West Australian, Abbe May, had been kicking around with various musical projects since 2000, releasing her debut solo album, Design Desire, in 2011 – which was around the time I discovered her music. I don’t quite recall how I stumbled upon May’s music – though I am certainly glad that I did – but I do remember the first song of her’s I heard: Design Desire.
Much like PJ Harvey’s early work – sometimes characterised as punk meets blues on neutral ground – I found Design Desire to be immensely compelling track, despite appearing quite simple and basic on the face of it. The track’s rhythmic drive and swagger ably demonstrates that you don’t need stratospheric guitar solos and walls of scooped-overdrive to deliver and incendiary sound. It is clearly a case of less is more, an approach May again takes with songs like Mammalian Lococomotion and Taurus Chorus.
Disney On Acid illustrates May’s tendency to experiment and approach her music laterally and, with 2013’s Kiss My Apocalypse, she shifted gear and released an album that was nothing if not alt-pop/electronica – listen to T.R.O.U.B.L.E. to see how different it sounds. It’s was a decision that alienated some fans, who were drawn to the crunchy guitars of Design Desire, but it is the type of decision a confident musician makes.
While touring for Kiss My Apocalypse, the DIY approach May was taking with her career – managing herself, organising the crew and overseeing the finances, as well as performing – took a toll on her health, and after experiencing a seizure resulting from the stress and exhaustion, May experienced a period of anxiety and depression.
As a result of having to step back from her music for a while, in order to get her health back on track, it has been a quiet couple of years from May, but now she is back on the road touring and working on a new album, Bitchcraft, with Are We Flirting giving an early taste of what that record will sound like.
Both for her gutsy-guitar sound and her approach to her career, Abbe May is the first entry for Women-Who-Rocktober.