I interviewed Abbe May a while back ahead of her (then) upcoming Clam Jam shows as part of the Perth Festival. Unfortunately, I was unable to distribute it to the world back then but with her shows this week at Settlers, Jack Rabbits and her performance at the Commonwealth Games Festival on Wednesday (!), and as Johnny said, there is no time like the present so have a little peak into this honest chat we had early one summer morning.
Hello Abbe how are you going?
Good how are you? …
Okay so, what was it like growing up in a regional town?
It was awesome, it was as beautiful beach-y town and I was fairly naive kid like I didn’t really drink til I was 18 so I had a really innocent, fun childhood down in Bunbury. It was lovely.
Haha understandable, while we’re on your childhood, I read that your mother was an English Literary teacher, do you have any book recommendations? (I am both impressed and intimidated by how quickly she responded to this cheeky question I threw in)
Yes! A really good book is called A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. Let me just pull it out of my pile here – you have a pile, I love it – Haha yeah well I read a lot of books because I find its a great way to develop your writing skills and sort of exercise your brain. A Manual for Cleaning Women is a collection of short stories written by a now deceased author and its pretty fantastic and a very cleaver curation of stories. After a while you realise these characters are all various versions of the ‘self’. This book is kind of an autobiography, through short stories and I think she is one of the most amazing writers I have ever read, another great writer is Tony Morrison and she has actually won the nobel peace prize for literature, so she is very worth reading. My mother obviously was always reading and as an english literature teacher and put an emphasis on how important the physical outlet of writing could be, and I hold that in high regard, I guess I inherited that from my mother.
I noticed as well, your lyrics are quite literary based and it seems to me personally, that rather than the music taking the lead, the lyrics seem to pave the way, what is your writing process?
I come up with a beat first, I start with a drum beat and work from there. Generally the beat comes and the vocal melody follows from there and then I develop the chord structures and so on. I take it to a producer or co writer after that who can add to my creating and writing.
I read that you are working with Matt Gio, he has such a lovely energy….
Yeah he is an amazing guy and he has become a really really close friend of mine. I met him about 3 years ago and I had wanted to work with him from reccomendations with other artist, so when we eventually started working together, we started collaborating really well straight off the bat. I like his style and I like the way he shows respect to me and I find it easy to show respect to him. He generally has a different approach to things which I think is very important for a count and a co writer. I’m really interested now to see how to move ideas into spaces that I might not know ho to approach myself, so what I found with Gio is that he is not only just a lovely bloke and talented person, ,he also has a lot of talents that I don’t have, so I really enjoyed working with him and I think that we have made my favourite album to date.
I love the title..
So you said before, Matt treats you a certain way, or rather, he respects you. I know that this topic seems like a bit of a ‘trendy’ thing to discuss but what are your thoughts on the whole, feminist wave movement that shouldn’t really be a labeled as a trend at all but rather a current evaluation of an ongoing process, do you have any commentary on women and their voices at the moment?
I think it has definitely come to the foreground of attention in the past couple of months, especially with the Harvey Weinstein revelation and I think that movements like “MeToo,” these notions are powerful in terms of showing family and friends that we have all had these experiences of sexual assault and recognition is a fundamental element of progressive change. I actually sat back and watched it (Weinstein) unfold and a couple days later it kind of just all came to me, the thing about assault and the abuse that women have had to and have to face in society, it becomes so commonplace that you forget that its not actually normal for a man to put his hand up your skirt at a bar, that it’s not normal to feel unsafe in a public space just because some man with toxic masculinity has decided that he wants to verbally, sexually harass you, it’s not normal. It’s an interesting thing that has brought to attention these things are not okay, and I think prior to these past months of movements and marches, much more public discussion between what is acceptable with regards to treatment of women was needed. Rather than it being something that highlights humanities downfalls or a fad movement, I think its really incredibly powerful and I think we are seeing a huge change and I think that it’s really fucking cool.
A m a z i n g response. Do you have any advice for young women? You know girls that are looking to create something and not really sure where to start?
I think that for anybody who wants to create, it’s really important to do it because you want to get better at your art rather than because you want to be powerful, famous or rich. It is an incredibly difficult field to make money in – music. Fame and hype are fairly short lived and I think you should focus early on developing your art and your calibre, so do it for the right reasons and everything should flow, that is my primary advice to young artists.
I also read that at one time in your past life you experienced a seizure that was related to your mental health. In my eyes mental health is so important and sometimes overlooked in the current day and age, how do you now manage this part of your life? What changed for you from then and what are some perspectives on mental health?
Um I hadn’t really thought much about my mental health up to that point. After that I personally had tremendous difficulties with mental health. I went from being really strong and healthy and generally just quite productive to being riddled with anxiety, crushed with depression. There was a connection between the physicality and the mentality and I went from being really strong and capable to virtually being unable to leave my house for seven days, I wasn’t able to order coffee I had massive anxiety around noise and people and once I started to have the dark thoughts, I told my mum and doctor. My Dr. was amazing and found me a great psychologist and I am really lucky in that my mental health issues were able to be cured through years of therapy, good nutrition and exercise. I still have minute elements of physical anxiety but my head space is really good now. I think that some people do need to be medicated, it’s important for me to not use medication, but I think for some people it is important so I feel people should talk to their doctor about stuff if they feel something is out of whack. That said, I am glad that something did happen because I have ended up in a space where I have much more perspective about what is important, I am a much better friend, sister, daughter, Aunty … I’m a much more higher functioning human being since experiencing that, so sometimes a little breakdown a, breakthrough rather, is a good thing. I wouldn’t wish it didnt happen, as intense as it was, I got through with a little help from my family and friends and especially my doctor. It’s the same as having a broken leg, if something is wrong, you work to fix it and mental health is the same as any other ailment, it just needs to be addressed.
I just wanted to thank you for being one of the people to realise that there is more to everything than our own perspective Abbe and for being an amazing role model for young women in the music industry. So thank you.
Thank you Brooke! Look forward to seeing you out there.
Animation Station includes a heap of different genre styles, in past articles you described the sound as ‘someone flicking though TV channels,’ can you elaborate on that? Or rather, how did you come about incorporating so many styles into the album?
I guess because I am like a little kid and um I get obsessed with one thing for like a week, or I’ll hear a new thing like I discovered Beck when I was making that album, which is pretty late to the game. I discovered him and was like ‘oh my god this is awesome,’ at some stage he must have just said like fuck it, like the white boy rap thing and some funk. So I would hear something like Beck, be like COOL and be inspired and do something like that.
Yeah the 200 Days song, like funk kind of bass-line and the rapping that was a joke at first, like a Beck experiment.
The other thing is a lot of the songs on the record are quite old now, like the first song is 5 or 6 years old now. At the time I didn’t know I was putting an album together, just kind of recording stuff and my friends and mucking around while in other bands, this particular housemate was like ‘man this is cool ,you should finish it and release it’ and I was like ‘ohh yeah… shit’ so i guess thats another reason why it is so eclectic, is because its from like 20 year old Ben, then 25 year old Ben then 28 year old Ben…
Sweet. Eclectic is a cool way to describe it.
Yeah I mean its pretty strange just coming out with an album, but I just wanted to get rid of it, to put them in one place. Well not to get rid of them but to ‘be done’ with them
So it’s kind of like an outlet I guess…
Um yeah I guess the reason its like someone flipping through TV channels is because its not one genre, its all over the place really. Which I kind of like because I have a short attention span so… like I love Dark Side of the Moon and Sgt Peppers but they stick to the same thing conceptually in those albums. I couldn’t listen to a whole punk album or record, I think I would get bored. Ahh maybe I should think a bit more about what I am doing.
Haha – no what you’ve got going is great! I think it sets you apart from what everyone else is doing at the moment, like the whole album narrative that you can see bands like King Gizzard employ, is almost over done to an extent now. It’s refreshing to see a different format out there.
So obviously you’re in Dream Rimmy, you play for Shiny Joe, Nick Allbrook is featured on AS; Perth loves a collab. Is there any artists that stand out locally for you? That you would potentially want to collaborate with or whats one that you would like to see happen?
Good question. there is so many super talented people around town that I am lucky enough to count as my friends as well. I would like to record with people like Dylan from the Money War. At the moment he gives me advice when I’m like ‘yo, what do you think of this.’ Not so much collaborating but getting him to help pad things out, he would probably think of something that I would never dream of, like a chord progression or something and it’s cool that we can do that. I would like to record with Jay Watson, he has some fun toys. Some songs that will come out later, one features Stella Donnelly, she used to be in the band and also Ali from Dream Rimmy who features on Animation Station, it would be great to have her back and do vocals on some upcoming tracks – she has such a rad voice.
Thats cool, it’s nice as well to see some female representation.
Well I try to sing like a girl, like the BeeGee’s or something but I am not a very good singer and my voice wont always work so I have to play it by ear on a daily basis and record when my voice is having a good day. So I probably end up keeping my recorded vocals there and then having some other people chiming in. It’s not more about getting the best sound but creating a choir of vocals, and Ali’s are so nice they fit in really easily to most things.
So do you have a gig highlight or a favourite venue to play?
With Human Buoy do you mean?
Just in general, your musical career.
Okay well one of them would have been, I filled in a couple festivals with Pond a few years’ ago, that was definitely a highlight. I love those guys and their songs. It was really nice and fun to do that. The first time I played in front of a lot of people was at the Astor, me and Sam who plays drums in Human Buoy. We, and Jake from Methyl Ethel used to play for a gal called Grace Woodroofe. So yeah we did the Matt Corby support tour and the first gig was at the Astor.
I saw cover Vitamin C live the other day at The Bird, its on the album too, how did that come about, why did you chose to cover that song?
I knew about that song and that band because ages ago I used to play in a band called Sun Silo Circus ages ago and we supported Damo Suzuki back in the day when he played at The Bakery with Pond as his backing back and the just improvised for an hour and that was my first introduction to CAN and Vitamin C is I guess one of their most popular songs, BUT I had kind of forgotten about it for ages and I went to Cypress with my Mum for Xmas and we watched Inherent Vice and that songs in the opening credits and I was like oh yeah! this song! this song rocks!
Its such a banger hey, it does feature on Step Up 2 so it’s got good vibes attached to it for me obviously. So to hear you play it at the Bird, that was cool.
Yeah so just from the movie, good old’ Joaquin Phoenix I think. I was originally going to do Damo’s accent but then I thought that people would think I might have been racist, which I wouldn’t have been I think its beautiful but it’s nice to make it your own. That’s actually the only song on the album that is recorded live so everyone played it at the same time together, which is cool. I feel like it had to be like that because its such a jammy song.
We had Jamie from Koi Child come and do Sax, Dave the drummer from Peter Bibby’s Dog Act, he is such a good conga player. Jamie on bass.
So who is in Human Buoy at the moment.
So its a 3 piece for now, there is Sam Marr who plays for Katy Steele and does his hand pan thing which has seen him get international coverage and my friend Steve who is playing bass. We used to play in a band together called Hunting Huxley and Dave was the drummer in that. He is an amazing guitarist and I am not as good, but good as bass so we level each other out well.
When I see you play you confuse me because I can’t even play a guitar and here you are with multiple pedals, changing all the time, your impressive, it’s cool, I dunno!? You do good.
I try and dumb it down as much as I can to make it less stressful, but once you know whats what and what does what it’s more simple. If you want it to be atmospheric *boop boop boop* put those on, if you want it to go *pinball game over machine sound* press that, if you want distortion flick that. I kind of relied on effects to hide my less than competent guitar playing in the past.
So you teaching music at the moment?
Yeah I mainly teach Ukulele actually, people love Ukulele.
Sick, anything else in the works at the moment? Anything planned?
Ok well the ‘plan’ a the moment is to do an EP early next year, we have recorded 2 new songs already, one came out the beginning of the month (see above) so I want to do an EP because we can finish and release it quicker. Even though albums are much cooler. I wanna do 2 EP’s next year and release both on one vinyl at the end of the year. I fell like unless your established or got something really insane going on, people don’t generally listen to the whole album. It only really takes one good song and stuff will happen, i’m optimistic.
I’m going to go home and wait for some trick or treaters and make some mulled wine, maybe dress up as Eleven from Stranger Things with the blood nose.
Did you binge watch it too? Where you up to I’m up to episode 4
I’m up to episode 6.
Do you watch Rick and Morty
Do I like Rick ad Morty hahaHA
I was so stoked when they got released by Netflix, well done guys, V happy for you.
James Ireland and Hamish Rahn pair up again to create their own brand of ‘blissed out sadness.’
Hamjam’s just announced their debut album a/s/l?, due out on August 11th. Their first single is called Lean and the music video has been described by Remote Control Records as “a pastel reflection on domestic decadence, and an unfounded pining after early morning TV aerobics.” Which is ah yeah pretty spot on really so here you go.
a/s/l? musing on feelings of inadequacy, unrequited love and insecurities and steered by synths, the wait is finally over and it was worth it. To pre-order a/s/l? click here.
Listen / purchase ‘Lean’: https://hamjam.lnk.to/Lean
Let’s begin with two people.
Deep in the gloom a phone rings. They take the call. The voice on the line slips beneath her skin and curls its fingers around his stomach. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, you can barely feel it. You can’t hold on tight enough.
These people, these sisters and lovers and pilots and brothers are joined deep beneath the surface, below knowledge, down where desire and depravity lie. The line goes dead and these two people catch a glimpse of what’s to come, as it retreats back into the fog.
A new work from Side Pony Productions (The Confidence Man, The Pride) and The Last Great Hunt (Falling through Clouds, The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer), The Irresistible is a reckless, intoxicating love letter to the subconscious.
Showing at PICA from the 14th to the 24th of June. we highly recommend checking this performance out.
As far as gigs go, this one was probably the nicest smelling one I have attended.
I don’t know where it came from really. I don’t know if it was the lady’s shampoo I was standing near or if someone was burning some incense in an art room or whether I am just slightly unhinged… but god damn it smelt like musk Lifesavers and it was so great.
So pair this with the comforting ambiance of Fremantle Arts Centre and a night that’s slightly colder than perfect and BAM you have got a good time.
Oh yeah, the music.
Henry Kissinger – the better one – is surprisingly cool. He’s probably my new favourite keyboardist (sorry Ray Manzarek) thanks to his bass fueled loops and beats that make me dance quite good without having to think about it too much.
Ziggy’s performance is astounding. I love Hip Hop. A lot. Discovering a new local artists I can listen to at home and follow throughout their career is why I keep going to gigs really. That and the exercise I guess. So give these guys a listen if you like your breakbeats and flows. Ups to JCAL as always, as well.
POW Negro hardly need an introduction sentence anymore. If you live in Perth you’ve probably already witnessed their wondrous live performance; theatrics, musical instruments and now these amazing visuals, and well if you live anywhere else, you can’t claim to be the music connoisseur of your mate group unless you know these guys, sorry.
On this particular Friday night, the gang was launching their single ‘Money for Portraits.’ The song in its self is a banger. Not just because its catchy but because its arranged nicely. The verses have great lyrics, the bridge is a highlight and really pumps you up for the riff driven chorus.
When I said musical instruments before I wasn’t just drawing attention to the fact this band plays instruments (shocking, I know) but more that Pow! Negro are a breed of artists that interchange the composition and roles of their members frequently.
This reminds me of A – The Beatles and B – the struggle millennials are facing to get a job; no one’s going to look twice at you soon unless you bring that little bit more to the table.
The drummer sings, the guitarist plays drums, there is a saxophone, singing and rap intertwine, there is dancing, banter and so on and so forth. I love it, but also am exhausted by the dynamics, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I guess the band it’s an accurate representation of life. Without stating the obvious, we all know art is a perception of society so what I am trying to say here is Pow portray feelings of the community on a small scale and humanity on a global scale well, which is ah kind of necessary, but a bit deep for a single launch review.
I existentially wonder what is next for music. I love the hybrid everything that seems to come with conscious human evolution condensed into one lifetime, but also still love simple well-though out compositions. Really, I don’t know what I want and I am sure you don’t either but that being said we can figure it out together. Something to look forward to in this post-truth world.
As an audience member and a music consumer I can kind of tell that each member is bringing their own vibes to the table behind the scenes and then as a band they pick up what’s good and work on something from that – obviously beautiful cooperation.
It really is ‘Zac de la Rocha-ish,’ but to be honest I’m sick of people comparing them to Rage Against the Machine. Like that’s accurate but lazy and they’re so much more.
They’ve nailed the funk, the melody and the jazz. Next up I would love to see more slow jams. They already have one or two – check out Sam | Saim on Soundcloud – which they pull off well.
RacketBall goes off as always and when performing ‘Hidle Ho’ they are joined on stage by Ziggy and MC Marley which made everyone smile. Trust me, I genuinely looked around and took note and everyone had their pearly whites on show.
A lot of their music is still not available online, or rather has been quite scarce in the past but with their Big Splash 2016 win, hopefully we will see more recordings pop up on the World Wide Web.
So anyway, that’s enough tangents from me – to wrap it up, can’t wait for the EP.