Interview: Little May spill the beans on Aaron Dessner and For the Company

Little MayListen to Little May for more than five minutes and you will find your mind takes you to a place of pure serenity and escapism. A magical, mystical, dreamy world of sweet folk, emotive and thought provoking lyrics and the best soft vocal harmonies you have heard in a long time; they are sure to have you under their enchanting spell.

The Australian trio comprising Annie Hamilton, Liz Drummond and Hannah Field have naturally nurtured their talents, and since forming in 2012 have had many successes. They played our Reading and Leeds festival this year, have supported The Vaccines on tour, received support from XFM, Fearne Cotton on BBC Radio 1 and their home radio station Triple J, and played on the Gentleman of the Road tour. This is to name but a few. Following on from the release of their self- titled EP last year, Little May have this month released their debut album For the Company. Currently touring Australia, Europe, USA and here in the UK, we caught up with them just before their London show at Bush Hall.

Hey Little May! How are you finding London?

Annie: We love London, it’s so exciting to be back. We actually were supposed to be here not long ago but I unfortunately got sick, so it’s really nice to, yeah, have touch down.

How are feeling about the show tonight?

A: I think we are all really excited. It’s such a beautiful venue. Like all the chandeliers in the room is stunning, so um, yeah!

Do you ever get nervous before a show?

Liz: Yes. Yeah I do. Not as much, it depends, I think sometimes its like one day its heaps of nerves, and then it’s not as many. I don’t know, it just depends.

How did you find Bristol last night?

L: Yeah it was awesome, it was like a nice, really attentive crowd, like everyone was so quiet. It was really nice.

How does a UK audience compare to the rest of the world?

A: We love playing in the UK. The audiences are always, from our experience really attentive, which is really nice. Sometimes our gigs at home can be really rowdy. Whereas even last night in Bristol everyone was kind of just standing there watching which is kind of intimidating, but really nice.

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What’s your favourite thing about the UK?

A: Shoreditch. We stay there all the time, and Brick Lane. So many good little cafés, Vietnamese restaurants. We love it there.

So your debut album For the Company is due out in 3 days! Are emotions running high? How are you feeling about that?

L: I can’t believe it’s happening.

Hannah: Jet lagged!

A: Excited! It seems like a really long time coming I guess and so I think we are just excited for people to be able to hear it as we are really proud of it.

I’m really loving the first single "Home". What more can we expect from the album?

H: It’s a more mature sound I guess in comparison to our EP. Very meditative, still pretty solemn. Yeah, I think it’s a bit of a step up. Not as immediate as the EP as in you need to listen to it a few times to really understand what we were trying to do which was to create an album and not just a whole heap of singles. So yeah it kinda tells a story and each of the songs lean on each other in different ways.

So your album was recorded in a converted 19th century church in New York! What was it like to record there?

L: It was incredible.

A: It was such a beautiful place, it had stain glass windows, a huge hall with all these paintings. It was just stunning.

What was it like living in New York while you were recording?

L: It was awesome. We had a little apartment that was a little but run down, it was really small and cosy. There were 5 of us kind of all living on top of each other but it was awesome it was good fun.

Do you ever miss home while you are away touring?

All: Yeah.

H: I miss people more than home, as in like Sydney. But family and loved ones. But I think as we are always so busy, when we’re touring you don’t really get the chance to think about it so much and dwell on it. So yeah you feel like that for a moment and then it passes you and you’re back into it.

Aaron Dessner from The Nationals produced your album. How did that collaboration come about?

H: Our manager just sent him and email. We had like a dream list of producers and our manager sent him an email and said the girls are interested in working with you, heres some of the tracks and we thought he would never get back to us and he did. He said he liked our music and he would like to work with us, two things we never thought we would  hear, or read and um yeah we just kind of got organising how we were gonna do it. It took a while, but we got there and then we were on a plane!

What was it like working with him?

A: Really cool. He’s just such a great guy. So generous and lovely and has such great taste, and so talented as well, both as a musician and a producer. I think he definitely brought the best of our music out and helped us to focus on what was working in each song and build around that. And kind of forget about the parts that weren’t working as well, rather than try to cram too much in.

You have performed on the Gentleman of the Road Tour. How was that?!

L: That was awesome. It was like a dream come true. Hannah – we only played one show though, we didn’t do the whole tour but it was incredible yeah. We sang on stage with Mumford and Sons as well. It was SO amazing. It was like a dream thing for us. They are really nice, they are all just really genuine guys.

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How does playing big festivals like that compare to intimate gigs?

A: Festivals are fun. I think it’s such a different vibe and we sometimes change our set list to some more upbeat and rockier songs, but also you get a crowd of people who might not know who you are but just happen to be walking past and listening so that’s really cool exposure. Whereas our own gigs are much more intimate and mellow and we have more of a chance to talk to the audience a bit more whereas the festivals can be a bit more like – punch it out! Yeah.

What do you prefer?

L: Hmmm both are so different.

H: I don’t know if this sounds weird but I think pressure wise I definitely prefer festivals, I think because you don’t really have time to think about the hugeness of what it is I guess, it’s really load in, play, load out. It’s really fun and there’s lots of energy. Whereas I find it quite draining (in a good way) at the more intimate gigs. You’re connecting with an audience on a different level, and you’re really delving deep into the songs and what they mean to you. I dunno I feel like it’s a little more draining but it’s still really incredible to experience.

Has anything ever gone wrong while you’ve been doing a gig?

All: All the time!

A: Last night! Last night I had issues with my amp crackling. We had to stop and change it over and stuff. It was pretty shitty but things always go wrong. We just expect the worst.

H: You go into it like you know – there’s going to be things that go wrong at this gig and sometimes we’ll come out of a gig where nothings gone wrong and we’re like oooo that was weird!

What’s it like constantly being together while touring. Anyone got any bad habits?

H: I think we all probably have our pros and cons as people.

A: I think we’re used to it now, kind of more like siblings where we are just together all the time.

L: It’s nice though, I quite like it. It’s like a nice little family. I always think about how hard it would be to tour on your own as a solo act and being all over the world. It’s nice to have your friends with you.

You all have really beautiful voices that harmonise so well together. Has it always been like that from the start or has it taken time to mature?

H: Yeah definitely. So Liz and I started playing together when we were still at school. And I guess I can only speak to for myself but I know that I thought I was really good and I wasn’t… very good. (All laugh) when we formed a band we practiced a lot. Liz – I didn’t sing till I was 21. I’m 25 now. I know for me, I didn’t grow up singing, I don’t think any of us grew up singing professionally. We were never trained, same with our instruments I guess. We have just been kind of finding our feet in our own time and just kind of working hard towards developing something together.

Did you ever imagine you would be as successful as you now are?

L: No. Way.

H: It still hasn’t really sunk in. When we get asked if we are successful we are like what do you mean? We’re not successful. It’s been really really quick and it’s pretty mind blowing that we can do this, what we love and travel the world with our friends and sing our songs to people all over the world. It’s pretty crazy, and it’s happened really fast.

Who would you next like to work with?

H: I think we all have different choices about who we would like to work with. I really want to stay home next time we do an album. Stay local. Mix it up a little bit and see if the results are different.

L: Yeah I agree.

Lastly – Who’s the most famous person in your phone contacts?

L: I don’t have any. Oh, Aaron! We have Ben Lovett (the keyboard player from Mumford) on email! But not on phone. We could have but we didn’t ask! Probably because we don’t ever have sim cards! Imagine all the famous people we could have in our phones.

Find out more about Little May and their debut album For the Company here.

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