LITTLE May are in the midst of an intense tour. The band have been scattering their signature blend of beautiful indie-folk music and ghostly harmonies across Europe and beyond. With a chaotic summer of festivals and a debut album on the horizon, life just got a whole lot bigger for the three Little Mays.
The band’s lead vocalist Hannah Field is taking a break from the tour bus to wander the wide boulevards of Paris and stroll beside the Seine. And though it’s a well-deserved break, it’s also a great opportunity to talk to TGA about life on the road, home comforts and bagels.
“So far, my day’s been pretty splendid,” she sighs, happily. “[Our drummer] Cat and I just bought some eggs for breakfast and later we’re all going to put our tourist badges on and go exploring.”
Sounds like a pretty good deal for a touring band, in all honesty. Little May grew out of high school friendships, the trio brought together by their love of The National and Alt-J. From impromptu jam sessions and practicing cover versions grew Little May’s distinctive sound: haunting acoustic guitars, fragile harmonies, and gloomy, atmospheric lyrics that they’ve appropriately labelled ‘ghostfolk’.
The band name may suggest a tiny, timid, waif-like entity but, paradoxically, Little May have hurtled to success with a great force and an indomitable spirit, all the while displaying a thirst for creativity. And now, Australia’s Breakthrough Act of 2014 is conquering Europe with an intense five months on the road.
“Touring has been awesome but we’ve all got the flu at the moment,” laments Hannah. “We’ve been on the road for the last month and it’s exhausting but the high of meeting new people and travelling to new cities every day [makes it worth it]. It is so surreal. We wouldn’t change it for the world.”
At least she’s brought a few essentials and home comforts along in the suitcase. Hydralyte is one of those things. “[Although] I’ve run out and can’t seem to find it overseas anywhere!” she says. “I’ve also brought chilli flakes – chilli is my everything. Then, eye drops, eye mist, eye cream and raw garlic cloves.” But of course.
It’s an interesting mix – although the fluid/electrolyte replacement concoction designed to combat hangovers suggests a certain amount of over-indulgence. Could they be burning the candle at both ends? Quite probably – they’re a rock band after all.
Since 2012 the Sydney threesome, completed by rhythm guitarist Liz Drummond and lead guitarist Annie Hamilton, have gained some extra musical helping hands. Little May has put some meat on her bones with the addition of session musicians Cat Hunter on drums and Mark Harding on bass and keyboards, which means there’s a bigger sound for all the wide, open fields they’re performing in this summer – arguably necessary for the Reading and Leeds stages they’re gracing in August.
As seasoned experts, do Little May have any tips for us this festival season? Hannah offers this: “Drink lots of water, pack healthy snacks and always have warm clothes on you for the night time, even if it’s hot during the day.” Sensible stuff. She’d presumably add to make sure you’ve got a hangover remedy or two to hand…
But what of Paris? How are they taking to the city? Making new discoveries and soaking up the culture isn’t without its awkward moments. “Being in Paris has been pretty funny. None of us speak French and we didn’t do enough study of common phrases,” says Hannah. “There have been a number of times we have walked into a restaurant and been yelled at then consequently shuffled out by the waiter. At least I think they were restaurants…”
Tour-bus living seems like a giggle with Little May, judging from the band’s Instagram snaps of play-park style frolics and competitive face-pulling. They’ve held onto that young, back-of-the-school-bus energy and BFF mantra, which is endearing. But it isn’t all tour-bus singalongs and debates about favourite Pokémon characters (FYI, Hannah’s is Diglett). Hannah says, “We sleep whenever we can. When we’re travelling there is a lot of keeping to ourselves, headphones on and zoning out. It keeps us sane as we are together 24/7.”
Little May may well be a talented trio but their Facebook page reveals the band’s main interest outside of music, and that’s bagels. “I like your classic poppy seed bagel toasted with loads of butter, then a bit of Vegemite to top it off. Not too much Vegemite though – the balance needs to be perfect,” says Hannah.
Once branded the Australian Haim, Little May’s powerful, dark blend of indie folk has found a neat, little home in the subgenre they’ve dubbed ‘ghostfolk’. Their EP plucked at the heartstrings – the self-titled release revealed a collection of spectral melodies and ethereal harmonies. But it was the video for ‘Dust’, telling the story of a woman grieving over the loss of her pet dog, which plunged us into floods. And the video’s poignancy wasn’t lost on Little May: “We’re all massive animal lovers. I think [if we weren’t musicians] we’d all be volunteering at the RSPCA. Annie could do their branding with all her skills as a graphic designer and Liz and I could cuddle everything.”
Little May’s EP, a labour of love two years in the making, went down a storm last year. But with fans impatient and thirsty for more, can we expect an album soon? “Yep,” affirms Hannah. “The album is pretty much finished! New songs are just over the horizon now so we’re getting pretty pumped.”
The band’s progression has been marked. Hannah says, “The EP tracks were written so many years ago now, so the album – being a lot more present and relevant to us – in context is naturally a bit bolder and more mature.”
Check out current single ‘Home’:
On Spotify, Little May have collectively curated a playlist that’s bursting with influences you’ll hear trickling into the band’s own work. – from the delicate melodies of Fink and dreamy Jeff Buckleyto heavy hitters like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. The theme is clear, with subtle, eerie, wraith-like choices to open, giving way to a burgeoning mass of dramatic, powerful sounds that forge forward through the more bashful melodies. Can we hang out and swap records already?
Hit play on any of Little May’s own repertoire and you’ll be transported. Listening to ‘Boardwalks’ with its humble, delicate beginnings that build to a cinematic soaring chorus takes you on a far-reaching sonic journey. It’s the sound of sunsets and campfires, long hikes and muddy knees. Growing up in such a beautiful part of the world definitely left its mark on Little May.
“Australia is incredibly inspiring, Hannah says. “We like to get away from the city when we write. We tend to travel places like Jindabyne and Mollymook on the South Coast as the landscapes are so haunting and still. The snowy mountains that surround Annie’s grandparents’ house in Jindabyne have to ability to pull pages of lyrics out of me, even if I’ve been feeling really blocked in Sydney.”
With such a hectic tour underway it feels a tiny bit rude to ask what’s next for Little May. Surely a little downtime back home with their beloved dogs? “We’ll finish off the European tour then head home for a month. We’ll take a week or so off to spend with loved ones which will be really nice, then back over to the UK for Reading and Leeds and a few more festivals here and there. The album should be out towards the end of the year so we’ll be kicking touring up a few notches from there”. All that hard work calls for a snack. Bagel anyone?
Debut album For the Company is out on 9 October via Island Records.
Little May play Reading Festival on Friday 28 August and Leeds Festival on Saturday 29 August.
They return to the UK and Europe in October followed by dates in the US.
Written for The Girls Are