When indie-rock luminaries Little May burst onto the scene in 2012, they were unstoppable. The folky, crunchy, atmospherically flourished commotion of shredder Liz Drummond and bassist Hannah Field (both of whom share lead vocals) – rounded out with the prismatic rhythm melodies of Annie Hamilton – took Australia's rock world by storm. By the time they dropped their 2015 debut, For The Company, the Sydney trio had cemented themselves as a force to be reckoned with – the un-f***withable queens of the scene.
So four years have now passed, and despite a worrying bout of radio silence, not a great deal has changed. Hamilton is no longer in the band, but that hasn't shaken the fierce creative chemistry between Drummond and Field (who had been friends and collaborators for roughly a decade before the band was formed, anyway). Steering the reins of Little May as a duo, they've spent the past few years chipping away at a second album – one they were determined to make bigger, bolder and more adventurous, reflecting the transcendental growth they've experienced as people.
The end result is Blame My Body: a tight and tempestuous 40 minutes of raw guitars, heart-on-sleeve harmonies and rich instrumental interplay that posits Little May, once again, as one of Australia's most promising indie-rock outfits. To learn a little more about just why it's such a special record for the band, we caught up for a solid chat with Drummond.
When you look at the timeline between these two records, do you still feel that you’re the same band that you were when you wrote For The Company, or did stepping into this new chapter feel like a bit of a fresh start for Little May?
100 percent. lt’s been a few years, so there’s definitely been a lot of change, and I definitely think we’re a new band. I think if you listen to this album and compare it to our first one, you can hear the growth in a lot of ways – especially musically. But y'know, our voices are still the same and there's a lot of the same dynamics. Obviously Annie has left the band, but Hannah and I are the same two people we've always been – just bigger and better, I think!
Writing this album primarily as a duo, did Annie leaving the fold impact your songwriting dynamic at all?
It’s not too complicated, because we've been friends since we were both 15, so we've been living in each other's pockets for a little while now. And we've been writing together since long before Annie even entered the band – obviously, when she came in, it was a whole new dynamic, but having said that, Hannah and I still write the same way that we always have, and we still have the same sort of friendship and creative relationship. So nothing has changed there; we've just been shifting the dynamic with the band and playing around with what sounds we wanted – all of that stuff changed, but the way we write hasn't.
This record feels a lot more raw and from-the-hip. It’s a very cohesive listen from cover to cover, but it’s bold and unpredictable in a really exciting way. Was that vibe something you sought out in the studio, or was it more a product of the new environments and creative dynamics that you were working in?
From the beginning, Hannah and I have been quite bold people with bold ideas. We just want to express that. Y'know, we were a lot younger when we did the first album, and I think we were a bit more timid. And as you get older, you become more aware of who you are and what you want to do, and it gets easier to express things that may have felt uncomfortable when you were young. So we really wanted to be bold [on Blame My Body] – not just lyrically and with our voices, but also with the music. I have to say that one of our producers, Rob Muinos – who is also our lead guitarist – had a massive impact on helping us get that bold sound, especially through the guitars and drums. He's been a huge influence, in a really positive way.
How did you start working with Rob?
Well, Rob and Hannah are actually dating! We met Rob on the Angus & Julia Stone tour; he was playing bass for Cloud Control. We started hanging out with him then, and we thought he was heaps funny and really good at what he does. And then naturally, the spark just happened between him and Hannah, and then we all started working together!.
So you guys worked on the album in chunks, over the span of a couple of years and in a bunch of different places. What made you want to really spread your seeds with this record?
Honestly, I wish I could say it was a purposeful move, but it just was one of those things where we didn't really know where we were headed for a good while. We started at my parents’ property, and Rob brought a bunch of gear and started recording demos. The idea was to either record demos that we would then take to a studio, or just see what happened at my parents’ place – if something was good, we would use it – but we got a little confused about what we were doing, where we wanted to do it and who we wanted to do it with.
But in the end, it really was that initial recording session that we found a lot of magic in, and we ended up using a lot of our first takes on the final versions of the songs. There are two songs on the record that were done pretty much entirely at my parents' place. It was just one of those situations that I think a lot of bands end up in, where they go and rerecord songs over and over in different versions – they’re like, “Ah, could we do it better? Could we do it somewhere else?” And y’know, I don’t think that was the answer, but I think we needed to go through that to figure out what we wanted.
What were those two songs that stuck around from the early sessions?
One's called “River”, and then the other one is called “Vacancy”. I think “Vacancy” came from one of the first takes we ever did as a band – the drums, bass, keys and guitars were all done live in one take, and we just tracked the vocals afterwards. And it was one of the first times we'd ran through the song, too – there was just this energy there. We were kind of stumbling through it, but it worked! And the same thing goes for “River”. We did re-record both of those songs at The Grove on the Central Coast, but they just didn’t have the same magic for whatever reason.
Did the album go through much of a shapeshifting process along the way, or did you have a pretty solid idea of what you wanted it to sound like from the start?
I would definitely say it changed, because there were a lot of songs that we recorded that didn’t end up on the album. I think we just knew that we wanted to be bold with this album – we knew what the sound of it would be, but it was just that the songs kept shifting. We were like, “Nah, that’s not good enough,” or, “That doesn’t suit,” or, “That one’s really good, let’s try adding this!”
So at what point in the process did you feel like the album was starting to take shape?
Honestly, I feel like it was there from the beginning. It was just that for some reason, we were really doubting ourselves at points. I don't know why, either. The other thing is that I live on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Hannah and Rob live in Melbourne, and our drummer and bassist live in Sydney. So that was another roadblock for us, just being able to get together.
What guitars were you ripping out on in the studio?
This is probably a better question for Rob, but I’ll try to answer it as best as possible! I'm pretty standard – I just have a Telecaster that I use, and have always used, just because I really do love the sound of a Telecaster. It was the second electric guitar I ever owned, too; the first one was an Epiphone Dot, which I do like, but never actually used on any of the recordings. So I used my Telecaster, and I also played one of Rob’s T•Guitars. They're amazing guitars, and they’re made in Bowral by a guy named Andy Thomson. Rob also had a Fender Jag that he was playing as well.
How do you see this record translating to the stage? Did you have the live show in mind when you were tinkering away in the studio?
Yeah! That's something that was definitely influenced by Rob as well – I feel like I’m praising Rob a lot, but he really does deserve it [laughs]. Y'know, the way he records is very much centred around trying to capture the energy of the live performance, and that really pushed us to make sure we could play the songs well before we even recorded them. It’s been a lot easier than it was with the first album, I think. We went into the studio for [For The Company] and we sort of layered a lot of things, and it wasn’t… Well, some of it was done live, but a lot of it wasn’t, so we had to scramble to get the live show to sound like the recording afterwards. But with this record, we could hear what we had, and we didn’t try to overcomplicate the songs with too much else.
What was the best experience you had in recording Blame My Body?
There’s a song on the album called “As Loving Should”. That was the last song we wrote for the album – we thought we had the album done, and then the label was like, “Maybe you should try to write a couple more songs with this last bit of time that you have,." So we wrote “As Loving Should”, and it was just one of those songs that came out of nowhere. I came up with some chords on the spot, and then Hannah started singing, and the words that came out of her mouth were the same words you hear on the finished product. It was just very honest and authentic and raw. It was one of those moments where we were like, "Yeah, this is what songwriting is about.” So that was probably my favourite moment.
Friday June 21st - Flamin Galah, Brisbane QLD
Thursday June 27th - Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW
Friday June 28th - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
Saturday June 29th - UOW UniBar, Wollongong NSW
Friday July 5th - The Curtin Band Room, Melbourne VIC
Thursday July 11th - Rocket Bar, Adelaide SA
Friday July 12th - Jack Rabbit Slim’s, Perth WA
Tickets on sale via littlemaymusic.com