“To have people interested in something you do is really nice”.
Liz Drummond hasn’t done an interview for a while so it makes our chat about the return of Little May even more special. New single, Lover, released late in 2018, is a stunning return, combining the sweetness we’ve come to know with a new edginess as Little May returns to the original high-school pairing.
With a three-year hiatus that saw guitarist, Annie Hamilton, leave the group to pursue other artistic interests and her own solo project, Liz along with long-time collaborator and high school friend, Hannah Field, are reborn.
“It is definitely feeling like it’s the beginning again, in a lot of ways. I think the sound is quite different to the last record and I’m pretty excited about it!”
There’s good reason to be excited. They’ve been sitting on the ready-made album for some time, as Liz continues, “The record is actually quite old now. We’ve had it sitting there for a while, but it’s taken a while to get it all happening. I reckon we started nearly two years ago and even a couple of the songs that we ended up putting on the record, we actually ended up taking the original takes.”
What was it about those early recordings that made them the best? The two oldest tracks on the forthcoming album, They Can See and River, were recorded in Liz’s mum’s village of Wollombi, near the Hunter Valley in NSW.
“We tried to re-do them and it just didn’t feel as good as the first time we ran them.” Liz chuckles. “I don’t know why. We were kind of on-edge and no-one knew what they were doing and for some reason that felt cool!”
Ever since attending school together, Liz and Hannah have been “pretty much joined at the hip” and this evolved into writing songs together as teenagers. There’s a definite connection that is noticeable in everything they release, from the harmonies of their unique voices to the symmetry of the music.
Liz recollects, “Instead of going out to parties when we were younger, we’d just stay at home, drink and write music and we got to know each other really well and we wrote together in this pretty specific way”
From playing together, to becoming a trio with Annie Hamilton to their new incarnation, the sound has evolved with their lives. There’s definitely a more fleshed out sound in the new single and this can partly be attributed to a new musician that plays on their new tracks. Lead guitarist and co-producer of the record, Robert Muinos (Saskwatch, Dorsal Fins), brings a fresh perspective and new flavour to the Little May sound. Liz gushes, ‘He is a ripper guitarist, songwriter and producer. He’s got everything and is a good person too!”
As seems to be a pattern with acoustic-style indie folk bands, there’s often a yearning to make a bigger sound and explore the capabilities of your creativity. Liz agrees – somewhat, “I think that this time in my life – the last couple of years – I just really wanted to go for a bigger sound and to get out my own feelings in music. It’s not always peaches and cream! I kind of want to explore more of the edginess of my feelings and Hannah’s feelings and just trying different tones that aren’t necessarily as ‘nice’ to listen to.”
As the pair near the end of their 20’s, they’ve had a chance to look into their past and realise some of the moments that have inspired the tracks on the album. Liz explains, “I think that Hannah and I, during our mid to late 20’s – we’re 28 now – we’ve looked back on things that happened when we were younger and we were like, ‘You know, that wasn’t ok’ and were a bit more like, ‘Hey, that was shit, let’s write about that!’ It wasn’t an intentional thing but I think we got out a lot of feelings that we probably hadn’t been able to express before.”
For Liz, like many musicians, music is a method of release. A medium by which feelings, thoughts and self-discovery can be made as Liz reveals, “For me, music is just a way of figuring out who I am and I still don’t really know who that is!”
Little May had a busy end to 2018, supporting The Rubens on their national tour and punctuating the year with Falls Festival. The new year will see them embark on a three-date headline tour with the promise of the next single and the (as yet unnamed) album in the first half of the year.
What was it like hanging with The Rubens’ guys and their fans? Liz answers, “I really like their fans. They’re like a really good mixture of everything. I think it’s probably what The Ruben’s music is like. They’re a good mixture of rowdy but also really kind. Attentive but not pretentious. There’s a good mixture. It’s been a really nice audience to play in front of.”
The shows have seen the duo ‘road-testing’ their new tracks, performing only a few of their old favourites, whilst mainly giving the new ones a go. “It’s probably not the best choice,” Liz chuckles, but admits, “It felt really natural when we were rehearsing for it.”
As with any new chapter, it feels that Liz is unsure of what is to come for the duo. With such a long history it seems natural that the pair continue working together, but living in different cities – Hannah in Melbourne and Liz on the NSW Central Coast – makes song-writing and rehearsal harder and certainly more expensive.
When asked if she ever considered starting a new project, Liz admits, “I’ve started a band with a couple of guys on the coast called Stupid Baby. That was just a thrashy guitar-driven outlet thing that just sort of happened naturally.”
Ultimately, and with a huge sigh of relief from their many fans, Little May were always going to continue, although Liz admits that she’d never leave it as long between drinks again. It’s a good thing too, because the time is right for a new Little May album in an Australian music scene that feels like it is supporting and promoting female musicians more than ever.
After our chat, I certainly get the feeling that whilst Liz Drummond is making music, the future of Little May is exciting, “I have no idea what the next thing will be. Wherever we are at that time, it’ll be just what comes out then and I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Little May ‘Lover’ Tour with special guest Ro
Friday 15th February – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Saturday 16th February – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Friday 22nd February – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane