Little May is a Sydney-based indie/folk band featuring Liz Drummond, Hannah Field & Annie Hamilton. In just 18 months this talented trio of songwriters and have acquired over one million Soundcloud plays and three million Spotify streams. Since releasing their debut single ‘Boardwalks’, the outfit have topped Hype Machine twice, sat comfortably in the Australian community radio Airit charts as well as receiving high rotation on Triple J. They have supported Rodriguez, Big Scary, Bernard Fanning, Mikhael Paskalev and played alongside the likes of Lorde, Haim, and Cloud Control at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival. With their debut album slated for release in 2015 and a run of shows in the UK, Europe and US happening mid-year, MusicNSW Education Officer Jake Stone decided it was time to catch up with them for a chat.
Jake Stone interview with Liz Drummond of Little May.
What were your early influences?
I have been most influenced by my parents and my brother. My dad was always playing a lot of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, but also a lot of Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac, amongst other things. My brother was an amazing guitarist growing up; he was constantly playing Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, System Of a Down, Pearl Jam, etc. I definitely watched him a lot, and probably started mimicking him.
You and Hannah met at school and did quite a bit of writing together before Annie joined. What initially attracted you two to one another?
Hannah and I both moved to the same school in year 10, and as lame as it sounds, we clicked instantly. We were both really into music, and I dabbled in guitar, she sung and wrote poetry. Although music is a huge part of what attracted us to each other, we were just really good friends to begin with. When we turned 18, we didn’t go out much, we just hung out and played music.
What kind of themes did your early tunes explore lyrically?
Our EP is the perfect example of us navigating songwriting, and is probably a lot of our left over adolescent feelings. Although the EP was only released last year, we started writing it as far back as 2009-2010. It’s not as realized as what we are doing now. But it quite accurately reflects where we were at as a band, and in our relationships, etc. It’s honest.
Do you feel like the same basic DNA is still in the writing you do as a three piece?
I think that what holds us together is definitely our relationship as a band. We aren’t shredders or trained singers who came together to form a band. We learnt our instruments together, and were brought together because we really like each other and songwriting. When we write music, we definitely take a lot of care. It’s a precarious and crafty process. A lot of our songs are quite personal. It’s really important that we look after each other, and respect each other. If we don’t have that, then things could fall apart. We are all so different, and have a lot of different influences. We have a rule that we all need to be moved by a song before we go ahead with it.
If there are core stylistic elements of Little May as a band, what are they?
If we could cater to all of each other’s stylistic influences and tastes, our music could become confused and hard to digest. The most stable thing we have is making sure that the song can be carried on it’s own with a good intention. The melody needs to be strong, the lyrics should be honest, but relatable, and the music needs to support it all. There was a time recently where we got caught up in trying to be darker and heavier than we probably were. For me personally, I know it was a case of trying to cater to a lot of my early influences, which is truthful, but it was also amplified by weird feelings; like I needed to prove myself to other musicians, or something like that. Perhaps there have been momentary feelings of needing to be “cooler”, or we have been experimenting with a style that we don’t pull off as well as other bands. As long as we stick to what we are good at, and what feels the most natural, that’s what seems to work.
You’re four young women in a band, writing the tunes and running the business. How does the music industry look to aspiring young female writers, performers and producers in 2015?
I think it looks hopeful. We have had the opportunity to create what we wanted to create, from the bottom up. That’s pretty great. Being women doesn’t seem to be a thing that we think about too much. It shouldn’t be relevant, but I guess sometimes it is. There are a lot of incredible female writers and producers. A lot of incredible males, too. If you work hard and always trust your instincts and your vision, I think you can do anything you want, no matter who you are.
Are there specific challenges?
I must admit, it can be irritating to see comments that are rude or shed light on the fact that we are women in a negative way. Most of the time we find them genuinely funny. But really, it’s not funny. Bullying of any sort shouldn’t happen. On the other hand, we need to be wise about when to pick our battles. There’s always going to be people who don’t like things and like to stir the pot.
Does Little May speak to a young female audience?
Sure. Hopefully we speak to anyone who wants to listen. Young, old, female or male.
Little May only have one EP out, and are already selling out shows here and internationally.You’ve said it was a real shock to sell out your first couple of London shows, but you’ve had extensive radio play in the UK from taste-making stations like BBC radio 1 and blogs like Hype Machine, and the same is true for the USA. How do you deal with the sudden international attention and the demands of creating a career that happens across multiple continents simultaneously?
It is incredible that we are receiving recognition for our music internationally. It’s what we have all dreamed of and worked for. It can be overwhelming at times. For me, it’s important to not over-think things, and to relax. It’s strange when your lifestyle changes so quickly. I used to go to uni, and work 9-5 jobs. I was in one place, and I had weekends and spare time. Being in one country (or state) one day and in another the next is still very strange to me. I’ve been to Perth 4 times but I feel like I haven’t actually “been” to Perth. I still get wigged out about the fact that people can fly planes, and I can sit in a chair in the sky. It’s amazing.
What are the challenges of being in a band in 2015 that weren’t really an issue when I was doing Bluejuice for example?
I’m not too sure. I suppose the most obvious thing would be the Internet, and all the different media platforms. Sometimes I can’t keep up. There is so much content, and things are happening so fast. Everyone can make music, and put it out there to be heard. That’s how we started – by putting GarageBand demos on SoundCloud. It’s great, but it also means that it might be harder to stay relevant. It’s harder to hold onto things these days.
What is it about your music that you are most proud of, and what do you think other people are responding to?
I am really proud that we’ve pushed ourselves so much. I think we have all learnt a lot in the last few years, musically, and as people. It’s hard to say what people are responding to. I think our EP is accessible, and we’ve had some people tell us that they can relate to the songs.
You’ve supported Bernard Fanning, Angus & Julia Stone recently… anyone you’d kill to tour with?
I would kill to tour with a lot of bands. One of my favourite bands is Radiohead, but touring with Radiohead would never happen. I like to think that if I imagine something hard enough it can happen. But Little May supporting Radiohead will never happen. It shouldn’t. At this stage, I’d love to tour with anyone who will have us.
How do you maintain your sonic relevance as a guitar band in 2015? Is it a case of becoming more tech savvy and varying your arrangements in studio?
This is pretty relevant for us at the moment. We have a lot of gear we want to purchase and new sounds we want to explore. We’ve definitely ventured down new roads sonically, particularly in the studio. In the live sense, it’s a matter of having time and money, and extra hands to play and carry things. If Annie and I could have every guitar pedal in the world we probably would. I think the limitations can be beneficial. We definitely do have to focus on arrangements more, and getting the most out of what we have.
What’s your favourite song from the new LP?
I have a few, but they’re still being recorded. It changes everyday! I’ll let you know when the album comes out.