Little May: Devilish Details


Aussie folkies Little May keep good company with National producer

In college, fine-arts major Annie Hamilton was ardently focusing on textiles and jewelry making. There was just one little problem. “I was really terrible at it,” says the Sydney, Australia, native, who instead began playing guitar in Haim-harmonic trio Little May, which just issued its lissome debut disc, For The Company. “I made a lot of really ugly stuff out of metalworks with soldering, and it just wasn’t for me,” she says. “I kept burning myself and melting everything. I’d wind up with a small pile of molten metal, on a rock.”

On lead electric six-string, however, the perpetually blue-haired Hamilton flourished. When Little May vocalist/rhythm guitarist Liz Drummond presents her with a skeletal blueprint of, say, chiming latest single “Home,” she views it with a keen artistic eye.

“I try to think, ‘What does it need? And where?’” says Hamilton. “And I try to never overdo it. I try to do the bare minimum, because sometimes the simplest things—like playing the same note over and over again, even though it might seem dumb—can be the most effective.” Drummond, she adds, specializes in song structures and chord progression. “Whereas I’m more about the details, the extra melodies that go into it.”

The gals—all good friends—all agreed on the same album producer: Aaron Brooking Dessner, from one of their favorite American bands, the National. So, they flew to upstate New York to track Company with Dessner at Future-Past Studios, an acoustically resonant, converted 19th-century church. And Hamilton hasn’t forgotten her university teachings—she still does freelance graphic-design work in her off hours.

“I do a lot of illustration now,” she says. “And my style is really intricate, detailed drawings of animals, insects and plants. Just like with my guitar playing, I really love the close-up, ornate details.”

—Tom Lanham