The past 12 months have seen Sydney folk-pop spearheads Little May trade in cosy local venues for huge festival stages across the US and Europe. Having unleashed their debut LP 'For The Company' last October, and now gearing up for an upcoming Australian tour that's set to add another jewel to their crown of successes, Liz, Hannah, and Annie sat down with Best Before to chew over the mayhem.
Best Before: You’re about to have your last show with City and Colour. I can imagine it's been insane.
Liz: It’s been awesome. Dallas and his band and crew are really lovely people, and they're so warm. It’s been chilled out. Amazing shows in incredible venues, but really comfortable people to tour with.
You’ve been on tour with a stack of big names – everyone from Angus & Julia Stone to Cold War Kids. Did you pick up any tour tips on the road with them?
Liz: Everyone is different. With City and Colour, it feels a lot more personable. They came up to our dressing room the other day and just had a beer with us before, whereas with Rodriquez, the circumstances were different, and there’s a lot more going on. You just judge it when you get there really, and see what it’s like.
I actually saw you guys kill it in Germany at Southside last year!
Annie: What? Seriously?!
Yeah! I didn’t realise that was the last show of your massive America/Europe tour. There were a fair few Aussies there cheering you on! It was packed out!
Annie: That was one of our best shows! It was really emotional.
Hannah: That was one of our favourites. I remember crying on stage! It was such an intense tour.
Liz: There were so many people!
Were you guys surprised? How are you processing it all – that there are people on the other side of the world that know the lyrics to your songs?
Hannah: Germany’s been crazy like that. We played a few of our headline shows there and there’s been middle-aged men coming to our soundchecks to ask for autographs and photographs with us! To have that as our last festival, and to have so many people there cheering us on… it was a really special moment for sure.
Annie: I don’t think we really think about it, to be honest. Most of the time we’re just kind of like, "OH, this is weird! They know our songs! ANYWAY – ah!"
Hannah: I feel like we still haven’t had a chance to reflect. We’ve gotta keep moving, and I think if we keep dwelling on all the things that we’ve done in the last year, our heads might explode.
We have people opening up about the hardest shit in their lives. It’s really good that we get to talk about that just through our music.
You’ve got your headline tour coming up. How do you find that different audiences are receiving your music? Do you feel like you’ve had to tailor your live shows in different countries?
Liz: It feels like we have to cater to the room more, whether it’s a festival or an intimate venue. I definitely think we're received differently everywhere. Germany was the best! Maybe our music resonated more there. But then also in America, we played to full rooms in Philadelphia and Chicago. That was amazing! For Australia, because we haven’t had our headline show here for quite a while, it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.
You’ve all known each other since high school. You must have a solid routine going now, right?
Annie: There's seven of us in our touring party at the moment. We've definitely gotten used to how to do it, and what everyone needs to do. It can get hard when everyone’s exhausted and you’re in a van all day. You can go a bit crazy. We try to go for a morning walk before we have to go anywhere. If we have a night off, we sometimes cook a big family dinner.
So important! You’re still quite active on Facebook too. It seems like you're always making time to interact with your fans.
Liz: We get quite a lot of Instagram messages, which are usually really personal. I think it’s really nice to have people open up and I feel like that's a privilege, because that doesn’t really happen day-to-day. We have people opening up about the hardest shit in their lives. It’s really good that we get to talk about that just through our music. I think it’s really important that we do connect with people on social media.
While recording new album, you experimented more with non-acoustic instruments – I read that it was the first time you were writing music with a full band in mind.
Liz: I think with our earlier stuff, we had always envisioned bigger things. I think it was literally just not being able to afford more gear and not having had the time to really get a band together at the time. That all just came naturally. Now it’s very much like we arrange everything ourselves on Logic and Garageband, and we record our demos ourselves. And having played as a live band for a while now, we've got the hang of it.
And you had Aaron Dessner (The National) working on the album! So insane. I heard he was at the very top of your wish list.
Liz: It was very strange. I still think that even by the end of doing the end of the album with him, I was still a little bit starstruck.
Annie: He was so down to earth.
Hannah: He definitely understood the Australian sense of humour!
Do you think his sound really comes through in certain parts on 'For The Company'? Previous stuff is all lyrically driven, but you have some powerful instrumentals and breakdowns on the new record.
Liz: We actually went into the studio with a lot darker, rocky, guitar-driven stuff. I think he helped us mellow it out a bit and embrace a bit more variety in a way. At the end of the day, I can listen to the album and hear Aaron a lot through it, and that’s what we really wanted. We were never too protective over anything – we were really open to the whole experience. I think there’s a lot of subtleties instrumentally; we may have gotten a bit more excited and been a bit more bold. But then we had some restraint. I think that’s what he brought.
I don’t think we feel any pressure to cater to a standard or expectation. I don’t think we ever will. We’re stubborn in that sense – we’ll never really change what we do for anyone.
In terms of collaborations and artistic direction, do you have much say over your film clips? Annie, you’re a graphic design gun!
Annie: For the last couple, we haven’t been much involved in the process of it. We’ve found filmmakers that we like and told them to go nuts. With the “Remind Me” video, that was done by Ears, who’s a Sydney artist that we love. It was the same with “Seven Hours” – we were just like, “See what you can come up with!” We just wanted to let people do what they do.
Art For The Company was such an amazing idea for the album launch. And you worked with Serpent & The Swan on your merch, and you’ve got E^ST lined up as support on your upcoming tour. Do you feel more responsibility now to champion local talent?
Annie: I think it’s also just really exciting for us to be able to foster local talent. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to choose a local support and select local designers. If we can help get some of their work out, then that’s important to us.
When you were writing your new album, was there pressure knowing how much exposure your songs would eventually receive?
Liz: It’s interesting to see what resonates with people. I don’t think we expected “Boardwalks” – which has had 19 million listens on Spotify, or something ridiculous like that – to ever necessarily resonate with people. I don’t think we feel any pressure to cater to a standard or expectation. I don’t think we ever will. We’re stubborn in that sense – we’ll never really change what we do for anyone.
Hannah: We’re really honest. I think that’s the way we’ve always been. I’m not very good with metaphors, so we’ll just say it how it is. *Laughs*
Liz: And it makes you feel less alone as well, knowing that people have been through the same thing. You know that, but it’s when you meet someone and they reach out and say that song really touched me. That’s the most special part.