Band Crush: Aussie Trio Little May Makes Haunting 'Ghostfolk'

they've been called the australian haim

It’s easy to say that the last two years have been a complete whirlwind for the three girls of the Little May. Made up of Annie Hamilton, Liz Drummond, and Hannah Field, the indie-folk trio was formed in Sydney, Australia. Since their humble beginning, they’ve topped Hype Machine charts, played sold-out Australian shows, and earned support slots with Angus & Julia Stone, Cold War Kids, and Rodriguez. It’s essentially the story of three friends who are quickly making a name for themselves as songwriters. They’ve been called the Australian “Haim,” but writing slow-burning melodies with melancholic prose is what they do best. Their lyrics are equal parts hope and heartbreak. 

Little May releasesd their debut album For The Company on October 9th. The record was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National, who also happens to be one of the band’s musical idols. Making their way to New York to start the process, the band recorded between the main hall of New York’s Future Past Studios—a converted 19th century church—and Dessner’s very cool Brooklyn garage. It was a dream come true for the girls to work with him, and it’s certainly a defining career moment. We recently caught up with Hannah Field of Little May to chat about the band’s collaborative storytelling tracks, rock-n-roll garage recordings, and what exactly is ghostfolk.  

For those who are new to your music, what’s the backstory? How did the three of you start writing music together? 
Liz and I became good mates when we met at our new school when we were both about 16. We shared the same taste in music, so we would hang out most Friday nights learning covers, and then we began writing original music ourselves a couple of years later. At 21, we decided to start a band. Liz was friends with Annie, as they went to school together when they were both younger. She knew she was a good little guitar player! Little May was officially formed then. 

Where did the name Little May come from?
We wish we had a clever story about how we came up with it, but to be honest Liz's mum suggested it one day when Liz and I where writing out potential choices (what a legend!) Luckily, she came up with that one… because I think our next pick was White Cedar!

Tell us about your new album. What’s the inspiration behind it? 
The album was inspired by a lot of our personal experiences—namely relationships—over the past five years or so. Writing is a cheaper form of therapy, so I just hope it doesn't come across as too angsty!  

You worked with Aaron Dessner of The National for the album. What was it like working with him?
It was pretty overwhelming for the first couple of weeks—working with someone you have idolized for years, seeing them everyday, hearing them tell you that they like your music. It was all very surreal. But honestly, Aaron made everyone feel so comfortable from the get-go. He's just a super cool, chill dude. He’s also really funny, lovely and caring. A lot of the time, it didn't feel like how I would have expected it to feel to be making an album. I thought we would all be incredibly stressed the entire time, as we were under quite tight time constraints.

How does the collaborative process work for the three of you? 
Our writing process definitely varies. Sometimes one of us will write a complete song, and if we all agree it sounds like Little May, we run with it (Liz wrote two of the songs on the album by herself!). If we are writing collaboratively, it usually happens most organically if we head off on a writing trip somewhere remote together. Nature usually feeds us with a bit of inspiration. We all end up just contributing ideas until we have (or haven’t!) come up with something we are happy with. 

You’ve kind of dubbed your music as “ghostfolk.” How did you come up with that?
To be honest, I don't know if we came up with ghostfolk. But I do remember reading a review where someone described our music that way, and it kind of stuck. Ghostfolk relates to our music, because I think there’s an underlying darkness and maybe even something unsettling about some of our songs. 

You recorded part of the new album in a 19th-century church in New York. Did that unique setting help you to achieve the sound you wanted to capture? 
Yes for sure. The acoustics in the live room were amazing, and I think the sound that was achieved would be really difficult to create in a different setting. The beauty of the church and just the history of the studio itself really allowed us to feel connected to something bigger than we could have ever imagined. 

And the rest was recorded in Aaron’s Brooklyn, NY garage? That sounds very rock-n-roll. 
We heard some pretty cool rock-n-roll stories while there, but yeah it was all pretty tame fun to be honest. We had a really short period of time to get the album finished, so it was heads down for those last couple of weeks. Recording in his garage was fucking cool though—just knowing who'd been in the garage previously, who’d used the amps we were using, etc (the list goes on). It was actually crazy that this was our reality. Even reflecting on it now, I'm kind of wigging out.