies now!
Hannah: That’s so weird
Annie: Yeah, who gives their baby to Uber
Hannah: That’s creepy
Liz: I don’t know, I wouldn’t mind it…having a baby that’s given to me, not like giving my baby. I don’t have baby by the way.
Lastly, what’s next for you guys? have you started on album #2 ?
Liz: Yeah, I would say we already are working towards it. I’m not gonna say that we’ve started it, but we’ve definitely written a lot of stuff already that could end up on the album or it could not, it might be another “Monkey Hands”. It’s good now because we do have the tools to make a lot of music ourselves and we do a lot of stuff on Logic, Garage Band, and we do all the arrangements ourselves. I think it’s just a matter of us getting a whole bunch of demos together and just really fleshing them out in terms of what sounds we want and what kind of vibe we want for the whole thing and then from there I think we’ll try and find somebody who wants to work on it with us. I think the goal is to try and do as much of it ourselves.
You can find Little May on